Nick Frost and Simon Pegg have been frequent collaborators since the classic Channel 4 sitcom Space in 1999, and have been best friends for longer than that. Having moved from there to stardom, via the "Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy" of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World's End, and the sci-fi comedy Paul. While Pegg was co-writer on all these productions, the only script the two wrote together was Paul, until now.
Truth Seekers is a new paranormal comedy series, released exclusively on Amazon Prime. It is the second production by Stolen Picture, Pegg and Frost's own production company, after the 2017 feature film Slaughterhouse Rulez (which featured them both as actors). Created and written by Pegg, Frost, James Serafinowicz (brother and colleague of Peter) and Nat Saunders (writer of the Frost-starring sitcom Sick Note), the series is an eight-part story combining mystery, thriller, horror and a particularly British style of humour. Each half-hour episode can be enjoyed as a weekly supernatural investigation, or the entire series can easily watched in one go as a four-hour story.
Frost is the star of the series as Gus Roberts, a broadband engineer for a wifi and mobile company called Smyle and a paranormal investigator and vlogger in his spare time, using his wide-ranging jobs to go around haunted locations all over the country. He hasn't had a lof of luck finding actual paranormal events, though, until he's paired up with rookie engineer, the improbably named Elton John. Played by Samson Kayo (Timewasters, Murder in Successville), he's a keen but nervous young man who has a wealth of unlikely experience from previous short-term jobs. Gus isn't keen on having a new junior partner on his rounds, but the quickly hit it off after their first spooky experience together – "The Haunting of Connelly's Nook."
They're found by Astrid, a mysterious young woman played by Emma D'Arcy (Wanderlust, Hanna), a sweet but troubled girl who seems a little... out of time. Haunted by some genuinely frightening spirits, "The Girl With All the Ghosts" eventually becomes part of the team. She and Elton share the beginnings of a gentle romance. Also dragged into the ghostly events is Elton's anxious, agoraphobic sister Helen, played by the excellent Susan Wokoma (Enola Holmes, Dark Money). She's a committed cosplayer and does make-up tutorials online, but her anxiety keeps her from attending events in person.
At the base of operations – which is to say, Gus's house – is his father-in-law Richard, a curmudgeonly old sod played by a bona fide superstar: Malcolm McDowell. Unsurprisingly, McDowell brings layers to the character, showing a great deal of love and loneliness. He and Susan form a sweet friendship, both alone in their own way, finding solace in each other. Gus, Elton, Astrid, Richard and Helen all come together to form an unlikely ghost-hunting team.
Unlike most of their collaborations, Pegg and Frost don't spend a great deal of time together. Pegg plays Gus's boss, Smyle CEO Dave, underneath a hilariously bad wig. He comes across as a rather small-minded corporate man who can't see far beyond his own company and its rollout of 6G. However, Dave, just like all the characters, has secrets. No one is entirely honest; there's a lot more to everyone than meets the eye.
The series deals with everything from ghosts to the transference of souls, possession, interdimensional travel, and the Beast of Bodmin. The creative team take the horror side of things very seriously, with an arresting yet subtle visual style and some fine direction by Jim Field Smith. The ghosts in particular are very effective, appearing almost as projections from some other place. The comedy comes from the characters, their mismatched friendships, and the clash between the otherworldly events and their small, everyday concerns. The various spooky happenings are slowly revealed to be linked, with a bizarre conspiracy emerging (and yes, part of it does hinge on the 6G network, apparently even more powerful than that insidious 5G that some people honestly believe can cause pandemics). Villainous figures emerge, headed by Gus's paranormalist hero Dr. Peter Toynbee, played with relish by Julian Barratt (The Mighty Boosh, Mindhorn). Kelly Macdonald (Trainspotting, Black Mirror, Brave) also appears as the mysterious "JoJo74," an online conspiracy theorist. It's a truly exceptional cast.
It's a clever and wickedly inventive horror that riffs on established tropes with a knowing wink. It never lets the jokes get in the way of the scares, but never lets the horror go too far without something to break the tension. The light, mild-mannered humour, and the occasional laugh-out-loud moment of triumph complement the eerie mystery, never detracting from it. It's a tongue-in-cheek, British take on The X-Files, but under that, there's something rather heartwarming. Dealing with loss, fear, loneliness and mental health problems with sensitivity, Truth Seekers has real depth. While no second series has been confirmed, it seems likely, and the first run ends on a fantastic cliffhanger that could change the entire premise of the series.
Truth Seekers is available on Amazon Prime
Review: Daniel Tessier
Dan describes himself as a geek. Skinny white guy. Older than he looks. Younger than he feels. Reads, watches, plays and writes. Has been compared to the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth Doctors, and the Dream Lord. Plus Dr. Smith from 'Lost in Space.' He has also had a short story published in Master Pieces: Misadventures in Space and Time a charity anthology about the renegade Time Lord.
Dan's web page can be here: Immaterial
Published on January 7th, 2021. Written by Daniel Tessier for Television Heaven.