Series like In Search Of... and Unsolved Mysteries prove that audiences have always been interested in explorations of the unexplained, but the debut of Ghost Hunters in 2004 completely changed the landscape of reality investigations of the paranormal. Co-created by Jason Hawes and featuring Steve Gonsalves and Dave Tango, the series explored private residences, hotels, restaurants, asylums, and battleships in hopes of debunking supposed hauntings, sometimes being left with unexplainable, otherworldly evidence. The trio have reunited to deliver audiences the all-new series Ghost Nation, which gets back to their roots of attempting to give peace of mind to homeowners who feel targeted by spirits, with the investigators reminding us why we find them to be trusted sources in the world of paranormal, even if the series suffers the inherent issues of hunting ghosts.
The premiere episode depicts our investigators making a convention appearance when they meet a local paranormal investigator who alerts them to a case in which a military veteran, struggling with PTSD, feels so overwhelmed by a supposed haunting that he and his family relocate to an RV on their property as to not have to encounter the bizarre experiences in their home. Hawes, Gonsalves, and Tango utilize a number of methods to attempt to find answers for why remote-controlled cars move on their own or why a shadowy figure could appear in photos, while also attempting to uncover history about the property that could confirm or deny the reports from the homeowners.
Fans of the investigators' former series will surely appreciate seeing them back on the small screen, doing what they do best. Their former series helped establish Hawes' history as a plumber and his tendency to find real-world, technical answers for otherworldly occurrences, while Gonsalves and Tango's demeanor demonstrates a bigger interest in facts over justifying every creak as confirmation of a ghost. While countless other paranormal investigation series aim to antagonize potential spirits, only to freak out and scream at every shadow in hopes of offering the viewer a horror show, Ghost Nation offers a much more subdued experience which has much more respect not only for the viewer, but also the homeowners and potential otherworldly entities.
In addition to the production value, as Ghost Nation utilizes drone cameras and animated recreations of haunting claims, a big difference between this series and the original Ghost Hunters is how much more mundane the interactions between the team members appear. While the original series was born more out of the reality TV boom than the paranormal field, the editing of the series would amp up the team members' natural quirks to create drama or caricatures. The former series painted Hawes as a gruff leader and Gonsalves and Tango as comedic relief and, while this new series highlights that those are inherent traits of theirs, the finished episode is more interested in the lore of hauntings than enticing you to tune in next week to see if the team members get into a fight over an encounter.
The biggest obstacle faced by not just Ghost Nation, but any investigation into the paranormal, is that it relies on pseudoscience and anecdotal evidence to argue its case. No matter how thorough an investigation is, viewers might still be left with doubts about the authenticity of what they're seeing. Given their history in the field, this isn't to doubt the integrity or authenticity of the series' leads, but the uncertainty around the existence of life after death inherently comes with unknowable components. The investigators might attempt to debunk how a toy car could move on its own by utilizing other controllers, other cars, and various other radio frequencies that could accidentally set the toy in motion, but the audience might be left to wonder whether or not the car has batteries in it and whether that has an impact on the car's momentum, in addition to other various environmental conditions.
This specific episode also featured a number of details about the property's history which, when taken on their own, don't back up the claims of the hauntings, but when placed together, a storyline can be woven together. For the optimist, it would make perfect sense that a specific murder that is potentially, possibly, somewhat tangentially related to an important figure in the town's history would explain why the paranormal events occur on this land, while a cynic could easily fault that it would require some leaps of logic to connect the dots that sometimes feel like working backward from a solution to find clues that support that conclusion.
The same can be said for the tools used in an investigation. Some audiences might buy into the theory that fluctuations in an electromagnetic field are associated with spiritual activity, yet there's no concrete proof. Therefore, when an EMF detector audibly signals, the optimist will believe a spirit has just entered a room, while a skeptic will dismiss this notion, shattering that presumption.
Regardless of whether you're a believer or a skeptic, Ghost Nation offers a much more grounded take in the crowded field of paranormal investigation television, with some fans praising its mundane depictions of seeking the supernatural while others chide it for being too dull. While this reviewer might fall into the latter category, you might prefer more "concrete" evidence of ghosts as confirmed by "experts" whose shows have merely earned them enough notoriety to get access to famous places, knowing that the viewing audience would rather be entertained than educated. With decades of experience in the world of the paranormal, we're happy to see Hawes, Gonsalves, and Tango back on the small screen, as their integrity is well earned and their goals of helping homeowners over entertaining audiences is admirable. Luckily, even through their debunking, their chemistry is evident and effortlessly entertaining, ensuring we'll be tuning in each week.1comments
Rating: 3 out of 5
Ghost Nation premieres Friday, October 11th at 9 p.m. ET on the Travel Channel.