Nick Frost and Simon Pegg return to television and it’s pretty great.
Gus Roberts (Nick Frost) is the number one broadband installer for SMYLE, Britain’s biggest internet provider. His boss Dave (Simon Pegg), the head of the company, partners Gus up with new hire Elton John (Samson Kayo). Gus reveals to Elton that he is more than just an internet installer, he also runs a paranormal investigation web channel called “Truth Seekers.” Despite having little luck with finding ghosts in the past, Gus and Elton quickly find themselves uncovering numerous supernatural occurrences. They’re joined on occasion by Astrid (Emma D’Arcy), a formerly haunted woman, Gus’s aged father-in-law Richard (Malcolm McDowell), and Elton’s sister Helen (Susie Wokoma). Together, they uncover a plot involving ghosts, mad scientists, and a cult run by the mysterious Dr. Peter Toynbee (Julian Barratt).
I’ll be upfront that part of why I instantly took to this show is my love of all of Nick Frost and Simon Pegg’s previous collaborations, from Spaced to the Cornetto Trilogy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End). Even though Pegg is only a recurring character in this series, whenever they’re on screen together their natural chemistry takes over and brings a smile to my face. Frost and Kayo, though, also play off of each other masterfully and since they’re the majority of the show, that really elevates this above other “comedy version of the X-Files” series. It helps that all of the supporting characters are played with a huge amount of likability and with some great character development over the series. Helen, for example, is an agoraphobic cosplayer who also becomes fast friends with Richard, a tech-incompetent misanthrope. The interactions between the characters really get you invested in what’s happening to them and it pays off as the show goes on.
The actual plot of the show is a nice blend of episodic mysteries that tie into the larger plot thread. Almost everything that happens early in the show ends up paying off down the line. While that does make some of the first episodes a little slower, it’s a streaming series and you don’t really have to wait that long to get through it. It helps that a number of the “monsters of the week” are fun and creative, but really it’s the dialogue and the performances that will get you through the weaker parts. Since it’s only eight episodes long, you never really have to worry about having invested too much.
I will give the show credit for having some legitimately good horror to balance out the comedy. There are a few parts of the series where I was shocked at how far they were willing to push the envelope. The ghosts that follow the characters are often played straight with horrific wounds or disfigurements and the kind of jerky motions that we associate with the inhuman. There’s an episode involving possessed objects that was even more disturbing on a number of levels, but I don’t want to spoil it here. Similarly, the show has a number of solid dramatic moments that end up standing out when contrasted with the mainly comedic tone, but never feel like they’re conflicting with it.
Overall, I really liked the show. It also ended with a lot of potential for future plotlines, so I hope it keeps going. Give it a try.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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