Long-time comedy couple Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are rarely far apart, but in new series Truth Seekers they're closer than ever: It's the first TV show written by and starring the pair, and their first writing collaboration in nearly a decade, since geeky alien road-trip movie Paul.
A ghost-hunting adventure out on Amazon Friday, co-written by Sick Note creators James Serafinowicz and Nat Saunders, Truth Seekers is pumped full of homages to The Exorcist, The X-Files, Ghostbusters, Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World and more.
But like Paul, you find yourself waiting for Truth Seekers to reach its full potential. What starts as a comedy-horror with a surprisingly dark edge stretches into a roughly-sketched conspiracy, that lacks the reveals and paranoia of the duo's work with Edgar Wright in Hot Fuzz.
Pegg and Frost's scenes together are disappointingly limited: Frost plays reclusive YouTuber Gus, desperate for subscribers and approval of his ghost-hunting missions that have yet to feature actual ghosts.
Gus' boring day job as a broadband installer sees him report to Pegg's Dave, who's clearly hiding something behind a terrifically awful grey wig. "Connecting worlds," his company Smyle promises.
Along with a reluctant new millennial partner in Samson Kayo's Elton (surname: John), Gus trundles his van to different assignments, which fortunately for his YouTube career take place in haunted dwellings across the UK.
Frost has all the fun (and screen time) with the actual ghost-hunting, beckoning Elton's video camera closer as he rattles off the names of paranormal investigating equipment -- Electroplasmic Spectrometer, anyone?
Some of the phenomena Gus, Elton and Astrid (Emma D'Arcy) -- a mysterious, '80s-overall-shorts-wearing girl who tags along -- encounter are notably gruesome and sinister. The opening scene features a burning woman in an oh-shit-this-is-actually-scary moment. But others tug the show's tone the other way, with schlockier costumes and scenarios, from figures in beaked masks and consciousnesses stuck in clanky old machines.
Goofy comments during suspenseful moments provide a few chuckles and Gus' clueless, ageing dad Richard (a runaway standout Malcom McDowell) is introduced with a visual gag that cleverly blends comedy and ghosts.
But the tone never finds a smooth balance, with an added layer of darkness to the characters themselves. Astrid openly describes her past traumatic experiences with amusing innocence, while Gus deflects questions about his missing wife, hiding his loneliness.
Occasionally the half-hour installments feel short, the cliffhangers neither satisfy with a conclusion or leave you wanting more. While it's designed to be binged, the initial ghost-an-episode format leaves little time to scratch the surface of the clients and their hauntings before the overall mystery takes over.
The only consistency is the sense every member of the cast is having a ball. An oddball guest star role sees Julian Baratt (The Mighty Boosh) barely breaking a sweat as occult leader Dr. Peter Toynbee. Among a few other surprises, Susie Wokoma (Chewing Gum) is charmingly chaotic as Elton's sister Helen, a Doctor Who cosplay makeup YouTuber with agoraphobia.
Despite a few moments of spooky fun, Truth Seekers won't top the list of Pegg and Frost's best. Still, it takes its horror influences seriously and Pegg and Frost's affably entertaining stamp can be felt lightly pressed upon it all.
Truth Seekers hits Amazon on Friday, just in time for Halloween.