Truth Seekers is a boring bait-and-switch for Shaun of the Dead fans
Skip this new Amazon show and rewatch your favorite Edgar Wright movie instead.
The guys from Hot Fuzz do a Ghostbusters TV show. That elevator pitch pretty much sells itself, and it's easy to see why Amazon happily greenlit the new series, Truth Seekers. Unfortunately, the show we got is about as far from that hypothetical pitch as possible without being a total lie.
Yes, there are ghosts to be busted. And yes, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are back onscreen together. But beyond that, there's little linking Truth Seekers to any of the beloved movies that might have you excited for Amazon's new original.
Truth Seekers stars Frost as Gus, an overly confident internet installer with a YouTuber channel focused on paranormal mysteries. Gus works for Simon Pegg's character (a totally vanilla businessman named Dave) and lives with his cranky old father. (Malcolm McDowell is seemingly slumming it for a paycheck.) In the first episode, Gus is forced to train a new employee named Elton (Samson Kayo) and they quickly start to encounter a variety of ghosts, mostly trapped in old technology. The internet-installation duo becomes a trio when they're joined by Astrid (Emma D'Arcy), who's on the run from some ghosts of her own.
Seemingly timed for Halloween (all eight episodes launch on October 30), Truth Seekers is chock full of ghosts but rarely scary. There are a few spooky moments and haunting images, but overall the series is more of a slog than a thriller. Its monotone color scheme reflects the sad world these characters encounter, and Jim Field Smith (who directs all eight episodes and who's most notable previous work may be the Jay Baruchel rom-com She's Out of My League) fails to capture what fans love about horror or comedy.
Truth Seekers is part procedural, with each episode focused on a different ghost for Gus and Elton to bust. (In one plotline, they encounter the spirit of a dead soldier trapped in an old-timey radar machine and have to convince him that Hitler is dead.) There's also a broader story about a grand conspiracy that somehow involves Malcolm McDowell's character, but it's not intriguing enough to hold your attention for an entire episode, let alone a whole season of television.
This is the part of the review where I admit that I didn't actually finish the series. (A mortal sin for any culture critic, but hear me out.) I tried. I really tried. However, after forcing myself to watch six episodes, I simply gave up — but not before confirming with a colleague who had finished it that I wasn't missing anything. So if you find yourself suffering through Truth Seekers hoping for a gripping finale, do yourself a favor and watch something else instead.
Truth Seekers' worst crime is simply that it fails to live up to the legacy of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. It's impossible not to see those two cheery faces on the poster and instantly think back to your favorite scene from Shaun of the Dead, but doing so leaves out the magic ingredient in those movies: director Edgar Wright (presumably busy with his new film, Last Night in Soho). Truth Seekers lacks the boundless creativity of Wright's filmography, replacing his kinetic camera work and impeccable comedic timing with... not that.
The basic pitch for Truth Seekers might be a no-brainer, but it remains unclear why anyone who spent more than 10 seconds discussing this show thought it was worth pursuing at all. Truth Seekers isn't particularly funny or scary, or really anything besides boring. And while there might be a kernel of an idea here about ghosts stuck in old machines as a metaphor for our modern YouTube/social media/influencer culture, it's completely muddled by the show's impenetrable plot.
It's worth noting that Amazon chose to release Truth Seekers on the same day that Disney's The Mandalorian returns. That's a bit like when Warner Bros. throws out some half-baked action movie the same weekend as a new Avengers movie in a lazy attempt at counter-programming. It's less about actually competing and more about burying your worst project while everyone is looking in the other direction.
This Halloween, do yourself a favor and watch Shaun of the Dead instead. Trust me, you're not missing much.
Truth Seekers will be available to stream October 30 on Amazon Prime.