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The Ghost In The Cathode Ray Tube

We've become accustomed to the 'ugly duckling' Swanning out. Everything that is loathed, ridiculed and denigrated becomes cool. Makeovers on television, and lame reality shows where losers become winners, have made it easier to embrace the people we used to point and laugh at and the things we used to avoid (for self preservation).

This is why the Paranormal on television is no longer 'weird'. Every network is vying for a 'Ghosthunters-like' ratings win. There's a show for every level of enthusiast. It's become acceptable to chase ghosts. This should be a good thing.

But there's just nothing good about a paranormal show where the ghosts are the stars. Remember when Jason and Grant looked like they were having fun? Remember when the Travel and History channels (respectively), had those 'specials'? Back then the Paranormal had an air of mystery. There was passion in the game.

I started a Facebook rant some weeks ago, as a slew of 'Paranormal' themed shows played on A&E. Paranormal State was followed by Paranormal Cops (really?), and then Psychic Kids! How do I state the obvious without coming off as a biased and possibly sceptical? Do we really need a million popular, yet dense shows representing the Paranormal?

That's not to say the people involved aren't in it for the quest for the ultimate truth. I admire them for their loyalty to the subject and the simple fact that, despite the medium, they're bringing far more attention to the paranormal than previous generations. But is it all good?

At some point you have to ask yourself, 'Am I learning anything?' when all you want to do is fast-forward through all the human interaction, hoping to see some evidence of the after-life, extraterrestrial intelligence, or cryptids. That's where I get off the ride. When the humans become a sort of decoration and the real grit of the show is the 'things' that aren't guaranteed to make their debut.

Gone is the enthusiasm that made the investigators engaging. The raw truth of paranormal tv is that the researchers are in competition with the paranormal. Arm chair enthusiasts are wrestling with the idea of believing in the incomprehensible, and keeping the subject matter grounded shouldn't seem like an arduous task. And yet, that is exactly what it looks like to see these 'stars' of such shows.

No one cracks a joke, to break the tension. No one stops talking long enough to let the audience understand that machismo is not the same as absolute knowledge. There's a lot of repetition and 'talkin-down' and no light-hearted conjecture, and rarely if ever is there any speculation that is not heavily rooted in already formulated and hard-won beliefs that cannot be shaken, and therefore can never reflect other possibilities.

To put it bluntly, it just ain't fun to watch anymore.

Most of all, there seems to be less and less women involved. Some of the more popular shows boast no more than two women at a time, per episode. I've heard every excuse you can fit into a bottle, including the ever apparent, 'Mostly women watch these shows, and they only watch it for the guys'. Really? Who are these women and why aren't they watching 'Supernatural'?

For once I'd like to see a paranormal show equal parts informative and a little bit goofy. I know it can be done. Destination Truth (Syfy) has perfected this formula. I am just as much engaged in, and interested in Josh Gates, Jael de Pardo and Bicha Gholam, as I am the Jersey Devil, the Skunk Ape and Icelandic Elves.

They've gone procedural like hour long cop dramas. They're staid and stoic and it's a relief to switch the channel, only to find that amidst Zak Bagan's provocations, there is Aaron Goodwin who never fails to bring the show down to earth with sheer human error as the affable, resident tech guy.

No one can tell me there is only one way to make a paranormal show, because as evidence by Most Haunted to Ghost Hunters International, there are many ways to make a paranormal show. So why not make them enjoyable? With and without the ghosts.

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