“Responding to the pleas of people who are victimized by distressing and inexplicable activities in their homes and workplaces, these cops bring their no-nonsense approach to hunting ghosts and their real-life police skills to separating fact from fiction – and often happen upon results much scarier than the paranormal.”
I’ve had a lot of opportunities to watch and review many of the new wave of reality shows, from Ice Road Truckers to riding along with Steven Seagal in his real-life police job. This is my first exposure to “unreality” television. Okay, that’s my term and not theirs. But, after just 10 minutes of watching Paranormal Cops, unreal is the only word I can think of to describe the experience.
When there’s something strange in your neighborhood, who you gonna call?
This new A&E series follows the exploits of the CPD, the Chicago Paranormal Detectives. Founded by Chicago area police officer Ron Fabriani, the team is made up of real police officers and civilians who conduct investigations into paranormal complaints. They ride along in their “Command Center” truck loaded with some high-tech audio and visual gear. They attempt to use standard police procedure to investigate the events, but that’s really easier said than done. Yes, they use a lot of police procedural jargon, but I didn’t see a lot of actual police investigatory tactics used by the team, in spite of their constant insistence that they do. It doesn’t even appear that the police members of the team are actual detectives, even though Ron’s narrative tells us he joined the police force to solve crimes. He appears to be a patrol officer. He also tells us that one of his real “cases” led him to a supernatural element, but we’re never given any clue or indication of what that case might have been. I’ll admit to being totally skeptical of this sort of thing going in. Nothing I saw on this season changed my attitudes toward these paranormal claims.
The first episode is 40 minutes, while each subsequent episode clocks in at about 21 minutes. They follow a pretty standard formula. Ron tells us what the particular complaint is that is going to be investigated by the team. The team then interviews the complainant and sets up the story for what follows. The first step is to send in the team’s medium, Moriah Rhame. Now, if having a team medium isn’t already enough to start your eyes rolling, her performance certainly will. Moriah goes through the scene and tries to pick up vibes and messages. More on her later. Then the team whips out their trusty Ghost Buster gadgets to record energy signatures, cold spots, and EMF signals. In case you didn’t see White Noise, EMF is a system whereby you can record the voices of spirits even though you didn’t hear them with your ears. The team attempt to “question” the spirits by asking them to make the lights on their energy meter blink. It’s one for yes, two for no. You can pretty much guess how that goes. Finally after plenty of “did you hear that’s” and “I think I just saw something’s”, they deliver a final report to the client. There’s no mention of how much these guys charge for the service.
Ron Fabriani is certainly a larger-than-life character. If he hadn’t been a real guy, someone would have had to create him. He walks about munchin’ on his huge cigar and talks like something out of a film noir classic. He’s about the only thing that makes this show even remotely entertaining. Every time one of the guys sees or hears something, I can’t tell what in the heck they’re even talking about. They play up the dramatics, for sure.
Then there’s Moriah, the so-called medium. Again, I’ll freely admit that I just don’t believe in that nonsense. She is everything that makes me cynical of the profession. The idea is she is not part of the initial interviews, to avoid tainting her impressions. But anyone with a good internet connection could come up with what she does. In one episode where someone was poisoned once on the property, she walks through and begins to act like a message is coming. She begins to spell P O I S and acts confused like she doesn’t have any idea what she is spelling. I’ve seen better fake performances at cheap carny shows.
I understand that people like these things, not necessarily because they buy into it, but because they find it entertaining. With this one, it just seems like they never really even put on as good a show as some of the others have done. The guys look and talk tough. I gotta believe that a defense attorney might have a field day with this material on any of these guys’ real cases. It might tend to taint their credibility in a “human” court of law. They do look like they are having fun. It’s watching cops play cops and robbers somewhat. It’s harmless enough, but I just don’t get it.
It’s a short season just over 2 hours for the entire bill.
Each episode is presented in an annoying non-anamorphic 1.78:1 aspect ratio. You’d think we were beyond the non-anamorphic presentations. You also have to understand that the show is shot under very unforgiving environments. The video quality sucks, but that’s more in line with the presentation situations than any transfer defects. The crappy picture also helps to invite the viewer to “see” what they might wish to or are encouraged to see by the team. If you watch this show, it’s not for the image quality.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 is again merely so you can hear the team talking. I can’t hear all of the “What was that’s” that you’re invited to hear by the team. Maybe this is the kind of magic where you have to believe in order for it to work.
As a detective I was invited to ride-alongs with actual police officers in the Tampa area. I’ve also been to many reportedly haunted places and found nothing out of the ordinary. I’ve spent nights in old abandoned and isolated cemeteries and derelict churches. There’s nothing I’d love more than to be proven wrong here. I’d love to spend a couple nights with these guys. Unfortunately, I live too far away, and the last thing they want along is a skeptic of my caliber. Still, I can’t help but be curious as to what the atmosphere is like on these haunt-huntings. I gotta give them credit for doing these things with a straight face. I suspect that’s the key to making any money in this racket. At the end of the episodes Ron tells us how much they’ve accomplished for the client. Unfortunately, “I don’t think he himself knew what he was talking about”.