Martin Carr reviews Amazon’s Truth Seekers…
There is an expectation which comes with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost now. Both are national institutions while Simon Pegg has inadvertently broken America, turned into a bona fide film star and rubs shoulders with A-list royalty. Their style of comedy is deeply rooted in characters, comes through circumstance and often contains a plethora of pop culture references. Truth Seekers is a gentler incarnation of that with the tongue in cheek nods dialled down.
This world is shaped by comic books, cult movie conventions and relationships between inherently lonely people. Pathos defines this show in terms of the delicate discussions it has about aging, friendships and unfulfilled potential. Nick Frost’s Gus is a carefully constructed character study in dealing with grief. Living at home with Malcolm McDowell’s Richard their relationship is defined by miscommunication, dry sarcasm and withering put downs. An easy on screen chemistry is one of the many joys which Truth Seekers uncovers, as both are clearly having fun with these eccentric creations. An internet engineer by day and amateur ghost hunter on weekends, Gus is rudderless plagued with guilt and a certain degree of resignation.
He is pulled out of the doldrums by Samson Kayo’s Elton a new recruit to internet provider Smyle and the source of a killer running gag. Both actors share an easy chemistry which has as much to do with the writing as their on screen portrayals. Elton’s sister Helen played by Susan Wokoma also leaves a formidable impression as full time YouTuber and companion to Richard. Her scenes with Malcolm McDowell are amongst the most touching in a series which tackles issues of anxiety, agoraphobia and family conflict.
There are some gentle scares but often the fear factor is superseded by an emotional connection to these lost souls. Flashes of body horror and a supreme use of sound effects gives this show an eerie quality, but ultimately Truth Seekers is about an inability to connect with the real world by escaping into the past. Brian Eldon and Kelly McDonald make an appearance, while the writing duo have been sure to include some other familiar faces along the way.
For fans the presence of Nick Frost and Simon Pegg on screen in an intentionally ill-fitting wig is joyous. There is a reassurance and obvious love for the material which comes through in their encounters, while storytelling and character remains key. Things may start out slowly but four hours of television allows plot to be unpacked slowly and events to develop organically. Exchanges are tinged with melancholy, drama feels grounded and this Ghostbusters by way of BT Outreach is quintessentially English in its approach.
In camera jokes, veiled references to film favourites and a lived in feeling giving Truth Seekers an oddly vintage comedic tone, which is gently humorous with flashes of considered vulgarity. The thirty minute episodes do keep things concise, but there will be some who feel it is lacking any truly stand out moments. This show is something which will get better over time and gain kudos for construction, casting and a maturity which only comes with experience.
Both Nick Frost and Simon Pegg are still refreshingly unwilling to believe their own hype or consider themselves better than the material. That is why Truth Seekers may not sit well with some, feel underwhelming or even incomparable to their other projects. The fact that these kings of the self-enforced reality check have never gone for a cash cow sequel, but continued to keep things fresh should be commended.