Let’s see if we can find the truth.
Truth Seekers sees the return of Simon Pegg (Dave) and Nick Frost (Gus) and has been advertised as a reunion of sorts. Unfortunately, this can’t be farther from the truth. Before even getting into the show it is important to note that Pegg isn’t a main character and more or less cameos throughout some of the episodes. While this isn’t a deal breaker in itself, it lends to the argument that this show is falsely advertised. Fans of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and World’s End should temper expectations before signing into this one.
The show simply does not reach the high levels of the Cornetto Trilogy. Truth Seekers doesn’t deserve to be cataloged anywhere near those films.
Gus is a tech for an internet company and gets a new partner, Elton John (Samson Kayo) who seems to have held about five thousand other jobs. Gus is also an amateur ghost hunter and drags Elton along as they eventually work to get Gus’ YouTube channel up and running.
If the premise of the show stayed this simple and leaned into the loving satire, we’ve seen these actors do before, it might have turned out okay. Instead, we get an increasingly convoluted plot that wants to add numerous twists and additional influences surrounding what should have been a simple premise. There is so much narrative bloat here that I’m not sure where we should say the pilot episode actually ends. In a lot of ways, this first season serves as little more than an extended introduction where little moves forward.
Complex narratives are great, but they need to have some sort of purpose. Here, some ideas are introduced and then dropped while others become major plot points. Each episode brings in another mystery or history lesson and sometimes these lessons matter, but often not. There’s so much extra crap in this series it is hard to care about any of it.
I’m not sure what the larger issue is with this series: the writing or the characters. Our characters aren’t likable. Elton is okay but remains so timid (and so willing to leave jobs) that his staying around doesn’t make a lot of sense until of course we get another reveal of new information. His sister, Helen (Susan Wokoma) is perhaps the least likable character I’ve seen in a television show in a while. Helen and Gus’ father Richard (Malcolm McDowell) commiserate and complain. Their function seems to be little more than to serve as exposition dumps or a distraction from one of the many main plots. Wokoma and McDowell do their best with their characters, but you can’t overcome bad writing.
Our lead Gus isn’t much better. He is inconsistent, quiet, and impatient with Elton (despite dragging him along). Frost’s natural charisma helps, but if you take a step back this character just seems like a jerk. Our heroes are as empty as the ideas the show has.
The reason the Cornetto Trilogy works so well is that they are each a satire and a love letter. You can’t watch Hot Fuzz without acknowledging the extensive research they did into how the genre ticks, and they used this knowledge to build within the walls of formula something completely unique. Here, there is no love of horror nor comedy. The jokes are more forced through awkward characterizations than an organic or situational ribbing. Granted, how funny something is will vary greatly. I’d say I chuckled at best once an episode, which is a poor ratio.
While the comedic elements are lackluster the horror elements are abysmal. They would have been better off aiming for pure comedy. The stupid and convoluted arc of the horror aspects is so contrived that it is hard to stomach. There are major inconsistencies with how the horror functions. Sometimes the ghosts glitch like a digital error, sometimes we get weak body horror, and we get attempts at atmospheric horror. However, the locations aren’t visited long enough to give us any sort of dread. An old asylum should be scary, but we don’t get a decent look at anything (instead we get Helen and Richard complaining while the characters move into place) and the scares suffer.
Personally, I think this is the worst thing I have seen Frost and Pegg in. It is the least funny British comedy, and one of the least scary horror series. I see this as a low mark for everyone involved and dreaded watching every episode because I knew nothing interesting would happen.
I know a lot of other folks have enjoyed the show, but I just don’t see the appeal. It certainly fails to replicate the magic we’ve seen these two create before. Overall, this is a disaster of a story and represents perhaps the worst series of 2020.