Review by C.J. Bunce
Nick Frost and Simon Pegg are a magical team. Usually Pegg takes the driver’s seat, but not so in the Amazon Prime series Truth Seekers, which puts Pegg back in the office of a British telecom company and Frost on the road as chief broadband installer. If you ever wondered what The X-Files might look like if produced in England, here is your chance. With better special effects and even some better scares than the 1990s show featuring agents Mulder and Scully, Truth Seekers is also full of good British humor, the kind that would make it the perfect sequel to the 1999-2001 series Spaced, starring Pegg and Frost. And it has the supernatural and horror elements that keep the content right in the veins of their big screen Cornetto Trilogy films Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End, their pop culture references in Paul, and secrets from afar of Frost’s Attack the Block. It also has two of the best award-winning British actors you could hope to find in an eight-part half-hour horror comedy. Truth Seekers has been streaming for a few weeks, but we want to make sure you don’t overlook this one.
Nick Frost plays a character you could imagine in the future of either Spaced or Attack the Block (maybe a 15-minute segment with some name changes and backstory could glue these shows together). At some point Frost as cable guy Gus Roberts got his act together and got married. But his wife died in some accident, and he turned to chasing ghosts, broadcasting his findings on a YouTube show (don’t worry, this is not another parody of bad reality TV). Enter new installer Elton John (not that Elton John) played by Samson Kayo (Timewasters), who wants nothing to do with the spooks Gus begins to stumble upon while working network outages. Elton has a sister, an agoraphobe named Helen, played by Susan Wokomo (Enola Holmes) also an eager cosplayer. What is Elton and Helen’s story? Every element of the series has relevance, and it all comes together by the end of the eighth episode. And as you might expect, everyone is all very British about the end of the world.
Viewers will realize this series is the real deal when we meet Gus’s dad, played by Malcolm McDowell (Time After Time, Star Trek Generations, Community, Psych, Monk, Halloween, Star Wars Rebels, Heroes), who gets to tap into the realm of more than one of his past roles (including A Clockwork Orange) while bumbling about as a widower, behind the times especially as technology is concerned, and stuck living with the likes of Gus. It’s not just a small role either, as MacDowell becomes a full member of an ad hoc Scooby Gang in a Smyle Telecom van, trying to explain away the strange goings on that somehow interconnect everyone between here and there, between an abandoned asylum and the home of a lonely woman cutting her own cord in order to get visitors. This is an iconic, can’t miss role for McDowell fans.
Enter Emma D’Arcy (Wild Bill) as Astrid, a young woman plagued with ghost hauntings, who finally finds her resolve with Gus and Elton. Soon Helen and Dad pair up to discover new things, too–one of the more surprising and sweet outcomes of the strange goings-on about town. Even more street cred kicks in with the entry of the incomparable Kelly Macdonald (Brave, No Country for Old Men, Gosford Park, State of Play, Harry Potter) as another loony online ghost hunter who goes by JoJo74.
A celebration of how to produce a half-hour genre series, these half hours are more packed with content like The Mandalorian than WandaVision or even many of the current-running, bloated, hour-long Netflix series. The very best bit is a merger of British history with 1950s sci-fi and the macabre as the series tries to explain the secret of the real-life Lincolnshire Poacher shortwave radio signals which broadcast from a numbers station in the 1960s until stopping in June 2008, including the tune of a British folk song (or is it from John Ford’s Rio Grande?). The song seems to telegraph the coming of an ice cream truck, but no such luck.
Before the actual Ghostbusters returns in November with its sequel Ghostbusters: Afterlife, relive the same flavor of comedy horror in Truth Seekers. Check out the preview and San Diego Comic-Con panel we discussed last summer here at borg.
No word yet on whether a second season will be in the future, but we can only hope. The series wraps with an open ending keeping the possibility “out there.” Watch the first season of Truth Seekers now, streaming here on Amazon Prime.