Which Paranormal & Cryptozoology TV Shows Make the Grade?

The Coolest Show About Crazy Crap!

The Coolest Show About Crazy Crap!

Television is full of “investigative” shows about the paranormal and the world of cryptozoology these days.  Not surprisingly, most of them are laughably bad, but a couple of them are worth the couch time it takes to watch them.  Here’s my rundown of the most talked about.

Ghost AdventuresTravel Channel: This is almost so schmaltzy and corny it’s worth watching.  The main adventurer is Zak Bagans.  Zak’s shirts are as small as his ego is big.  Together with two other guys who seem to be relatively well-balanced, he takes the viewers on an hour long ghostly journey filled with startled looks and stifled screams.  Zak’s favorite line in every show is “Shhhh, Oh my God, Dude, did you hear that?”  The last show I saw they heard what was pretty clearly a cat meowing, and he proclaimed with a wide-eyed gaze, “Dude, that’s a child screaming.”  The other two, intimidated by his bulging biceps popping out of his t-shirt, readily agreed.

Paranormal StateA&E: The Paranormal Research Society was founded by Ryan Buell when he was a student at Penn State.  Like anyone with an expensive college education, he parlayed his unique ghost hunting skills into a cable network television show.  He’s the Joe Friday of ghost investigators, very serious and dour.  The show includes dramatic cutaways of him recording his “director’s log,” and specially built high-tech ghost hunting equipment that you won’t see on any other program.   The group encounters a lot of demons and nasty ghosts… and what probably are some psychologically confused people who have been possessed and harassed by these unseen forces.  The real scary part here is instead of getting counseling, they’re getting exorcised by a Nittany Lion and his investigative crew.

Ghost Hunters InternationalSyFy: Believe it or not, this is a spin-off ghost hunting show.  Robb Demarest heads up a team of skeptics to investigate hauntings outside of the US.  Like their parent show, Ghost Hunters, the team sets out to find logical explanations for ghostly activity.  The best and worst thing I can say about the show is that it is bland.  They had a crazy guy on the first season who kind of made things interesting because you got the feeling he would snap at any moment, but he left and took all the potential drama with him.  The show tries, but it doesn’t quite hit the mark.

Monsterquest History Channel: This is not a ghost show.  This show is focused on cryptid-creatures. There are no stars here… unless you count the narrator.  The show would have made the top of my list but they always claim to have made significant discoveries at the end of the show, when they actually didn’t uncover anything at all.  The interviews are good.  The production is top notch, and the science is real (unlike the ghost hunting shows).  But they never come to any conclusions.  It frustrates the hell out me.

Ghost HuntersSyFy:  This is the best of the ghost investigation shows and it is the show from which Ghost Hunters International spun.  It features a pair of plumbing partners, Jay and Grant, who work as ghost hunters at night.  They call themselves TAPS, which I believe stands for The Atlantic Paranormal Society.  They’ve assembled a highly likeable team of investigators who enjoy their job.  Jay and Grant are just a couple of regular guys who have a real fascination with ghosts.  As much as you can be, they are experts in all ghostly matters.  They are the Woodward and Bernstein of the ghost hunting community, and if such a thing exists in the paranormal world, they give their profession credibility.

Destination TruthSyFy:  This is a show that combines the best of cryptozoology and the best of the paranormal.  The star of the show is Josh Gates who’s part adventurer, part comedian, part Jim Halpert from The Office with his caddish looks into the camera.  Josh and his team seem to get the joke.  They know that 99% of everything they investigate is complete nonsense that can be logically explained.  The fun of the show comes from that one percent of the time when they have absolutely no explanation, when even they must concede that something beyond the known world is going on.  You get the sense that they aren’t just having a good time.  They are professionals who move in like a highly trained tactical team to peel away the confusion and gather evidence.  The show gets extra bonus points for making Jael DePardo part of the team.  Like I always say, if you’re going to stomp through the woods on a cold and gloomy night looking for unknown creatures and/or spirits, bring a cute girl.

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An Open Letter to the President of Television

One half of Hassaula! BTW - this is the most uncomfortable Ive felt on my own blog!

One half of Hassaula! BTW - this is the most uncomfortable I've felt on my own blog!

Dear President of Television,

Can you do me a favor?  Can you stop spreading your crazies out so thin?  You’ve got David Hassalhoff on one show, Paula Abdul on another, and that guy Dog is way over on another show.  There are probably other whacked out reality TV stars that I don’t know anything about because you’ve got them all over the dial.  I have one word for you, consolidate.  Put all your crazies on one show.  In fact, I would suggest that you have Hassalhoff marry Paula, and then have Dog move in as the house guest who refuses to leave.  Bam!  Instant hit!  You could even have “Hassaula” (the show even has a built in power couple name) adopt Amy Winehouse.  I know she’s not a reality star, but c’mon, she’s a total train wreck.  She was made for reality TV.

I’m afraid I’m going to continue not watching reality TV until this consolidation takes place.  I don’t have the physical or emotional stamina to watch all that crap!

Yours truly,

R.W. Ridley

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The Speidi Tax

You owe me money!

You owe me money!

I have a very resilient gag reflex.  It takes a lot to make me wretch like a frat boy, but I have found something that will move me to worship the porcelain gods with disturbing ease.  Nausea maker thy name is Speidi!  I have never watched a single iota of a millisecond of MTV’s The Hills which means I should be totally unfamiliar with the show and the schmucks and schmuckettes that make up the cast.  But alas that is not the case.  I know way too much about them.  I see them on magazine covers in the supermarket.  They appear on my favorite interweb news outlets.  They seemingly spontaneously pop up on my TV set at least 250 times a week.  All of them are bad, but none of them get under my skin quite like Heidi and Spence.  My fingers ache from having to type their names.  They are two of the most undesirable people I think I have ever seen acquire celebrity status.  To the kids out there, these are not people to emulate.  In fact, I would feel more comfortable recommending they be immolated (I am totally kidding.  Do not set them on fire…. A lot.).

I am so offended by these people that I have decided to create our country’s first citizen’s tax.  You’ve heard of a citizen’s arrest where an average citizens takes it upon themselves to arrest a criminal.  I am taking it upon myself to tax everyone associated with Speidi.  Every time I see their image I am collecting a tax.  Their parents owes me a tax.  Their representation owes me a tax.  MTV owes me a tax.  The president of TV owes me a tax.  The state of California owes me a tax.  The FCC owes me a tax.  Speidi owes me a tax.  I’m even going after the camera operators and support staff.  Everyone (no matter how small their role) should pay for perpetuating this unholy travesty.  I recommend you all do the same so you too can at least profit from being subjected to their stomach turning fame.  Fame officially means nothing.

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The Deal – A Reality Show for Writers

This week on the deal writers read prose at a nudist colony.

"This week on The Deal writers pitch their books to 4th graders."

I am floating this idea out on the interweb ether knowing full well that someone will take it and run with it. Writers are made for reality TV shows. We’re quirky, defensive, insecure, opinionated, and flat out weird in most cases. The airwaves are just begging for a show featuring 12 writers living in a house vying for a lucrative publishing deal. Can you imagine the number of train wreck moments that will be captured on tape? I know it’s sadistic, and I should be flogged for suggesting such a thing. Writers are my people after all, but I can’t help myself. It would be immensely watchable.

Writers would be chosen for their writing samples, their interview, and their marketability. Take that last qualification, and apply whatever meaning you wish; looks, personality, sense of style etc. The tasks would include completing edits on deadline, building a social network, readings, making pitches, how they handle themselves doing interviews, getting blurbs from well-known authors, typing pages on an actual typewriter etc. The winner will be chosen by the online community and a panel of three judges. At the end of the process, a six-figure contract with one of the major publishers awaits the winner. The Judges? They would be as follows:

Judith Regan

Stephen King

John Ridley (No relation to me)

Your host would be anyone but Ryan Seacrest. The guy’s got like four jobs and he’s annoying on all of them. Personally, I think the perfect choice would be Ira Glass. He’s smart, funny, and people would take the show seriously if he were involved.

Why do I think people would watch it? Well besides the reasons I gave in the first paragraph, the NEA did a study recently that revealed a whopping 81% of Americans think they have a book inside of them. They all think they can do it, and I’m betting they would watch a group of writers be put through the wringer, living vicariously through the contestants, all the while thinking, “I could do better than them.” It’s perfect reality show fodder.