Felicia Day (The Guild) and Bryan Singer (X-Men) have a brand new series on Hulu called Spooked, premiering next week. The half-hour comedy, which will post four episodes in its freshman run, follows a group of five wanna-be ghost hunters, spoofing paranormal “reality” shows in a live-action, modern-day Scooby-Doo. The Paranormal Investigation Team (or P.I.T. for short) tackles a new case each week, and through bumbling luck and raw talent, they manage to touch the other side of reality.
The P.I.T. crew isn’t just a bundle of stereotypes, as there are clearly layers for each visible in the very first episode. Piper (Shyloh Oostwald, In Time), who is merely a child, is deeply scarred by parental tragedy and shuts down, communing more easily with spirits than with people. She’s creepy, but the real deal. Her older brother, Connor (Julian Curtis, Dance Academy), is doing the best he can for her, trying to hone her talents, rather than shut her away in a mental institution. They find Lindsey (Neil Grayston, Eureka), a stated skeptic, but who is willing to fund their venture just in case actual evidence is discovered to be documented. And then there’s Elliot (Derek Mio, Greek), the goofy nerd, and Morgan (Ashley Johnson, The Killing, Growing Pains), the spiritual type who fancies herself in touch with the earth, both of whom we’ll likely learn more about in future installments, given the development of the first three in the pilot.
Spooked doesn’t take the time in the first episode to establish either an origin story or a foundation, but that’s a good thing. Instead, it drops the characters (and viewers) head-first into a case, which will likely be the weekly story structure, and then drips details of the past in when it makes sense to do so. In this way, there’s no boring exposition, and I came away still feeling satisfied that the writers had a solid grasp on what’s going on and that will be revealed in pieces, rather than all at once. This adds mystery when done right, which it is here.
While the series does feature the supernatural, and yes, ghosts and paranormal activities are real in Spooked, it’s not very scary. It’s definitely going to deliver more laughs than frights. The humor doesn’t come from clever one-liners (well, there are a few of those), but rather its inherent in the personalities that make up the scenarios and the cast. There’s a witty, dry tone underlying the production, and it throbs through every scene, giving an overall feeling of amusement to those who watch.
The first case does not feel like a canned procedural, taking a simple situation and adding an authenticity to it until its fresh. D.J. (Alison Haislip, Attack of the Show!) is convinced that her deceased father-in-law, who did not approve of D.J.’s marriage to his daughter, Carol (Dichen Lachman, Dollhouse), is tormenting them. The truth is not nearly so simple, and while it may end up being a tad predictable, it’s done in a manner sure to tug the heartstrings, too. It has just enough originality in the presentation, from how the lesbian couple interacts in a way that doesn’t scream gay stereotype at all, to the events that take us to the conclusion, to set itself apart from any would-be peers.
Day, who writes as well as produces, has clearly brought her own talent, honed on a very successful web series, and combined with what she has learned from Joss Whedon, tapping into his talent pool, as well as cast members from shows Day has been involved in, to create Spooked. The result is something that will be very welcome and enjoyed by Whedon geeks and Day fans alike, of whom there are many in the world, and the style is mainstream enough to be accessible to practically anyone, even as it keeps its cred and charm. I hope to see much more from Day in the future.
My overall impression of Spooked is that it should do well. I found little to complain about in the initial half hour, and I do plan to stream the other three episodes as soon as they become available. I suggest you do the same. Spooked will be available on Hulu and YouTube’s Geek & Sundry channel beginning June 4th.
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