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 Oct 12 - 18, 2017 
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Idiot Box

Attack of the Clones

“Ghosted” on FOX

By Devin D. O’Leary

Thanks to semi-spoofy-but-overly-familiar shows like “The Orville,” it’s hard to tell whether FOX has a well-developed pop cultural sense of humor or is just incredibly lazy. The network’s new series “Ghosted” follows that trend to the letter, riffing on the “X-Files” formula without ever developing an original idea of its own.

The supernatural sitcom stars Adam Scott (“Parks and Recreation”) as Max Jennifer, a disgraced Stanford professor now working as a lowly bookstore employee. He, like Fox Mulder before him, is a dyed-in-the-wool “believer”—fanatically following stories about alien abductions, Bigfoot sightings and extradimensional incursions. By way of contrast, we have Craig Robinson (from “The Office”) as former-LAPD-detective-turned-mall-cop Leroy Wright. He, like Dana Scully before him, is a hardcore skeptic. Naturally, these two polar opposites are thrown together when they are kidnapped and recruited by The Bureau Underground, a super-secret government organization dedicated to investigating unexplained supernatural occurrences. It’s a setup we’ve seen countless times—from “The X-Files” to “Torchwood” to “The Middleman” to “Warehouse 13.”

So why are a conspiracy nut who works in a bookstore and a disbelieving former cop so important to this super-secret organization? They aren’t, apparently. “Ghosted” is mostly a comedy, and the “joke” is that Max and Leroy are sort of the “C” team, brought in to handle the dumb cases when all the real Bureau Underground agents are busy. Hey, we all love our ragtag losers, and “Ghosted” certainly works that vibe. There are also hints of backstory on our main characters. Turns out the crazy theories that got Max kicked out of academia are mostly true. And it seems that Leroy got his former partner killed, which explains his thorny love/hate relationship with Max.

The tone is fast and silly and tries to thread the needle between goofy and scary. The scary parts are less successful—mostly because we’ve had our fill of TV ghosts, demons, mutants, aliens and pseudo-vampires over the last decade or so. Robinson and Scott are reliable comic performers and do their best with what they’re given. It’s going to take some time for the stars to work their way into these hastily drawn characters. Robinson’s credulous crime-fighter feels particularly formulaic—particularly when he’s greeted by supernatural monsters week in and week out and still chooses not to “believe” in any of it. There are a handful of perfectly timed gags in each episode, but the overall humor level is more occasional snicker than nonstop guffaw.

If you’re an insatiable fan of the genre, “Ghosted” will more or less do the job it was hired for. And it will probably get better over time. But, given the level of comic talent involved, it just makes you wish FOX would invest a little more effort, inject a bit more originality in its shows. Heck, even that last season of “The X-Files” felt more like a lazy knockoff of “The X-Files.” Just because they’re genre shows doesn’t mean they have to remain mired in the same-old same-old.

“Ghosted” airs Sundays at 7:30pm on KRQED2.
 
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