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Ghost Hunters Academy [PREVIEW]

Ghost Hunters Academy

On DVD: 
Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Who knew two Roto-Rooter plumbers could lunch a spooky empire?  With the second season of Ghost Hunters Academy premiering this week, that is exactly what has happened.  Joining original flavor Ghost Hunters and Ghost Hunters International on SyFy, Ghost Hunters Academy is a so-so reality competition documenting the training of, and search for, the next ghost hunter.  GH veterans Steve Gonsalves and Dave Tango instruct eight recruits on the basics of tracking down and debunking paranormal phenomena and The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS) co-founder Jason Hawes is on hand to deliver final judgment on who gets sent home each week.

The season two premiere, airing Wednesday June 2 at 9 pm takes the wannabe ghost hunters to  the uber creepy Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville, Kentucky.  Waverly Hills has been visited by TAPS twice before, first in season 2 of Ghost Hunters, where each investigator experienced something spooky and again as a live Halloween show in season 3.  Clips from those episodes are interwoven into current action as the recruits hit some of the same hot spots the veteran investigators did.

The investigation itself is very much by the books Ghost Hunters, just slower.  We see the recruits set up the equipment, lay the cable, and use all the electronics and most of the recruits do a nice job acting just as Jason, Grant, Steve, or Tango would when faced with “lights out.”  The cadets are split into two teams and Steve and Tango are patient teachers, showing the recruits how to properly use the EMF meters and other scientific equipment and rounding up a team member who likes to wander away from her group. 

The new class of ghost hunting cadets consists of: Adam Berry, a salon coordinator from Provincetown, Pennsylvania;  Brett McGinnis, a film student from Boyers, Pennsylvania;  Daniel Hwang, a graphic designer and bartender from Newport, Rhode Island; Eric Baldino of Phoenix, Arizona who heads up his own paranormal investigative group; Michelle Tate, a criminal justice student from Midland, Texas; Natalie Poole, a computer programmer from Dana Point, California; Rosalyn Brown, a founding member of South Jersey Ghost Research living in Woodbury, New Jersey; and Vera Martinez, a psychiatric nurse from  San Antonio, Texas.  For the most part, these cadets aren’t all that memorable, though that is at least in part due to the time constraints and the need to focus on Waverly Hills itself.  As the initial group of eight dwindles, I’m sure personalities will emerge.  I hope so, anyway.

Jason lists the judging criteria at the beginning of the episode and seems to stick to it at elimination time.  The recruits are judged on skepticism, technical knowledge, honesty, composure, and patience.  At the end of the investigation, after all the cadets (with an assist from Steve and Tango) have given their findings, Jason asks each person who he or she thinks should be kicked off.  It’s unclear how much weight those answers have, but it’s nice to see the reality show pile-on tradition continue.  Steve and Tango each select a top student from his respective team and that cadet is safe from elimination and will be the team leader in the next investigation.  Jason then confers with Steve and Tango and hands down his verdict with shockingly little stalling or fuss.

While this is not—by any stretch of the imagination—the most exciting show, it’s a decent addition to the Ghost Hunters franchise.  The pacing is slower than a normal Ghost Hunters episode, and I had no idea that was even possible, and the clips from Waverly investigations have a mixed effect.  The older findings are cool, but this show is supposed to be about the newbies and too little time is spent on them.  I do like the matter-of-fact presentation of the investigation and judging and the lack of drama is refreshing for a reality competition.  It’s good to see Steve and Tango as the grown-ups and Jason is always fun.  Ghost Hunters Academy isn’t especially thrilling or innovative, but if you’re a fan of Ghost Hunters or Ghost Hunters International, chances are you’ll like Ghost Hunters Academy, too. 

Review by Michelle St. James