New TV comedy Ghosted will be different from Ghostbusters and The X-Files, says creator

Actors Craig Robinson (left) and Adam Scott in Ghosted.
Actors Craig Robinson (left) and Adam Scott in Ghosted.PHOTO: FOX ENTERTAINMENT GROUP

A sequel to last year's ill-fated all-female Ghostbusters seems dead in the water with the studio reluctant to make another one after the film failed to break even.

But for now, there is the new television show Ghosted, also a comedy about paranormal investigators - although its creators do their best to downplay the obvious similarities.

At a gathering of television critics in Los Angeles earlier this year, executive producer and star Adam Scott is asked whether its creative team was worried when the Ghostbusters reboot flopped, because of what that might mean for the relevance of this sub-genre.

"I don't think we ever did, just because this is a completely different thing," says the 44-year-old.

"We'd never even attempt to measure ourselves against the Ghostbusters franchise. But I think we take some inspiration from how great it is and how it is able to balance the paranormal with comedy, and the grounded world that it all takes place in."

Ghosted airs on Fox (Singtel TV Channel 330 and StarHub TV Channel 505) on Sundays at 9.25pm. It stars Craig Robinson as a detective-turned-security guard and Scott as a Stanford professor fired after claiming his wife was kidnapped by aliens.

The two are recruited by a shadowy government agency to look into unexplained phenomena around Los Angeles - everything from zombies to evil artificial intelligence.

And when they begin, one is a believer and the other is a sceptic, a la agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully from the paranormal series The X-Files (1993 to now).

Still, their chalk-and-cheese relationship owes more to the buddy-cop genre than either The X-Files or Ghostbusters, says creator Tom Gormican, who describes it as an "action, sci-fi relationship comedy".

"We drew our inspiration from the classic buddy comedies of the 1980s and 1990s - things like the Lethal Weapon and Beverly Hills Cop films."

The creative team was also influenced by This Is The End (2013), the apocalyptic horror comedy in which a group of celebrities, playing themselves, attend a party thrown by actor James Franco as the world comes to an end.

On Ghosted, the biggest challenge is to balance the comedy with the scares.

Co-creator Kevin Etten says: "The tone is something we've been wrestling with - we set out to find those big laughs, but also really scary moments.

"When we got to the edit room, we ended up actually cutting a few of the jokes to preserve the tension and to keep it a little more grounded and real, because we felt like the laughs would maybe end up bigger if you keep it really tense."

The other pillar of the show is the relationship between its two leading men, whose paths had crossed for years before they finally got a chance to work together on this.

Robinson, 46, notes that he and Scott, 44, had appeared together in films such as Knocked Up (2007), "but we didn't know each other or shoot together".

Yet Robinson - best known for the American version of The Office (2005 to 2013) - had a hunch they would have chemistry on screen. "When I first saw (Adam), I wanted to work with him - he cracks me up, he gets it, he's smart."

Scott, who starred in Parks and Recreation (2009 to 2015), remembers meeting Robinson at parties because they worked on shows for the same studio.

"And the first time we met, Craig actually said, 'Hey, we should do something together someday.' I was blown away that he knew who I was and because I was such a fan of his - he's someone that's so funny and so deeply in control of what he's doing."

Although both are known for comedy, each has an award-winning, heavy-hitting drama to his name: Robinson appeared in the cyber-thriller Mr Robot (2015 to now) and Scott scored a role in this year's Big Little Lies, a murder mystery.

Their skillset helps the series walk the tightrope between comedy and drama, Gormican says.

"A show like this could quickly devolve into parody if not handled correctly, so one of the things we're doing is leaning on the actors' comic and dramatic skills.

"Everybody (in the cast) has a real solid mix of both of those things and that helps us sell the reality of the show - even when crazy things are happening, you feel like this is real danger, these are real scares, and they are real people acting or reacting in real ways."

•Ghosted airs on Fox (Singtel TV Channel 330 and StarHub TV Channel 505) on Sundays at 9.25pm.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2017, with the headline 'Ghost-busting duo bust out laughs and scares'. Print Edition | Subscribe