New supernatural comedy series Truth Seekers, streaming on Prime Video, is the latest team-up from long-time co-stars Nick Frost and Simon Pegg. As Tony Stamp writes, it absolutely smacks of the winning formula that pervades all their best work.
It’s been seven long years since The World’s End, the third and final entry into Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy, his trio of films that blended genre elements (zombies in Shaun of The Dead, cops/cults in Hot Fuzz, aliens in the last instalment), with the winning chemistry of his leading men Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. The good news is that the new show Truth Seekers, co-written by and starring that pair (but missing the superstar director), feels very familiar, a mix of gentle chuckles and supernatural boogaloo that will definitely satisfy fans.
Pegg and Frost were mates before the former, already a working comedy actor, cast the latter in his sitcom Spaced, directed by Wright and co-starring Jessica Hynes. The comedic chemistry between them was evident, and much like Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s The Office, feels like it set a template in British comedy that is still paying dividends.
Truth Seekers is more Frost’s show, as he gets the most screen time (Pegg is more of a cameo, although he does show up each episode), but it absolutely smacks of the winning formula that pervades all their best work. Much more so than Paul, their 2011 effort which seemed hobbled by American input, this new show has charm to spare, to go alongside its abundance of spooks.
Leaning into its British quaintness, the show sees Frost as a Telco employee operating somewhere semi-rural outside London. He’s lost his wife in unknown circumstances, a detail that hangs over the character, but his main traits are being good at his job and being thoroughly pleasant, in a very Nick Frost type of way.
Pegg, meanwhile, plays his boss, overly friendly to an almost suspicious degree and sporting a conspicuously bad wig.
Frost’s character Gus has a sideline hobby making ghost-hunter type videos, and when he’s assigned a new partner (Samson Kayo playing someone called, ahem, Elton John), they start to stumble across more and more supernatural antics in the surprisingly haunted town.
You could easily argue that Kayo is the real lead of the show. He certainly starts as the audience surrogate. But soon it becomes a two-hander, with the young actor and Frost sharing an easy-going comic chemistry, the latter showing a paternal side much like he did in last year’s Fighting With My Family.
Gus starts off seeming like a bit of a curmudgeon, haunted as he is by his wife, pun very much intended. But thankfully that’s soon dispensed with. Honestly it’s quite refreshing to see a comedy where no one’s being an asshole for the sake of easy laughs. Much of the humour comes from their reaction to otherworldly frights, but also just the way people say things. There’s a bit where Kayo says “What you doing?” that clearly isn’t funny on paper but had me rolling, delivered as it is in such a distinct Pegg/ Frost patois.
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It’s also nice seeing the pair as elder statesmen, bringing a flock of younger actors into their stable. Kayo is fantastic, nailing the sort of everyman-reacting-to-supernatural-stuff tone, and as the series progresses several more actors are added to the core roster—Susie Wokoma as Kayo’s sister, a YouTube star who does makeup tutorials, and Emma D’Arcy as a Truth Seekers client who winds up joining the team. They’re both great, and Wokoma in particular is hilarious.
Oh and by the way, there’s also legendary actor Malcolm McDowell kicking around as Gus’s dad.
Every episode is written by Pegg, Frost, James Serafinowicz and Nat Saunders, and the pedigree is evident in the way all these roles feel fully formed. This is a comedy where the laughs come from the people, not the situations—much like Shaun of The Dead, the supernatural elements are treated seriously, ie they’re pretty scary. But there’s a huge affection for the characters, and that’s where much of the show’s appeal lies.
The show’s second biggest asset is its plot, which begins at full throttle and trusts viewers to keep up, littering easter eggs along the way. It’s testament to how carefully written the series is that it winds up feeling supremely satisfying, rewarding attentive viewers with multiple payoffs as everything starts to add up.
It’s perhaps a sign of the times that, post- Prestige TV, this couldn’t be an X-Files spook-of-the-week type affair. It needs an overarching season-long arc, but the show rises to the challenge, providing a best-case scenario of that model. It’s eminently bingeable, ties up what it needs to and lays out some breadcrumbs for season two.
Lest I undersell the supernatural side of the show, let me reiterate that it’s often genuinely creepy. Ghosts and ghouls are portrayed visually in a way I genuinely hadn’t seen before, and the writing is meticulous enough to include hints as to why they look the way they do. I’m being vague because part of the pleasure of the show is working this stuff out as you go. Suffice it to say if you like being spooked it delivers.
But for a show that features all sorts of carnage—and in keeping with the Pegg n’ Frost dynamic—Truth Seekers‘ biggest strength is how refreshingly pleasant it is, in a way many shows could learn from. Having characters you really like goes a long way to getting people tuning in each week, and all the quirks and unique turns of phrase on display here really are a joy.
Honestly watching it felt like a tonic near the end of this supremely shitty year. It’s a show you’d like to go to the pub with and enjoy a few laughs. Then discreetly leave when poltergeists show up and start tearing the place apart.