The sixth season began with a ridiculously bloated Syfy promotional stunt at Alcatraz, which didn't live up to its billing at all, and made it very clear that Pilgrim Films and Syfy were more than ready to run this franchise into the ground. In the meantime, there was ever more reason to believe that at least Jason and Grant had long since accepted the production and network desire to frame every location as haunted, play up everything possible as paranormal, and abandon the use of any equipment beyond that easily manipulated or misrepresented.
So now the seventh season begins with the franchise challenged in the ratings, assailed by groups who found it harder than they imagined to star in a successful paranormal investigation show, and ever more skeptical fans and critics. It's going to take more than a spiffy new opening to the show and such for TAPS to overcome the obstacles that have been placed in their path by Pilgrim, Syfy, and their own concessions.
Enter Alexandria, Louisiana, an entire town that wants TAPS to cover their apparent paranormal hotspots. Considering that there have been single locations that have been too big for the team to cover in any realistic manner, it seems hard to imagine that they would be able to spend the kind of time and attention on all these buildings and claims while also exercising the proper amount of access control. It's definitely a super-sized challenge to match the promotional blitz that has accompanied the season premiere.
One of the big criticisms of the sixth season, even from the devoted fans, was the lack of variety. The editors had fallen into a certain static format and formula for every episode, which made it less engaging and too predictable (right down to what would be said before every commercial break!). The static nature of the team assignments didn't help. The cosmetic touches in this episode were obvious from the start, but the real question was whether or not TAPS would come into this season with renewed energy and creativity.
Rather than cover every single segment throughout the episode, I will continue to focus on the segments that I consider the most noteworthy, whether for the right or wrong reasons. That said, on with the show!
Jason and Grant start in the Diamond Grill, and right from the start, they wield the infamous and useless K-II meter. Beyond an audio recorder (that they hold in their hand, ala the GAC jokesters), they don't seem to be using their equipment at all. Instead, they're right back to the same old story: hearing noises and seeing shadows. And making a lot more of it than they had in similar circumstances in seasons past.
Amy and Adam start off on the third floor of the Diamond Grill. Adam is impressed by the EMF readings, which are actually not all that unusually high. Yes, they represent a higher-than-typical baseline, but it's not the sort of extreme level that one would associate with a health risk. Also, since he's using an EMF meter that gives no indication of frequency, he's likely just reading some poorly shielded electrical wiring. He notes how pervasive the EMF is, but he never considers that it is probably man-made! (A lack of critical thinking that was also evident during his time on "Ghost Hunters Academy".)
Jason and Grant, on the other hand, are seeing shadows running around and voices all over the place. During the interrupted interview in the hallway, the prominent sounds supposedly heard by Jason and Grant are completely overwhelmed by the ever-annoying music in the background. It's too bad, because I'm always more intrigued when the voices or sounds are clearly audible in the raw footage.
At one point, Amy and Adam are in a similar hallway (it might even be the same one) and using the laser grid. As they talk about how quiet it is, the laser grid "pen" rolls slightly to one side. Amy and Adam try to make it roll again, but it doesn't move again. However, they spend a lot of time figuring out that it's not paranormal. Frankly, we use similar devices ourselves, and they are notoriously prone to rolling like that. I'm not sure why it was even a question worth debating.
I was pleased to see Steve and Tango spend some time to see how light and shadow could potentially create the impression of shadow figures around the columns in the hotel. And I was also happy that Tango's little trip was not portrayed as paranormal, and instead, as an example of how easy it would be for anyone to trip on the stairs.
When it comes to the reveal, the first thought that comes to mind is that it's the absolute wrong setting for trying to play EVPs. Too many people, too much noise, even if everyone is trying to be quiet. More than that, it's all too easy to convince a lot of people with little to no experience with audio analysis that something is meaningful, even when it's not.
Finnegan's Wake: The first EVP, with the apparent singing, is absolutely buried in the background noise, and there's no indication that it's not coming from outside. The second EVP is similar in nature, and even harder to discern. There's absolutely nothing about those recordings to suggest they are paranormal in nature.
Diamond Grill: The first EVP does sound somewhat like a whisper, but it's likewise buried in the noise and almost sounds like something rubbing up against the casing of the recorder. The second EVP is nothing more than wishful thinking and pattern recognition. The third EVP is clearly louder than the background, but I still think it's a matter of reading into an environmental noise.
The sad thing is that Jason and Grant portray these "EVPs" as evidence of intelligent haunting, because of their supposed "interactive nature". Yet these are isolated incidents of questionable interpretation with nothing so far as a personal experience to correlate with to make them more meaningful. I don't care if they've conducted hundreds of investigations over years and years; there's no basis for declaring these recordings paranormal.
Bentley Hotel: The light in the video was interesting, but it's fairly quick and there's no apparent attempt to find a source or determine a potential cause. It's just taken as paranormal in origin. The recording of the footsteps is fairly clear, but unfortunately, it's another instance of audio buried in the background noise. Also, it's impossible to verify the context under which the recording was made.
We finally get to hear the voice that Jason heard when his interview is interrupted in the hallway, but it's a lot more faint than I might have hoped. I can barely make it out, though I will note that Jason interpreted it very quickly. So it may have been louder in person.
Unfortunately, regardless of how they portrayed things during the town hall reveal, there was precious little "evidence" of anything. There certainly wasn't enough to conclude anything like an intelligent haunting. Yet they certainly sold it to the audience. The bottom line is this: all of the criticisms from the past few seasons are still valid, and if anything, they are presenting even more questionable "evidence" as paranormal. All in all, not a good start for the seventh season.