Thursday, June 2, 2011

Watching and Waiting for GH and Evaluating the New Kid on the Paranormal Block

Syfy aired a new Ghost Hunters episode last night that caused a bit of an uproar. Why? First, because it was aired at 8:00 p.m. EDT instead of the usual 9:00 p.m. Next, it was believed by many to be the first episode of the NEW season, and oops! no, that won't begin until August 24th, apparently, with GHI episodes beginning in July. Third, the team investigated a museum in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and we viewers never saw the Reveal because at the end, Jason and Grant received a call from Steve (who was not with them due to his reluctance to fly), that there was an emergency case involving a young child back east who was experiencing interactivity with unseen entities. So neither the Reveal nor the new case was shown. It feels as if we're all holding our breath--waiting to exhale, so to speak--to know what evidence was uncovered in the Pearl Harbor investigation and what is happening with the young child case. Why didn't Syfy just make it a longer episode? Or why not have a special second day of Ghost Hunters to give us the reveal? Even Jason Hawes seemed caught off-guard by the strange scheduling in his Facebook post about the show.

Only those in TV-land know for sure, but one reason may have been the debut of Haunted Collector, a show about yet another paranormal investigation team, this time one that investigates items that may be the source ofparanormal activity in a location. John Zaffis says he's been doing this work for about 40 years. He oversees the Zaffis Museum in Stratford, CT, where he has on display the items that he has removed from locations because they've been causing problems for those who've owned them. Ironically, we don't know from the show whether or not these items continue to wreak havoc once placed in the Zaffis Museum (the web site says they are cleansed for display purposes--I assume that means "spiritually cleansed"). And, how is it that he gets to keep these pieces--some of them apparently being valuable antiques? I question the process. He goes in, determines through his own methods that an item has a spirit attached to it, takes the item from its owner, and puts it in his museum on display. Does he charge admission to people to come see these items? Seems as if the former owners should at least get a tax deduction for donating to the museum.
One place featured in last night's inaugural episode was the Deep River Public Library (not li-berry) in Deep River, Connecticut, where children were reportedly afraid to stay based on sitings of a shadowy woman in black on the stairs and in one of the rooms. A typewriter in the attic (a valuable antique in excellent condition) was also making noises in the attic as if someone were throwing the return carriage and causing it to "ding." A large built-in cast iron stove in the back kitchen was also a significant item of interest in the building. John ended up with the typewriter for his museum, though I'd bet if he could have wrangled that stove out of the library, that would have ended up in the museum, too, as an item related to the haunting.

I really wanted to like this new show. I know people who have had items in their homes that purportedly caused strange occurrences to occur. It makes sense to me that it could be possible for a spirit to become attached to something--enough living people do so (to their cars, their homes, their jewelry, etc.). But I got the sense that this was a less-than-satisfying copycat version of the typical paranormal investigation program, except focused on individual antiques as the source of the problem--rather than, as most of the paranormal shows allude to, past issues involving violence, extreme emotion, or high energy. However, John did attribute an emotional attachment to the typewriter by its assumed former owner as the reason for the haunting and attachment to the object. For me, it was a stretch. And it bothered me to see him take the typewriter from the library for his museum.

The other investigators working with him were his son and daughter, and two relatively attractive others--a tech guy, Brian Cano, who I'd bet was brought in to attract an audience of both males and females; and a young attractive woman, Beth Ezzo, "lead investigator" who may or may not be intuitive -- it was suggested but denied at the same time. Having the family working together on the show and its subject matter being paranormal brought to mind Mary Knows Best, the reality show about psychic Mary O and her family. The difference was that Mary Knows Best seemed to be showcasing the family issues and less the psychic readings than Haunted Collector is doing. However, there does not seem to be much new information imparted by Haunted Collector to differentiate it from say, Ghost Hunters--the apparent reigning paranormal investigation program of the day. And, as a matter of fact, the presentation is less detailed and clear than that of Ghost Hunters or GHI.

All that being said, I don't believe that it is impossible for this show to craft itself into a better and more unique offering that does not ride on the coattails of Syfy's other paranormal investigative programs. It is too similar at this point and, therefore, too easy to make comparison to Ghost Hunters. It is also taking over the 9:00 p.m. slot normally reserved by one or another Ghost Hunters-related program, and GH fans may not like their comfort level being toyed with.

I would be more interested in seeing John Zaffis talk about the items in the museum and how he acquired them, with interviews with the former owners of the objects and any footage of those investigations. I also found it interesting on his Zaffis Museum website that he has the items cleansed so that they will be "safe" to view. The website also says that some items are not displayed because they cannot be cleansed to such a degree of being non-threatening. Now THAT is interesting. Don't give me a poor imitation of Ghost Hunters; give me something NEW in a new way--like how the objects are cleansed, what the research is that such objects may be...possessed (?). Give me some advice as a possible owner of such a haunted object. And let us know how to find the right people to deal with these things. John says on his website that there are reasons not to destroy these objects--that burning or destroying them in some cases could unleash some undesirable consequences. Such as what? Educate the public with the show, don't just pacify them with yet another of what has worked elsewhere -- a paranormal investigative team with meters and cameras, SYFY guys and ladies. Think a bit outside the box, like you did with Fact or Faked Paranormal.

What people want to see in paranormal reality television is whether or not there are trustworthy people giving information that viewers are seeking to find out about, in a believable and informative way. Reality TV, to many people these days, is almost as important as news or educational television.

So, John Zaffis and team, I wish you the best in your endeavors to make your area of expertise more widely known, however, I am not a fan of the format being used in the show. But, I believe with some tweaking ,it could work in its own right.

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