This Ghosted review contains spoilers.
Ghosted Episode 1
It’s impossible to talk about Fox’s new series Ghosted without talking about the X-Files. Using the tried and true formula of the skeptic paired with the true believer, the cliche TV duo that X-Files popularized, Ghosted dabbles in sci-fi and the paranormal with a comedic twist. In this comic reimagining, Mulder is a bookish, neurotic type more in the mold of Dr. Egon Spengler named Max, played by Parks and Recreation’s Adam Scott. The Scully part, Leroy, is played by Craig Robinson (The Office, This is the End) as a Craig Robinson-type: sassy, sweet, and finding ways to show off his pipes.
From that premise, you can probably imagine exactly what this pilot would be like, and you likely wouldn’t be too far off. The episode plays out like your typical X-Files monster-of-the-week hour sped up to triple time. The pilot breezes through exposition with admirably laid information dumps in which it’s revealed that Max is a former professor with a wife who has been abducted, and Leroy is an ex-police officer, a missing persons expert, grieving the death of his partner. Before the five minute mark hits, Max and Leroy are swooped into the world of the Bureau Underground, a secret paranormal research agency, with a mission to help find MIA agent Kurt Checker.
Robinson and Scott help all of this go down smoothly with their magnetic chemistry and sharp improv skills, scoring laughs with aggressive carpool karaoke routines of “Higher Love” and getting too into character on their first mission. Transcending all of the tired “we’re not partners” beats, Robinson and Scott are both the reason most people tuned into Ghosted and why they’ll be willing to try it again next week.
It certainly won’t be for the action sequences. As soon as their first mission kicks into gear, the shots are edited together in incoherent fashion, appearing as just a bunch of random excerpts of people running and screaming down nondescript hallways. Luckily things liven up a bit in the next action scene when the pair visit the area where Checker disappeared. While there, Leroy’s car is hit with the same energy source that zapped Checker in the cold open, sending it levitating in the air with Max inside. Later, a screaming severed head gag hints at the kind of fun Ghosted could have with their paranormal premise.
The series alludes to a colorful cast of supporting characters, played by Ally Walker, Amber Stevens West, and Adeel Akhtar, but only Akhtar’s awkward scientist Barry is allowed to make an impression, with the others on hand solely to stand around with serious faces and listen to the stars’ shtick. That being said, the leading men’s schtick works wonders, and Craig and Robinson are able to flesh out well-rounded characters and hit emotional moments with the ease of what they are, seasoned movie stars. The groan-worthy genre cliches can be tolerated next to ultra-specific flights of fancy, like dishing about Panera meetups, or inspired gags like the best use of the Howie Scream that I’ve heard in recent memory. Pilots are rarely any good, but Ghosted slides by on Robinson and Scott’s likability. I Want to Believe this will get better.