In the 2004 romantic comedy zombie movie “Shaun of the Dead,” Cornetto ice cream was written as a hangover cure for Nick Frost’s character. As a result, Cornetto sent both co-stars Nick Frost and Simon Pegg free ice cream. When they returned to work with the same director (Edgar Wright) for the 2007 cop comedy “Hot Fuzz,” they made sure to include a reference to Cornetto again, in hopes of receiving more ice cream. As a result, both films, as well as 2013’s “At World’s End,” have been affectionately referred to as the Cornetto trilogy: Three critically-acclaimed comedies that broke ground in cinema and blended genre tropes in a delightfully refreshing way.
Now, just in time for Halloween, the comedy duo is back to debut their paranormal conspiracy series “Truth Seekers” on Amazon Prime. Unfortunately, their latest effort fails to deliver the charming balance of genres that the two have come to be known for.
Though both wrote the show, Pegg takes a more minor role as the boss of Nick Frost’s character, Gus Roberts. Gus is the number one installer at a broadband firm called SMYLE, as well as an amateur paranormal investigator for a small YouTube channel with a near nonexistent following.
He’s kind of like that strange older guy who talks way too much about his bizarre hobbies, but you just smile and nod along because they seem harmless enough. When the show takes the time to explore the grief he feels for his dead wife, his ego quickly starts to feel more tragically lovable than pathetically obnoxious.
Equally as sweet is his new partner, coincidentally named Elton John (Samson Kayo, “Timewasters”). Elton is a timid newcomer at SMYLE, and he immediately forms a friendship with Gus. Together, the two hit the road to find ghosts, set up Wi-Fi and chase internet fame.
The problem with the show is not with the characters, but with the lack of strength in the writing. Simon Pegg is a veteran of horror-comedy, and earlier this year he advised that the trick is, “You have to not make fun of the horror. It’s tempting with genre fare to parody that … but I think the key for horror-comedy is to take the horror seriously.” Though the duo did take the horror seriously, they failed to develop any of it enough to actually make it worth remembering.
It’s spooky, but never terrifying. Silly, but never hilarious. And the absence of director Edgar Wright’s visual comedy leaves just about nothing to be too excited about.
The Scooby-Doo formula of the show, where each episode has its own paranormal monster, also can be quite restraining. It’s a format that works for shows with episodes that are mostly self-contained. With this structure, the fun of each new installation is a whole new crazy antagonist for the gang to conquer. However, no antagonist in “Truth Seekers” is overly creative, and in a series that also wants to uncover a massive conspiracy theory, it serves only to limit and distract.
Nick Frost said the show was created as a “love letter to John Carpenter and the X-Files.” Sadly, “Truth Seekers” doesn’t come anywhere close to reaching the spine-chilling exhilaration of its influencers. The first season is a bland, uninspired take on paranormal comedy. If the duo decides to pick it up for a second season, I hope they can bring far more energy than what they’ve done here.
Daily Arts Writer Ben Servetah can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.