Tuesday, November 29, 2016

New Ghostly Spinoff: Kindred Spirits

There's a new ghost show in town, Kindred Spirits with Amy Bruni and Adam Berry. They became one of the sub-teams on the long-running but sputtering-out show Ghost Hunters.

Ghost Hunters was the first and, for a time, biggest ghost-hunting show on TV. But the genre has proliferated, (the price of success, no?), and it's gotten complicated. Dramas have peeled off entire casts of GH. I'm exaggerating but people have come and gone since the show began its run. However, tongues really started to wag when Grant Wilson left. And a year or so after that, according to press reports. Amy and Adam left over disputes with the remaining founder of the show Jay Hawes.

Amy and Adam went on to form the show Kindred Spirits, which is a spin-off of sorts, albeit unsanctioned. I followed Ghost Hunters through Ghost Hunters International but I didn't love it (Why Ghost Hunters International sucks). I couldn't get into Ghost Hunters Academy at all. But when Adam Berry won the show, it was interesting to get to know him, usually paired with Amy Bruni, back on Ghost Hunters. This was after Kris Williams left the show for Ghost Hunters International. There are Ghost Hunters branded books but nothing yet on all the drama behind the scenes. I'm looking forward to reading about all that someday.

Recently the famous series had some unexplained and lengthy hiatuses after Grant Wilson left the show. The show finally reappeared this summer (2016) with the announcer introducing episodes as the “final season of Ghost Hunters,” an oddly played-down situation.

As an early adopter of this genre, I should feel bad about the end of the show except that I wrote this: Top 10 Reasons Why I Don’t Care If Ghost Hunters Comes Back, and the fact that so many other ghost hunters have won our hearts during those long absences of Ghost Hunters. Most successfully Zack Bagans and his motley crew from Ghost Adventures.

I go back and forth about Zack and his hyper-ghost-hunting shenanigans. but you can’t deny the fact that the people who come on their show seem a hellavalot more at ease than those who appear on Ghost Hunters. GA just seems like more fun at the end of the day, certainly more approachable. Hosting a show takes charisma and humor and self-deprecation, all things Zach has about enough of. He’s also pretty hard working. The show has tons of episodes and they’re constantly on air at the Travel Channel.

And then there's John Zaffis' The Haunted Collector. Not quite a spin-off of Ghost Hunters either, but one of their prior summer hiatus replacements, (when there was such a thing as a short GH hiatus). Zaffis has done a good job becoming the papa-bear of ghost hunting. The women on his show, (women are still a minority on these shows), are both very likeable. And I always enjoy the research component he brings to the show.

And then there are a plethora of other shows: hillbillies, people who only do institutions, Ghost Brothers (which I love too and hope returns soon), Dead Files, which is ridiculous with its prescriptions for chaos magicians and psycho-therapists for the dead, but is seemingly popular. There's even a sub-genre of celebrity ghost shows like the defunct Celebrity Ghost Stories, (modeled after Canada’s Ghostly Encounters with the half-hearted gravitas of Lawrence Chau), and its spin-off The Haunting Of with psychic Kim Russo.

After all this, Ghost Hunters seems ego-bound, uncomfortable in its own skin, and tone-deaf to the new “realities” of the genre.

But Kindred Spirits, on the other hand, aside from the muted title, (which may refer to the hosts, or the ghosts, or ghost who are related to us, or maybe even ghost hunters in general), feels naturally friendly but never silly, (Ghost Adventures can get silly). Adam and Amy are always trying to “get to the heart of it” which plays into the family focus of the show but also something about having feelings, allowing feelings, encouraging the feelings. People cry. Hugs happen. What a relief that feels like.

They’ve also incorporated the research component and you can watch them puzzling over ghostly clues throughout the show. In the first scenes they're always having a kickoff meeting over coffee and discussing aspects of the case. So like Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys! There are rounds of thinking and problem solving. Adam has a thinking face. The focus is on the thinking and not the gadgets and all the playing with the gadgets (which is undoubtedly fun but has gotten a bit stale).

In these ways, the show feels like all the other problem-solving-based realty shows, (the cooking, fashion and surviving shows), and maybe this appeals to the nerds among us. But it also provides suspense and mystery to the show.

They also stay in one location for multiple days and so an investigation slowly evolves and you feel you get to know the homeowners who often join in on the final night’s work.

There are no night cameras. Who would have thought this would feel so refreshing? They use flashlights and electric lanterns. You can see color and texture again around the room and on their clothes.

Like all ghost shows, to one degree or another, this one makes tenuous leaps from the evidence to the conclusion. To its credit, Ghost Hunters did this less often than any other show, truth-telling during every wrap-up about how “we don’t really know what it is” but “stuff is definitely happening.”

After 12 years of ghost hunting, evidence never gets much more exciting than that. So a little friendliness and nuance helps a lot.

Read the poem about ghost hunting shows.

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