Jay and Grant should be ashamed.
Ghost Hunters International (GHI) is a Sci-Fi Channel spin-off of the more popular and vastly better series Ghost Hunters. The meat of the show involves an unseen reality-TV-type camera crew following a team of ghost hunters around creepy locations, ostensibly trying to contact spirits of the dead.
The original show, mostly anchored by the two lead hunters, Jay and Grant, is at least always interesting, often fun, and involves just enough semi-reasonable pseudo-science to allow viewers to address the Big Question themselves: is it all an act, or are these people really hunting ghosts? Or is it some combination of the two?
Unfortunately, GHI tips the scales in favor of "poorly acted fakery", and by a kind of negative feedback, badly impacts the original show. Ghost Hunters International isn't a horrid show, but it suffers from a host of problems that remove much of the fun.
So where to start with what went wrong? Let's take things in the order presented to us in the title.
The Ghost part: neither GH nor GHI is interested in showing anything "big", so a comparison establishing that one show is weaker than the other is a bit complicated. Those of the opinion that these shows are all a scam reason that there's never a huge reveal because that would be obviously fake, and the producers want the audience to buy in to the possibilities. Incidentally, this argument is bolstered by the existence of a tween's ghost hunting show (different producers and staff) on a different channel, with the child cast hitting the same notes of measured disbelief and skepticism as their older counterparts, and using much the same equipment, all with a more obvious sense of fiction and storytelling.
But whereas GH can send a little chill up your spine even if you believe it's all guff, GHI comes up empty in almost every episode. Every white noise voice sounds kind of like a machine or plumbing or simple line static, every "scientific" experiment can either be easily debunked if one assumes a special effects crew (also true of the original to some degree, of course), or reveals nothing even remotely definite. If these shows are a fake, at least the original is a fun fake. With GHI, you can expect to spend an hour for pretty much zero payoff.
The Hunters part: OK, seriously. Could they have come up with a weaker team? You've got team leader Robb Demarest, who may be OK at ghost hunting (debatable), but is The. Most. Boring. Guy. Ever. Without getting into the gory details, if this is all supposed to be real, then Robb frequently misses opportunities that would get him fired if his bosses were there to oversee him.
But compared to most of the rest of the team, Robb is Egon freaking Spengler (go watch "Ghostbusters"). His current teammates include:
- nice-guy loser Joe Chin, who I'm pretty sure was only cast because he always looks scared. Joe's ghost hunting tactics of choice are asking stupid questions and pretending to hear noises.
- Barry Fitzgerald, who is supposed to be the European expert by virtue of his being Irish. As the series progresses, he's becoming more and more like that crazy, attention-hungry, compulsively lying uncle you kind of remember fondly, but never want around when he comes to visit. Barry likes to make a big deal out of things that aren't very impressive.
- Dustin Pari, the only enjoyable and watchable member of the team. It's worth noting that he got his experience on the original series with Jay and Grant. Unfortunately Dustin doesn't do much but play second fiddle to Robb, but at least he's better at it than the first guy to have the job, perpetual beta male Andy Andrews. Watch some of the earlier episodes to understand why replacing Andy with Dustin was a wise casting move.
- Random Token Females. There's usually a girl or two along for the ride, but each one is only around for a string of episodes, and then they mysteriously vanish . . .
All in all, I can't decide whether these people are dull reality show participants, or good actors PORTRAYING dull reality show participants. It really could go either way, neither of which is particularly good.
The International part: the show does have the virtue of awesome locations around Europe. Unfortunately most all of these places come with their own hokey tour guide, apparently none of which have gotten the memo that this show is supposed to at least have a thin facade of possibility. Seriously -- Robb Demarest and Barry Fitzgerald visit the Gates of Hell? Whether it's all fake or simply stupid, the production staff sure doesn't seem interested in maintaining a sense of reality.
Finally, and potentially the most insulting problem of all, what's with the speaking English to ghosts in Germany? Russia? The Czech Republic? If it's all real, it's complete idiocy. And if it's all charlatanism, then it's lazy charlatanism.
With all these complaints, I still rated the show a 4 out of 10, which is somewhat below average but not terminal. It's not without its minor charms, and it's entertaining if you don't think about it. Not worth cursing, but certainly not worth setting your Tivo for either. More than anything, it makes one pine for the original show, which is getting increasingly shorter seasons. If this is the best sci-fi can do with the premise, they should just drop it and pick up new rights to Firefly or Terminator: the Sarah Connor Chronicles.