Truth Seekers, a new series whose co-creators and stars include noted nerds Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead), hits Amazon tomorrow. It would be a welcome arrival any time of year, but since it’s all about the paranormal (and the humans who’re obsessed with it), it’s the perfect binge for Halloween.
Though Truth Seekers runs just eight episodes, and each runs under 30 minutes, it still manages to deliver a multi-layered storyline and some endearingly original characters. Leading the way is Frost as Gus Roberts; by day, he’s a top technician for Smyle, a broadband company that’s determined to spread its service into every nook and cranny across England. By night (and also by day, whenever he sees the opportunity), Gus is the “Truth Seeker,” a ghost hunter who documents his exploits on his beloved — but low-traffic — YouTube channel.
Gus lost his wife, Emily, a decade prior, and his interest in the afterlife is partially because she was so into spooky stuff — but also because he holds out hope of contacting her on the other side of the veil. Gus definitely has some melancholy in him, but considering he’s played by the effortlessly funny Frost, it doesn’t weigh him down too much.
Pegg plays Dave, Gus’ jovial boss at Smyle, but it’s more of a supporting role — so to be clear, Truth Seekers isn’t another Pegg-Frost buddy comedy if that’s what you were expecting. However, don’t be disappointed; there’s still plenty of Pegg, and the rest of the ensemble is a delight. Gus is initially annoyed when Dave insists he partner up with an eager new Smyle employee, the dubiously named Elton John (Samson Kayo). But Gus, who’s secretly been pretty lonely, soon realises Elton’s not so bad to have around. Even better, despite Elton’s scaredy-cat tendencies, he does a decent job as Gus’ YouTube cameraman — which comes in handy when the pair start uncovering an unprecedented string of unexplained phenomenon.
Thanks to these two characters, we also get Malcolm McDowell as Richard, Gus’ dad, and Susie Wokoma as Gus’ sister Helen; they form an unlikely friendship based mostly on the fact that they can’t stand everyone else. Along the way, Truth Seekers’ cast expands to include Astrid (Emma D’Arcy), a young woman who asks for help with her own ghost problem and ends up sticking around after, as well as esteemed paranormal scholar Dr. Peter Toynbee (The Mighty Boosh’s Julian Barratt), who’s as slippery as he is famous.
From its first episode, Truth Seekers begins planting seeds and dangling clues that perhaps not everything is what it seems with these characters — and also that all the hauntings Gus, Elton, and Astrid are investigating might not be as unconnected as they initially appear. There’s also a much larger conspiracy pulsating just below the surface. The Pegg-Frost movie I’d compare it to the most would be Hot Fuzz, with a dash of The World’s End, but to say much more would spoil the pleasures of seeing the pieces fall into place. Just know that even if you’re watching very carefully and end up guessing where certain things are going — Truth Seekers still has some twists in store.
While the overarching plot is clever and gives the fast-paced episodes a high-stakes climax to build toward, Truth Seekers is really propelled by the smaller moments of hilarity that crop up along the way. A few are so British-specific I had to Google the references to get the joke; others, like Helen’s incredible Dalek cosplay (for an episode set at a comics convention), are more universally geeky. The show also walks the perfect balance between taking place in our world and one where ghosts and black magic are real; the writers clearly had a fantastic time dreaming up haunted settings (an abandoned asylum that’s being converted into fancy apartments, a horror-themed hotel whose owner casually points out the “Nightmare on Elm Suite”) and an array of amazing props (a Necronomicon-esque haunted book, Gus’ ghost-detecting gadgets) to surround the characters.
At its heart — and despite all the spooky stuff and a fair amount of gore — Truth Seekers is really about the bonds that form between its extremely imperfect characters, or improving the ones that were kind of threadbare when the story starts, especially Elton and Helen. Most everyone ends up revealing backstories that explain a lot about their eccentric personalities, but the process feels natural rather than forced; the same goes for the coincidences (or are they?) that tie the different parts of the story together in the end.
Truth Seekers does commit the cardinal sin of ending on a bit of a cliffhanger — after resolving the main plot, thankfully — but here’s hoping that means we’ll get another season to answer all the brand-new questions we suddenly had after the season one finale.
Truth Seekers hits Amazon Prime October 30.