There's a certain shameful joy to reality television, whether it's gawking at The Bachelor or weeping through Queer Eye. Even though it can sometimes feel staged and fake, there's an implied detachment from the formulaic that can't be replicated in traditional scripted shows. Sometimes, you want to know what to expect, but still avoid being bored. The perfect show to strike this balance has two seasons on Netflix, but it's only on the platform until August 3, so now's the time to start your binge.
Paranormal Survivor is a little-known Canadian reality show airing on The Travel Channel. It takes its influence from shows like Forensic Files and Unsolved Mysteries, using dramatic re-enactments and special effects to narrate paranormal encounters as told by the eyewitness in a talking-head style interview, with experts weighing in to explain the otherworldly activity.
I know, it sounds terrible. But there's a charm to it that draws you in and keeps you there. Maybe it's the earnestness of everyone involved, maybe it's the delightfully hamfisted acting of the re-enactors. But there's a definite spark that makes this series compulsively watchable.
The key is probably in its low-budget quality. The re-eneactments mostly rely on practical effects, whether it be a cupboard slamming or a smoke machine. There's only a handful of computer-generated effects. While the practical effects look good — occasionally great — the digital effects look a bit like they came built-in with iMovie.
This may sound like a downside, but for a show about ghosts, it's good to have that suspension of disbelief broken — it keeps you skeptical and reminds you that it is a re-enactment. Plus, it's rare you get to see practical effects put front and center in television in the age of CGI environments and green screens.
In terms of stories, the episodes each are themed, ranging from episodes on poltergeists to one about ghosts befriending children, each with three or four stories per episode. This format makes it the perfect show to have on in the background or if you're looking for something you can start and stop as needed.
For a ghost-hunting enthusiast, it may not meet the high bar of true proof of the paranormal, but for the everyday viewer, it's the perfect casual, light-but-still-chilling, and genuinely earnest show to watch without feeling like it's a commitment.
With 20 episodes on Netflix, now's the perfect time to jump in before the series leaves on August 3.