This article previously appeared on Crossfader.
In this Crossfader series, our intricate and complex rating system will tell you definitively whether new television pilots are worth your valuable time. We call it: HIT OR SH**.
The vastness of space. The multiverse. The possibility of life far more intelligent than the mouth-breathers experiencing mental breakdowns over meme sauce down at the local burger joint. The world beyond human perspective is all too often reserved for overly serious inspection . . . until now. GHOSTED is FOX’s foray into the budding sci-fi comedy genre, which has seen great recent success with shows like RICK AND MORTY and THE ORVILLE.
Much like the aforementioned McFarlane offering, GHOSTED is a self-aware send-up of a cult show of yesteryear—in this case, THE X-FILES. It all starts when an unlikely duo is recruited by a hidden government agency to investigate paranormal activity in Los Angeles—Max Jennifer, a disgraced former professor turned bookstore employee and believer in the occult, and Leroy Wright, a former missing persons investigator with the LAPD. With a shot at redemption and their reputations on the line, the two are made to work together in order to find a missing agent. If it sounds vaguely reminiscent of FOX’s legendary sci-fi drama, it’s not by coincidence. Though where THE ORVILLE has a tendency to lean more towards earnest homage, GHOSTED is outright parody. The whole affair calls back to ‘80s buddy cop classics like LETHAL WEAPON or MIDNIGHT RUN, played fast and loose with an apparent disregard for sustainability, and it works, largely on the merits of its leading pair.
These two have definitely perfected the bewildered look
TV comedy vets Adam Scott (PARKS AND RECREATION) and Craig Robinson (THE OFFICE) are the quintessential odd couple; the two leads’ comedic timing is sharp, mostly due to their talent rather than anything the middling script offers. Despite having only worked on HOT TUB TIME MACHINE 2 in tandem, the real-life buddies seem perfectly lined up for their roles—chalk it up to PARKS and THE OFFICE having similar styles, perhaps—and they’re almost solely responsible for carrying the show. The other members of The Bureau Underground leave a pretty insubstantial mark on the pilot, with the exception of Annie (Amber Stevens West), the group’s caustic tech expert. It remains to be seen whether or not two actors can actually carry a show past its startup—THE X-FILES was extremely successful in its original run due as much to its auxiliary characters as its leads and lore—but Scott and Robinson seem poised to play while the sun is out, at the very least, and do it with an unabashed confidence. Granted, the majority of the episode is spent at the duo’s side, to fair results; some jokes, like a somewhat oblique reference to THE USUAL SUSPECTS, lack any sort of bite, but the physical comedy aspects of the pilot are spot-on, playing the supernatural side of things to great effect.
Pictured: Great Effect
Despite what good GHOSTED has going for it, the pilot feels a bit vapid; without a ton of character work, a lot of the episode is spent shifting from gag to gag, although there are a couple moments that hint at a deeper mythos or some eventual development from its leads and major plotlines. Despite being fairly self-contained, the first episode clearly wants to present questions, and a little tidbit right as the credits roll provokes just enough curiosity to keep me interested in watching a bit longer.
GHOSTED is to THE X-FILES what network-mate BROOKLYN NINE-NINE is to THE WIRE: it’s an irreverent, goofy, well-paced comedic take on a genre that’s usually eager to take itself all too seriously. Whether or not it’ll actually shape up to be especially fulfilling, however, is a different story; hopefully, the writing shores up over the next couple episodes, because it would definitely be a waste of fantastic talent otherwise. I wouldn’t be surprised if FOX ends up ghosting this one, considering that they’ve brought the ax down on much better in the past . . . but it is a lot of fun, so I’m going to believe.
Verdict: S*** Probation
GHOSTED airs on Sundays on FOX