The stars of the much-loved Cornetto Trilogy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End) have found their next target; the paranormal. With Amazon Prime Video’s new comedy series Truth Seekers, this is the first time Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have worked on the small screen together since their breakout hit Spaced two decades ago – but can fans expect another slice of fried gold?
Despite Pegg’s hard-won Hollywood status, this is predominantly a vehicle for Frost, who portrays a gloriously-bearded broadband installer named Gus. Widowed and living with his dad Richard (the legendary Malcolm McDowell), Gus pisses away his free time running a YouTube channel under the moniker ‘Truth Seeker’, which houses homemade ghost-busting documentaries that are neither convincing or popular.
A middle-aged nerd, Gus has aspirations of one day gracing the prestigious pages of a magazine called White Sheet as a successful paranormal investigator, but he needs a genuine case in order to realise his dream. Enter Emma D’Arcy’s Astrid, a Casper Syndrome victim (“the fear of being haunted,” someone explains) whose hair-raising experiences intertwine with the main plot. What about those all-important laughs, though? We’re sad to report that they’re a little few and far between, especially when you consider the level of talent involved.
Still, the dynamic between Gus and Elton John (an absurdly-named colleague played by Famalam’s Samson Kayo) is the show’s greatest attribute. The two effortlessly bounce off each other in a warm ‘master and apprentice’ way; think Walter White and Jesse Pinkman minus the blue stuff and tense undercurrent. Although Pegg’s limited screen time is disappointing – he crops up every now and again as Dave, the manager of broadband firm Smyle – Frost and Kayo’s chemistry fizzles with just enough comic conviction to soften the freaky goings-on.
Segments spying on McDowell’s techno-fails as Richard are also great fun – his abject confusion surrounding animal face filters is something viewers of a certain age will appreciate – while ever-dependable curio Julian Barratt shows up for the second half of the series as Dr Peter Toynbee.
The third member of Pegg and Frost’s filmmaking squad, Edgar Wright, may have nothing to do with Truth Seekers, but his camera style is there in spirit and screenwriters James Serafinowicz (brother of Peter) and Nat Saunders do a neat job of shouldering the weight of the series format. Easter egg hunters should be on high alert too, as scenes are laced with quick-fire nods to the stars’ previous material.
Populated by “malevolent entities” and likeable heroes, Truth Seekers pastiches Ghostbusters through the lens of two of Britain’s greatest modern exports; it’s just a shame one of them feels oddly absent. Pegg and Frost’s idiosyncratic, referential humour doesn’t rear its head as much as usual, and so after conquering the zombie, cop and body-snatcher sub-genres, they’ve almost done themselves a disservice here. Expectations were high, but maybe, just maybe, their powers are starting to wane.