TV Review: FOX’s ‘Ghosted’ Should Vanish Quickly

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TV has been built on the success of science fiction. “The X-Files,” in particular, redefined how genre shows can have both critical and commercial success. However, much like horror comedy, science fiction has always shown room for an injection of comedy. FOX’s latest sitcom offering, “Ghosted,” takes the belief in the paranormal and fashions a comedic conspiracy out of it. For being a comedy, the show churns out more mysteries and fewer laughs. It’s overly concerned with the season-long narrative and less concerned with building characters we want to watch week after week.

Max Jennifer (Adam Scott) seeks validation for his paranormal theories, which took him from Ivy League grad school to Barnes and Noble employee. Meanwhile, skeptic security guard Leroy Wright (Craig Robinson) focuses on quality time with his family after being disgraced and removed from the police force. These two disparate personalities are kidnapped and taken to a secret society called the Bureau Underground. Turns out one of the Bureau’s agents was captured, but not before naming Max and Leroy as potential successors. From here, the two men are on the case in order to clear their names and return to the worlds of academia and the force.

There’s much more that happens in the episode, as we watch our dual protagonists come into dangerous proximity with supernatural beings. However, the show introduces new elements to the plot every other minute. By the time our leads are abducted, we’ve only had one quick scene of each person. There’s little time spent to get to know either character or their fundamental differences. Plus, the actual conspiracy involving a multi-verse simply doesn’t engage. Essentially, it’s a plot device that allows the show to explain away any new plot development that comes up. Max’s wife was abducted while leaving him. This figures into a later episode development. However, other than that, the central mystery barely finds its way to connect to the fiber of the narrative.

Many who try out the show may be doing so because of the two charismatic leads. Adam Scott and Craig Robinson both made names for themselves on popular NBC sitcoms (“Parks and Recreation” and “The Office” respectively). The two are affable enough in their roles, but they rarely push themselves in the pilot. The episode wants to convey the main conflict between the characters is their stance on the paranormal. However, this doesn’t appear to cause much conflict for them. The small semblance of friction in their relationship is based on Max being talkative and Leroy being quiet. The show will need to dig deeper to these characters to find some interesting points of conflict. Otherwise, we could be in for a frighteningly dull season.

Part of what made “The X Files” succeed was the strength of Mulder and Scully. Having two engaging leads went a long way to bring science fiction and conspiracy theories to the masses. The show possesses two stars capable of making this happen. Both Adam Scott and Craig Robinson try and make things work, even succeeding a few times. However, the show gives them little room for the two to play off each other. Even the few scenes which allow them to riff feel strained. Future episodes that concentrate less on the paranormal and more on the Earthly characters in their possession could bring this show back to life. Many times pilot episodes exist to set up plot strands while the remaining episodes devote more time to building character. However, in its current state, the half-hour series feels more of a slog and less of a good time.

“Ghosted” airs Sunday evenings at 8:30/7:30c on FOX.

GRADE: (1/2)

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