Money has been tight lately, so I've been spending more time at home, or at least doing things locally. Among the myriad of projects I have found for myself at home, I have also been watching the DVDs and iTunes downloads of my favorite TV shows. As I've mentioned previously, these are Ghost Hunters and Paranormal State.
I have Seasons 1-3 of Ghost Hunters in its entirety on DVD, and some episodes of Season 4 on iTunes. As I go through these, I can't help but notice that I really like some investigators and don't care so much for others. I'm not entirely sure why. I suspect it has something to do with talent in one area not necessarily translating to talent in another area. For instance, someone with a Ph.D. may be a bona fide expert on a particular subject; that doesn't mean that said Ph.D. is also a good teacher, even if they make their living as a professor. Pedagogy involves separate communication and organizational skills. Similarly--just because one is a scientifically-minded and meticulous ghost hunter does not mean that they will have television skills. Some people are awkward in the face of a TV camera, even if they're not stammering and fidgeting.
With that in mind, I'm presenting my opinion of the Ghost Hunters who have been on the program so far. I'm not including Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, as they obviously wouldn't be where they are today if they didn't have the right stuff for television. I'm also including some folks from Ghost Hunters International, as there is some cross-over in investigative staff. Bear in mind that I don't think I would necessarily do better than the people whom I consider the "weaker" links in the program. I feel very awkward in front of cameras of any kind, so I'd probably suck at it big time. So, I am not suggesting that I could do "better"; I am suggesting that observed over time, perhaps these folks just don't have the right fit for TV, even if they are excellent in the field.
Andy Andrews: Andy has the distinction of being on the first season of Ghost Hunters AND Ghost Hunters International. I don't know what it is about Andy, but I find him terribly annoying. He's obviously a good investigator and debunker. But he comes across with an arrogance that makes you want to smack him at times. I've heard this opinion expressed by others as well. I think he's okay as one of the team, but if he's in a lead investigative position--I don't know, he just doesn't seem to work.
Brian Harnois: For all of the controversy surrounding Brian, I actually like him a lot. Yes, like everyone else, I got tired of the drama between Brian and Steve, between Brian and Jason, but he has a very strong and distinct personality. Having a personality helps, and on the whole he seems fallible yet likeable. He was one of the stronger elements of GHI when its first season opened.
Carl and Keith Johnson: These twin brothers are demonologists. It's hard to get a distinct lock on what they're like, exactly--most of the time they were quietly in the background. I'm not surprised that they dropped off the GH series, as having a demonologist on a team like TAPS doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense. I've seen Keith and his wife on Paranormal State, and I think that show is much better suited to their approach.
Steve Gonsalves: I like Steve. He's smart, well-organized as tech manager, and has a sense of humor. I'm sympathetic to his fear of heights, and I had great admiration for him when he actually climbed the St. Augustine lighthouse tower stairs in the dark. I've been in the St. Augustine lighthouse, and I didn't get past the second round of stairs at the bottom--my legs were shaking too much. His phobias, while unfortunate, do add to your sense of him as a person, though it's a shame they have to hinder his ability to do things so much. I actually have the same phobias, with the exception of a fear of flying.
Dustin Pari: Dustin is amazing. I don't know why I like Dustin so much as an investigator. Maybe it's because he reminds me of my nephew. But for whatever reason--the thing that Andy Andrews seems to lack, Dustin has in spades. I was delighted when he replaced Andy as the co-lead investigator on GHI--he really does a lot for that show. He just has a presence that gives him a lot of credibility. He doesn't get overly emotional about things, and when he does get rattled, it's genuine. The Leap Castle episode from Season 3 is a perfect Dustin episode--you should get a hold of it if you haven't seen it. One of those episodes where something ACTUALLY happens...
Dave Tango: It's hard not to like Dave Tango. He's earnest, genuine, and a good Jersey boy. (I'm from New Jersey, so I know what that looks like). His early gullibility and perpetual sense of wonder really makes him very likeable. You've also been able to see firsthand how he's grown as an investigator, which adds to the show.
Donna LaCroix: Hmm. Donna was a great case manager, and seems like a really great person. However, I was not impressed with her as an investigator. TAPS is supposed to be taking a scientific approach to things, but I feel like Donna was often on cases for the production company's hype value. She was more interested in what she could intuit--which is not a bad thing necessarily, but in paranormal investigation you have to be careful. A location can feel very spooky at night, and you can feel like someone is there with you--but most of the time there's no hard evidence for anything. After the first season of GHI, I was absolutely glad to see her go--she was terrible. I'm sorry, I know she left because of an illness, and I wish her well, but her running around screaming and holding up crucifixes did nothing for her credibility. She seems more like she belongs on that Scariest Places on Earth show.
Joe Chin: Joe is now on GHI, where I think he fits in a bit better. He's very quiet, hard to know too much about his personality. I don't have a strong opinion of him either way as an investigator, though I like him overall.
Kris Williams: Kris seemed okay when she first joined the TAPS team, but I've not been impressed with her over time. I don't know why the women in TAPS don't seem to fit in as well, but Kris lately seems more like a giggly twenty-something than a serious investigator. I really like Amy Brunei, the other female in TAPS, though she tends to get silly like Kris when they work together. I don't know--like Andy, there's something about Kris that just doesn't work as far as I'm concerned. I find myself getting bored and wandering into the kitchen looking for ice cream while her investigation scenes are on.
and, on GHI:
Robb Demarest: I thought Robb was terrible during the first season of GHI, but I have to say he's gotten 200 times better. I think Robb suffered from the problem of being a normal guy who's a good investigator, but was really awkward in front of a TV camera. He was too wooden looking in the early episodes, too robotic-sounding, and was trying too hard to be like Jason Hawes. When he complimented Donna and Shannon Sylvia for running around screaming like idiots, I wanted to smack him. It was embarrassing--he was finding places "haunted" without much convincing evidence--even the owners or caretakers of the locations were not convinced. However, since Dustin has come on board, and there have been some team changes, things look a lot better. Robb has developed his own style as lead investigator, and I actually like it a lot. He's clearly taken some kind of acting lessons or something, because he looks more comfortable in front of the camera, and the whole show seems less awkward and stilted.
Shannon Sylvia: I'm not even going to comment. Someone just tell me why she called in the Penn State Paranormal Society to investigate her house when she's an investigator herself?
Barry Fitzgerald: The other strong link of GHI, who originally appeared in GH's Leap Castle episode. Barry gets a little strange at times, and his assumptions are clearly colored by his Irish upbringing (there's a strong tradition of believing in the supernatural there), but he's still a great investigator, and adds a lot to the team. He does try new and different approaches and new equipment, which keeps the show from being formulaic. I hope he doesn't leave the show.
Brandy Green: Great case manager, and great investigator. She really works well with this team.
So, that's my take on TAPS. I know there has been plenty out there about how things on this show could be (or perhaps are?) faked, but I still like it better than most investigative shows I've seen, and still feel it has more credibility. I am sure some things are hyped for television, and some things need to be taken with a grain of salt. Still, skeptics will always be skeptics, and believers will always be believers--and those that fall in between would have to have an experience that firmly put them on one side or the other.
Currently, new GHI episodes are on the SyFy channel on Wednesdays at 9, and you can see past episodes here: http://www.syfy.com/rewind/?sid=32857
New episodes of Ghost Hunters will be aired this Fall. You can see recent past episodes here: http://www.syfy.com/rewind/?sid=32855
Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson are on MySpace and Twitter (jchawes and grantswilson). There is a Facebook fan page for the show as well.