You know how there always ends up being that one show that has a premise that you’re super into and a trailer that really gets you pumped and it ends up being disappointing as all get out? Yeah, Ghosted was that show for me. Created by Tom Gormican and Kevin Etten, Ghosted is basically what you’d get if you made The X-Files into a sitcom, executed it as a buddy-cop story, and had it star two men. In the pilot episode of Ghosted, a key member of The Bureau Underground – a top-secret government agency – goes missing. Subsequently, Leroy (Craig Robinson), a cynical former detective, and Max (Adam Scott), a genius “true believer” in the paranormal, are recruited to find him. The two polar opposites must work together to find the agent while uncovering possible alien activity and chilling “unexplained” paranormal events in their own city of Los Angeles. (Mild spoilers follow)
It’s not that Ghosted is bad or anything. It’s enjoyable enough, I suppose. It’s that it wastes a really fun premise and two really talented actors on such a mediocre script. I’d say the biggest problem with the first episode is the pacing. Maybe this would have worked better as a 45-minute “dramedy”, but as a 22-minute sitcom, it’s sooooo rushed. Things just keep happening with no time for the characters to really react or develop in any way. The show opens with a fun teaser that leads to our introduction to Max, played by Adam Scott. Max is a believer in the paranormal whose wife has been abducted by aliens (if we continue our X-Files metaphor, he’s the show’s version of Mulder). Having been fired from his teaching gig at Stanford, Max now works in a bookstore and is quickly kidnapped by the Bureau Underground. Next, we meet Leroy, a former LAPD detective who was fired from the force after a brash decision led to the death of his partner. He now works as a security guard for a mall, and he, too, is quickly kidnapped by the Bureau Underground.
It turns out that the missing agent, Kurt Checker (Lincoln Hand), left a video recording saying that if anything should happen to him that the Bureau should find Max and Leroy because they’d have the expertise to know what to do. Before the characters – or the audience – has any time to digest all of this information, Max and Leroy are thrown into the investigation to find the missing Agent Checker. The rest of the episode continues at this break-neck speed, never stopping long enough for us to get any kind of understanding for either of our lead characters.
The saving grace is that Craig Robinson and Adam Scott have a lot of chemistry together. Their natural chemistry saves the show from being complete garbage. They’re able to find a brief moment about two-thirds through the episode where their characters can really connect for a second. The moment is over almost before it even began, but it still happened, and it’s that moment where the series shows potential. If it would just slow down a bit and let us get to know the characters, it could really work. It’s set itself up to be a classic buddy-cop story as well as a classic paranormal investigation story with your ardent believer (Max) and your hardcore skeptic (Leroy), but the problem is that we just don’t spend enough time with them to develop any kind of strong attachment. All the potential is there for them to develop into interesting characters, it’s just never acted upon.
As for the plot itself, it, too, has all the elements that would make it interesting. Again, no time is spent on developing it at all. As soon as Max and Leroy learn something, we’re ushered off to the next thing and given absolutely no chance to reflect on or digest what we’ve just seen. This break-neck speed impacts the comedy too. The show doesn’t give the jokes any room to breathe, so they never land. There are some funny setups and some funny punchlines, but they happen so quickly and the show moves on from them so quickly that you don’t even have the chance to really register them, so they have absolutely no effect on you whatsoever.
It’s a shame. I was really looking forward to this show. The cliffhanger at the end of the episode has me enticed enough to keep watching with the hope that they’ll slow the pace down enough so the show can actually develop and make some kind of an impact. There’s a lot of potential here, but if the show continues in the way the pilot executed itself, it will completely let down every one of those potentials. As it currently is after this episode, Ghosted is a mess of a show. The characters and plot are so underdeveloped that they’re almost boring, the pace of the show never slows down enough so that anything can have any kind of impact on the viewer, and as a result of both of those things, the show completely fails to stand out. It’s not the most original idea (especially with a show like People of Earth also currently airing and being written and executed in a far superior way), but there’s still a lot of potential. The natural chemistry between Adam Scott and Craig Robinson carries the show and saves it from being a total disaster, but none of this spells good news. If the show can just slow down and develop its characters and plots some, we could have a good thing. But if the show continues on the road it began its journey on, it’s not gonna last very long.
(2.5 out of 5 wands)