I've been deeply critical of the "Ghost Hunters" franchise in recent weeks, even as I have tried to maintain perspective on the realities of reality TV. I've been chastised to a certain extent for those criticisms. Some have pointed out that my current opinions stand in stark contradiction to the glowing praise I gave to Jason, Grant, Steve, and others back in June 2006. I'm not quite sure why the notion of change is so shocking.
Believe it or not, this is going to be a much more positive review. Regardless of my criticisms of alleged or apparent choices, my personal experiences with Jason, Grant, Steve, and former TAPS team members have all been positive. However indirect some of these interactions might be of late, that hasn't changed. I hold no illusion that human beings are perfect; not one person is always an angel or always a jerk. People sometimes make bad choices or act out of self-interest. (Though Steve and Tango still have a lot to answer for regarding "Ghost Hunters Academy".)
I thought the team did a very good job this time around. Maybe it was the choices made by the editors and an effort to do a little post-production damage control, but I really had very few complaints. It did much to remind me of what I've always liked about the show. I think they made a lot of good calls on the "evidence", and perhaps in conjunction with "Ghost Hunters Academy", they seemed to focus a lot more on the whys and wherefores of their chosen methods. I may not agree with all of them, but at least they explained their thought process in a reasonable fashion.
I also wanted to commend Dustin on a solid effort. Dustin is a mainstay of GHI, and he and Barry Fitzgerald have become one of the best teams in the franchise. They clearly work together well, and from their book "The Complete Approach", I gained a lot of insight into their sincere motivations for paranormal investigation. Like I said before, I disagree with some of the basis for their conclusions and methods, but I'm confident that Dustin is playing it straight, and I think it shows in this episode.
As an aside, this episode might be a good argument for why Steve and Tango shouldn't have been the leads on "Ghost Hunters Academy". Not because of my current disagreement with their attitudes towards the recruits on that show, but because the "winner" of that competition is supposed to join GHI. Dustin shows a deft hand in this investigation, and he and Barry have a clear passion for communicating and teaching their take on the field. Just in terms of finding someone who they would work with best, having Dustin and Barry host that show might have made more sense. (Of course, Steve and Tango have better name recognition within the franchise, so it's easy to see where the marketing came into play.)
At any rate, I liked Dustin's justifications for camera placement, and I thought he worked well together with Britt. In fact, all the team members seemed to be better in this investigation. I usually find Kris and Amy to be the victims of selective editing, but the "Girly Team" moments were toned down this time. My only issue was with Britt's occasional request for something to be knocked over or tossed onto the floor. Considering it was a museum, that's a poor adjustment of tactics.
I can sympathize with the loss of the DVR footage. I've had plenty of equipment malfunctions, especially with hard drives (and I'm speaking from a professional and personal standpoint). On investigations, it's doubly frustrating, because visual monitoring is a big part of environmental control. They never seem to use the DVR footage for anything, but in this case, it would have provided some useful information in analysis of the supposed "shadows" the team encountered.
I really liked the deconstruction of the thermal footage, showing exactly why the apparent figures were just a reflection of Jason and Grant. I can't help but wonder if Steve and Tango would have come to the same conclusion, especially with Jason and Grant already thinking that reflections were out of the question. Is it realistic for a team that uses a thermal camera on every investigation to keep tripping over the same common false positives after years of experience with the technology?
I was a bit concerned when I learned, prior to this episode, that there was already a ghost hunt event planned for the Mark Twain House. That usually means that the investigation on the show will have all kinds of "evidence" to support the notion that dozens of people should pay big money to investigate there. One might count the various personal experiences as grist for that particular mill, but it could have been a lot worse.
As a viewer and a beleaguered fan of the show, I'd much rather have episodes like this, where I come out with a generally positive impression of what happened and what they were able to document, than an episode where there is something questionable taking place. A lot of the noises and sounds might have been explained away with further investigation, but since I can understand how the conclusions could be drawn, I'm content.