Bryan Singer’s production company, Bad Hat Harry, and Geek & Sundry premiered their new paranormal comedy series “Spooked” online yesterday. X-Men’s Bryan Singer acts as Executive Producer with Felicia Day, who also helped to pen the four-episode series with Michael Gene Conti. The first episode is packed with references to popular genre flicks like Ghostbusters and Beetlejuice. They make sure to cover all their bases, throwing in everything from self-stacking groceries to a Ouija board, but none of it adds up to anything horrific. Rather, this is a character-driven comedy infused with the lighter elements of paranormal investigation.
“Spooked” follows the “Paranormal Investigation Team” (P.I.T.), a motley crew of friends and lovers, who are kicking off their careers as investigators of the unknown. The pilot sees the team investigating a potential haunting in the house of a newly married lesbian couple. The speculation is that the ghost is one of their father’s who does not approve of their marriage, an interesting concept that demands the comedic tone they put forward. However, the press release states that the show “features the unpredictable, horrific and often comedic world of P.I.T. as they find themselves dealing with ghosts, aliens and other unexplainable happenings.” There is nothing “horrific” to be seen from the premiere.
I’ve always taken issue to the term horror-comedy. The two words are, in general, mutually exclusive terms that have been put side-by-side for years. However, more often than not the films/shows that claim such a label are all comedy, no horror. Such is the case with “Spooked”. While they have the paranormal plot and the named references to well-known horror movies, there is not one scare in the episode. This is always the struggle with horror/comedy. There are very few works that actually earn that genre split, delivering a mixture of scares and laughs. American Werewolf in London and Dellamorte Dellamore come to mind as two that actually balance the genres. “Spooked” is a comedy and nothing else. If you know this going in, you will enjoy it a lot more. Thankfully, it is a comedy with a heart. The show offers solid characters, a fun plot, and that unique brand of Geek & Sundry humor.
Director Richard Martin keeps it simple and the show is all the better for it. For a series shot on a relatively small budget, it looks great. The shots are crisp, and the lighting aptly fits the dark comedy tone. Martin focuses on the actors and their ability to deliver on the both drama and humor, and they shine through. There are a few jokes that fell flat for me, mostly the references to horror movies that felt like they were trying to hard to appeal to horror audiences. On the other hand, a few lines had me laughing out loud, a rare occurrence when I watch any sit-com.
The best humor (and drama) comes from the character interactions and their painfully awkward relationships. There is clearly a love connection between Connor, the head of the gang, and Morgan, the self-proclaimed shaman, but their obnoxious friend Elliot is clueless and continues hitting on her. The sibling relationship between Connor and his clairvoyant sister, Piper, is the most interesting, and there is plenty of potential for havoc down the line. This is precisely what I appreciate most about the show; they take a character-driven approach, and it feels more authentic for it.
I wish I could say I love the “Spooked” pilot, but I don’t. The show has potential to hit its stride, but with only four episodes that will be a difficult task. Hopefully they will focus less on referencing horror movies, and stick with what is interesting – the characters and their situations.
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