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October 31, 2013

Let's discuss Ghost Adventures.

How much you enjoy or hate Ghost Adventures all comes down to a single question: do you believe in ghosts? 

If you do, then chances are you’ll be more likely to take the words of its investigators at face value, or at the very least buy into what they’re selling.  If you don’t, you’ll be more eager and more capable of poking holes in their “investigation” than I could ever be.

Personally, I can’t say that I believe in ghosts.  I’m not saying that they absolutely do exist, or that they absolutely don’t exist; it’s just that there’s not enough conclusive proof -- for me, at least -- that they do or don’t drift among us.  Just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.  We can’t see oxygen, but we know that exists.  Same goes for Pluto.  Same goes for Antarctica.  Can we see any of those things with the naked eye at all times?  No.  But we can prove conclusively that all of those things are real.  That’s what science is for.

And Ideally, that’s what the Ghost Adventures team is for.  But proving the existence of ghosts is just one of their big trials -- because against all odds, they manage to make a show about finding ghosts unbelievably BORING.

Let’s start with a bit of context.  The three core members of the team are Zack, Nick, and Aaron, with Zack acting as the team’s leader -- namely because he apparently saw ghosts at some point in his life, and since then has dedicated himself to finding more on-camera.  Apparently the Travel Channel decided he was the perfect guy to give a show, if only to compete with the similarly-named Ghost Hunters on SyFy.  Whatever the case, the trio (and the rest of their crew) heads to haunted locations across America, staging their up-close-and-personal investigations.

The first half or so of each episode has Zack doing interviews about and around the haunted site of the week.  It’s more or less a guided tour of the place with little nuggets of historical fact -- that, and talk of some of the grisly stuff that happened (?) over the course of the place’s lifetime.  That’s probably the main draw for travel hobbyists, because the Ghost Bros have sold them on their next vacation.  All things considered, it is nice to see and hear about these places…although I could do without the cheesy dramatizations and effects.

Once the Ghost Bros get enough information and lay out their strategy (such as it is), they’ll move into the second half of the episode: the lockdown.  Once the night rolls around, they’ll close themselves inside the site and conduct a thorough search for proof of ghosts, or “spirits” as Zack so often calls them.  Using their on-hand tech, they walk around in search of evidence, up to and including Zack trying to interrogate whatever spirits he thinks he’s come across.  This goes on until the end of the episode, where -- through a voice-over -- there’ll be a tally of all the evidence, and a final conclusion derived from it.

It’s probably worth noting right off the bat that you could make one hell of a drinking game out of this show.  It’s pretty simple, really.  1) Take a shot every time someone says “digital recorder.”  2) Take a shot every time someone says “did you hear that” or some variation of it.  3) Take two shots every time someone says “Whoa!” or “Oh my god”.  4) Take three shots every time Zack says “This proves that ________________.”  You’ll be dead within the hour.  I guarantee it.

A major problem with Ghost Bros is that it’s extremely repetitive.  You can pretty much chart out the majority of the episode based on a few key events.  They walk through a corridor, and they hear a noise.  They rewind a few seconds to play back the scene, and -- using their digital recorders -- replay the noise they heard, often superimposing subtitles on top of it (more on that in a bit).  The action pauses so that Zack can talk to the audience about what just happened -- making sure to mention the digital recorders -- and ask a question he’s pretty much leading the audience into believing regardless.  Lather, rinse, repeat -- usually until Zack tries communicating directly with the spirit, usually with spooky results.

I have to wonder what the point of the show is supposed to be, outside of showing off those locales.  Is it supposed to be scary?  Is it supposed to be entertaining?  Because I can tell you right now that it’s not doing either of those.  The flow of each episode gets shattered every time the action has to stop for one of Zack’s play-by-plays or the INSANELY high density of commercial breaks; we’re fed the idea of what’s hiding in another realm and what their intent might be, instead of letting us in the audience come to our own conclusions; there’s neither a sense of agency nor danger, because for all their posturing Zack and crew always walk out unscathed every morning.  Whatever they’re going for, it’s not working; it’s just the sort of thing that leaves me nigh-comatose on the floor, praying that the hour’s up soon.

I will be fair, though.  This isn’t necessarily a show about trying to entertain or scare.  (At least I hope so.)  This is a show about ghosts.  It’s a show about finding ghosts, and proving that they exist with state-of-the-art technology -- i.e. digital recorders -- and interrogation techniques that throw the cast right into the mix.  That’s what it’s supposed to be, if not for your amusement, then for your education.

The problem there is that the Ghost Bros are kind of shit at it.

Like I said, there’s not enough conclusive evidence to prove whether or not ghosts exist.  If they do, then that’s fine.  If they don’t, then that’s fine too.  But it’s the job of this show and its investigators to do their damnedest to convince us mortals otherwise -- that spirits are always with you --and to think anything less of the otherworldly is as silly as thinking the world is flat.  Yet the fact that nothing of importance has been gained or lost, nothing has changed in the scientific community, nothing has changed in our society, and nothing has changed in our day-to-day lives has to stand for something…namely, that the Ghost Bros couldn’t prove who stole the cookies from the cookie jar.

No matter where you stand on the “are ghosts real?” question, let’s play a game.  For argument’s sake, let’s say the Ghost Bros are exactly right.  Let’s say that ghosts do indeed exist, and they just have to prove it to the world in one fell swoop.  In order to prove themselves, they need to establish their credibility.  Not so much in their credentials (it’s not like we need to see a ghost-hunting license or anything), but the procedure.  If you’ve cleared third-grade science class, you know that there’s a certain way to go about an experiment.  It’s the scientific method; you need to find a way to prove your hypothesis, go about trying to prove it with your procedure, repeat for similar results, and come to a conclusion that either supports or refutes your hypothesis.

This is the crippling problem with Ghost Bros.  They may get results in one spot in one locale in one night, but that’s all they do.  As far as I can tell, it all transpires over one night.  So if they hear a “voice” in a jail cell during the lockdown, when the sun rises they’re out of there under the pretense that they’ve proven that there are spirits.  Um, no.  Just because one event happened in one area and another event happened somewhere else, that doesn’t prove anything.  You have to do repeat trials -- three at a bare minimum.  If Zack hears a voice in a jail cell one night, then hears that same voice in the same cell the next night, and then hears it once more the night after that, then he might be on to something.  Then he might be able to prove his case.  Otherwise, it’s just happenstance.  A happy coincidence that he got something on the digital recorder.

And the digital recorders themselves present an even bigger problem.  Like I said, the show has a habit of playing back the sound the audience just heard; when they do play it the second or third time, there are subtitles that spell out what the ghost is supposedly saying.  I say “supposedly” because no matter what the text is on the screen, I hear something different.  Either garbled noise or something completely non-threatening…but the added-in text would have you believe that every sound -- EVERY SOUND -- is connected to the context of the locale.  It’s an addition that cheapens the show.  If I played a garbled noise right now and I said “it sounds like it’s saying ‘eat an apple’”, then chances are you’d agree with me, or at least have the idea put into your head.  Likewise, if the Ghost Bros put up onscreen text saying “back from hell”, you might bend your line of thinking to agree with them.  “Oh, yeah, it totally sounds like that”, you might say…if you’re the gullible sort.

It seems like the harder the Ghost Bros. try to prove that there are ghosts, the sillier and less credible they look.  They get spooked by every little thing.  They’re constantly jumping to the conclusion that it’s a ghost.  Worst of all, they’ll bend over backwards to try and prove that it was a ghost, when -- again -- the only thing they have to go by is the one incident, not multiple trials.  It’s true that they make a stronger argument for themselves by trying to debunk what other noises it could have been, but I have a very strong suspicion that they can’t (or won’t) take everything into account.  And when they don’t -- when they let their addled nerves get the best of them -- they get sloppy.  The brain has ways of playing tricks on you, after all.

But if there’s one problem that sails miles above all the rest, it’s a simple one.  A simple one, but a devastating one all the same.

The Ghost Bros always win.

They walk away with “overwhelming” evidence that they’ve proven the presence of ghosts in the locale, proving that spirits are haunting the place as a result of the energies left by the emotions of the living.  “This proves ______________,” Zack might say, over and over again.  There are a few problems with that: first off, they haven’t proven anything.  Not when the best evidence they could come up with besides the audio captured on their digital recorders is a hazy image.  Second, if they’ve conclusively revealed the existence of ghosts, why hasn’t the scientific world exploded in paranormal research?  Why isn’t Ghost Adventures a national treasure, recognized for its outstanding achievements in the supernatural studies?  Why is it that if you start typing in “ghost adventures” for a Google search, one of the first words that pops up is “fake”? 

Third, if these guys are able to communicate with ghosts, why don’t they do anything to try and resolve the issues that make them linger in our world?  Are they content with just antagonizing them?  Even if this is all just an act, why don’t they put forth a better effort in helping them find peace?  Wouldn’t that make for a much more entertaining show and investigation at large if they did more than try and pick fights with the undead, which is also something you could make a drinking game out of?  Fourth, don’t they think that it’s going to look bad for their business if everywhere they go and in every episode, they end the lockdown with enough proof to shatter the foundations of society as we know it?

What I’m getting at here is that whether the ghosts they meet are real or not (and I’m inclined to think they’re not thanks to the bumbling of the Ghost Bros), there’s not enough payoff to make me want to sit through an entire episode of my own volition…which would probably explain why the only time I’ll watch it is when I’m with my brother and my buddy, who have a significantly-higher tolerance for shit.  I can’t watch it to be entertained, because there’s no tension, no stakes, no flow, and no threat.  A show about ghost-hunting isn’t allowed to be as bland as this.

If the show is supposed to be about proving the existence of ghosts, then they fail even harder in that regard.  The process is haphazard, the technology is questionable at best, and the Bros are probably deluding themselves into hearing what they want to hear (which is probably what’d happen if you locked yourself in a dark prison or hotel or brothel for the night).  They’re forcing me to poke holes in their efforts because they’re sucking so badly; if there are ghosts out there, they’re ensuring that their secret is going to stay buried for ages.

So, bottom line?  Ghost Adventures isn’t very good…although you probably could have guessed that already.  It doesn’t even matter if you believe in ghosts or not, all things considered; these bumbling bros will do everything in their power to make you not only refuse to believe, but refuse to care.  And when they succeed -- and they will -- you know there’s something fundamentally wrong with the show.

So no, you probably shouldn’t watch it unless you’ve got some pals around and you want a good laugh.  Otherwise?  Just stick to Man v. Food.  At least in that show, there’s a fairly good chance that Adam’s not going to be able to finish his meal.

And that’ll do it for now.   See you guys around…and don’t let Ghost Bros spoil your belief in the supernatural.  It’s not like they’re the authorities on the paranormal, even if they’ve been around for …uh…

*checks Wikipedia* Eight seasons?  Are you KIDDING me?  Jeez, how can a show that bad be on for so many seaso-



  1. Hate to say it, but it's the reality TV formula: they assume you are too stupid to use your brain, so they feed you what they think they want you to see or hear, then they make a profit off manipulating those most sensitive to such "charisma". I hate this "technique" with a burning passion. Not even anime is this blunt and obvious in this kind of hypnotism. Or maybe I left the snark jar open and everything started to spill out.

    Looks like your Halloween-related posts were both downers. Shame. Hope you watched something to counteract the effects these shows can have on the body of the unimpressed.

    And if it's 'American Horror Story'... *shudders* Even 'Devil Survivor 2: The Animation' has more of a pulse to it.

    If Family Guy is coming up - and will be as epically bad as you're setting it up to be - PLEASE rest up. Though it was for a different reason, I had to give my mind and soul a lot of time before I could unleash the demon that October 4th bred in my heart. ...And slaying it permanently is unfortunately not guaranteed.

    Just... be careful. o_O

  2. Actually, I HAVE been watching something that hasn't been a downer. I don't know if you've seen them for yourself, but if you haven't, I strongly, STRONGLY recommend checking out some of the recent Kamen Rider shows. I don't know enough about the franchise to say "this is the best thing ever," but I haven't been entertained so much in a good while.

    I'd personally recommend checking out either Kamen Rider OOO and/or Kamen Rider Fourze. They've both got some high-quality stuff in them, but there are some distinct differences. OOO is a show with a surprisingly intellectual bent. It's like the reverse-DmC; the more you think about OOO, the better it gets. On the other hand, Fourze was spearheaded by the guy who wrote Gurren Lagann...and, boy, DOES IT SHOW. You can find episodes on YouTube, so watching an episode or forty should be a no muss, no fuss affair.

    But back on topic. All told, I can't say I'm really "down" thanks to shows like TWD or Ghost Adventures. They've both got their problems and they irritate me, yes, but the latter isn't something even remotely worth taking seriously, and the former is just something I can deal with for now, but have no problems with setting aside if things get too bland. (Its recent episode almost felt like a spiteful attack on me -- or the worst possible coincidence.)

    That all said, it's interesting to hear you bring up "charisma". I don't watch a lot of reality TV, but I get what you're trying to say...and honestly, it's kind of intriguing. Characters in stories need charisma whether they're good or bad, so it's only natural that reality TV -- for a given definition of "reality" -- tries to inject the same. I guess it's a low-level cult of personality; after all, Hell's Kitchen and MasterChef wouldn't be the same without Chef Gordon Ramsay. In a lot of ways, he's what makes his shows worth watching.

    Ah, if only the same could be said about Family Guy. But that's a tale for another day.