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'Truth Seekers' review: Comic horror series shows some potential

Emma D'Arcy as Astrid, Nick Frost as Gus

Emma D'Arcy as Astrid, Nick Frost as Gus and Samson Kayo as Elton in Amazon Studios' "Truth Seeker." Credit: Amazon Studios/Colin Hatton

SERIES "Truth Seekers"

WHEN|WHERE Streaming on Amazon Prime

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Nick Frost and Simon Pegg reunite once more, returning to their favored subgenre of comic horror for the new series "Truth Seekers."

Frost plays Gus Roberts, a cable installer who doubles as a paranormal investigator. As the eight-episode first season commences, he's teamed up with, yes, the unfortunately named Elton John (Samson Kayo) by Dave (Pegg), his boss at the broadband company.

Together, Gus and Elton probe a convoluted supernatural mystery involving ghosts, strange and haunting signals emanating from the past and more. "Truth Seekers," which is created by Frost, Pegg, James Serafinowicz and Nat Saunders, and directed by James Field Smith, is now streaming on Amazon Prime.

MY SAY Over the course of a collaboration that's spanned more than 20 years, Frost and Pegg have established a set of expectations for their work.

Fans of their efforts with the filmmaker Edgar Wright — everything from "Shaun of the Dead" to "The World's End," not to mention the late-90s series "Spaced" that started it all — know the drill: sharp satire, with a touch of surrealism and a helping of the heartfelt.

At its best, their work is both funny and successful within the framework of the genre of choice. "Hot Fuzz" is not just hilarious; it's a high-quality buddy cop movie.

Across the first three episodes of "Truth Seekers," the creators play things a notch straighter than normal. The show leans too heavily on the second part of the formula, to the point where it sometimes neglects the first.

This is not a particularly engaging work of horror TV.

It's not unsettling: The apparitions and other sights investigated by Gus, Elton and Astrid (Emma D'Arcy), a haunted woman who seeks their help, are recognizable spectres that mostly play out in classic jump scares. If the best horror impacts you by worming its way into your subconscious, this one mostly seems content to show off some fancy special effects.

The world of ghost hunting is overdocumented at this point, between the heavy dose of reality TV it has supplied and a robust series of fictional "Truth Seekers" predecessors. There isn't much left to reveal about it.

The plotting remains straightforward early on and without the sort of edge that characterizes classic Pegg-Frost efforts. It's simply not idiosyncratic enough and if there is any sort of laugh-out-loud moment in their best tradition, such as the excellent "Point Break" parody in "Hot Fuzz," it arrives later in the series.

That's not to suggest this is a total lost cause: there are plenty of the familiar comic hallmarks, especially in the performances, and great potential for things to develop further into the season.

"Truth Seekers" revolves around Frost, so he has to play things relatively straight, but the supporting cast has some serious fun.

Kayo, a highly regarded British TV actor, plays up Elton's lack of enthusiasm for supernatural investigations to charming heights. Malcolm McDowell gets a welcome chance to supply a dose of grumpy humor as Gus' father-in-law Richard. Sporting a terrible wig while perched behind a desk, Pegg relishes playing a fiendish, besuited midlevel corporate type.

There are hints at more emotional depths to be explored with regard to these characters and their paranormal pasts. It is also somewhat unfair to criticize Pegg and Frost for not delivering on prior expectations: there's no rule that says "Truth Seekers" needs to continue the "Shaun of the Dead" tradition at all.

BOTTOM LINE The first few episodes of "Truth Seekers" are somewhat disappointing, but the acting is strong and there's potential for improvement.

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