If there’s something strange in your neighbourhood, who you gonna call? Most probably, your answer would not be Gus Roberts, senior broadband installer for major internet provider SMYLE.
Amazon Prime Video’s brand new series, Truth Seekers, is the creation of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, James Serafinowicz (the brother of Peter, who voiced Darth Maul in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace), and Nat Saunders. The show focuses on Gus (played by Frost) who, when not busy ensuring SMYLE has 100% nationwide signal coverage, has his own YouTube channel – the Truth Seeker – on which he investigates unexplained phenomena.
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Gus is told by his boss – and head of SMYLE – Dave (Simon Pegg) that he is getting a new partner, Elton John (Samson Kayo), which is the last thing he wants. Elton is drawn into the world of the Truth Seeker, and both he and Gus end up crossing the path of Astrid (Emma D’Arcy), a young woman who claims she is being haunted, and asks the pair for their help.
The trio join forces and roam the country, using Gus’s trusty van, HMS Darkside, with the aim of getting to the bottom of Astrid’s mystery, as well as dealing with all manner of other weird occurrences they encounter along the way. Ending up being drawn into the team’s exploits are Elton’s sister Helen (Susie Wokoma), an agoraphobe sci-fi cosplayer who has her own YouTube channel which specialises in recreating movie makeup; and Richard (Malcolm McDowell), Gus’s elderly and cantankerous father-in-law.
Truth Seekers is the first TV project to come from Pegg and Frost’s own production company, Stolen Picture (which has Saunders and Serafinowicz as creative directors), which was behind the 2018 film Slaughterhouse Rulez. Pegg and Frost have ventured into horror territory previously with Shaun Of The Dead, the ‘Rom-Zom-Com’ which opened their ‘Three Flavours Cornetto’ trilogy, so the duo are very familiar with the genre, and you might naturally expect Truth Seekers to have more than a passing similarity.
However, whereas Shaun Of The Dead leaned heavily into the comedy, with Truth Seekers they have taken a far more serious and dramatic tone. That does not mean that Truth Seekers is not funny, as there are definitely plenty of belly laughs in evidence during the eight-episode run, but they almost tend to take a backseat to the mainly dramatic tone provided by the characters’ individual backstories, as well as the plot arc which runs through the season.
An easy comparison to make would be to say Truth Seekers is akin to a British equivalent to The X-Files, as it deals with supernatural and paranormal subjects, and lends itself to a ‘monster of the week’ format; however, with it having such a relatively short run, Truth Seekers does feel somewhat more densely packed and layered, as the various plot strands from each story are closely intertwined, each feeling connected by the end of the season, whereas The X-Files had the luxury of being able to do unrelated standalones regularly.
One important aspect here is that the various menaces and threats are not in any way sent up, and are all played with a totally straight bat; yes, there is some humour to be found, but there is typically a deadly serious air, which avoids the risk of undermining the horror elements. The fact there are laughs and a much lighter tone elsewhere in the show mean that when things suddenly turn dark, the gear shift feels far more pronounced and shocking, through a marked contrast with the surrounding comedy elements.
In the ‘Cornetto’ trilogy – as well as earlier sitcom Spaced – it tended to be the case that Nick Frost either played second fiddle or sidekick to Simon Pegg, or it was more of a ‘buddy movie’ arrangement; here, Frost gets to take the lead, and carries the show beautifully, with Pegg taking a seemingly minor role in comparison. Frost has headed other vehicles before, such as in the TV series Mr Sloane, but never when appearing alongside Pegg, so this feels far more significant a turn, and lets him finally come out from beneath his friend’s shadow.
The supporting ensemble works extremely well together, with Kayo playing Elton with a real lightness of touch when required, but also hinting at something much graver below the surface. D’Arcy’s Astrid is described at one point as like a pixie, which is quite an apt way to depict her, and she is very endearing throughout. Wokoma has a harder task, as Helen is written initially as quite spiky and difficult, yet Wokoma’s performance manages to soften her and make her likeable. As for Malcolm McDowell, he unashamedly steals the entire show, with his comic timing being impeccable.
Dropping the entire show online the day before Halloween was a rather canny gimmick, and the fear factor of the series is absolutely in evidence, with the chills very much ramped up thanks to the combined efforts of Jim Field Smith’s stylish direction, and Robin Foster’s atmospheric score. Another big feather in Truth Seekers’ cap is the rather impressive range of acting talent which has been assembled here, with roles of all sizes and degrees of importance filled by the likes of Kevin Eldon, Morgana Robinson, Kelly Macdonald, Julian Barrett, and – in an unexpected turn – Kate Nash.
This ragtag bunch of assorted loners, misfits and damaged individuals ends up feeling like a proper cohesive – if still a tad dysfunctional – family by the very last episode, and they definitely deserve another outing. If you make sure that you treat yourself by watching this little gem, then there might be more than a ghost of a chance of it happening.
Truth Seekers is out now on Amazon Prime Video.