Last week, FOX ordered an additional six episodes of its freshman comedy Ghosted. The news was good for the series that showed a tremendous amount of promise ahead of its premiere, mainly due to the strength of its two leads, Craig Robinson and Adam Scott, and the untapped potential of its premise, which was essentially a comedic take on the sort of other-worldly investigations headed up by Agents Mulder and Scully in The X-Files. The series premiere succeeded in demonstrating the show's potential, but it also made it clear there were some kinks that still need to be worked out.
Over the course of the first season, the chemistry between the two leads has certainly been there, and contribution form the rest of the cast, from the very funny Adeel Akhtar to Amber Stevens West to Ally Walker have all worked to make the ensemble click, but some of the material and the overall plodding direction of the series has left something to be desired. Some of that is the result of all the heavy lifting needed in order to set up the circumstances of Robinson's Leroy Wright and Scott's Max Jennifer being recruited by the Bureau Underground, as well as the overarching conspiracy of Max's wife Claire (Britt Lower) and the secret forces behind her disappearance.
It is safe to say the series was encumbered by the size of the plot unfolding during the first few episodes, plot that has arguably gone nowhere and, as of the midseason finale, 'Haunted Hayride,' become marginalized to the point that it's hardly even mentioned anymore. And yet, by putting the mystery of what happened to Claire and Leroy's quest to once again become a detective for the LAPD on the backburner, Ghosted has started to show signs of improvement, not as a plot-driven semi-spoof on The X-Files, but as a fun workplace comedy with a paranormal twist.
Change is certainly in the air, and as Deadline reported, the recent announcement that current showrunner Kevin Etten will exit with episode 10, as Paul Lieberstein, former showrunner of The Office, takes over to reconfigure the show during the season's final six episodes, suggests the series is headed in a slightly different, more specific direction. It's a smart move that, along with a few other adjustments, may see the series deliver on its enormous comedic potential.
Distill Ghosted Into a Very Odd Workplace Sitcom
It seems this is exactly what Lieberstein and FOX intend to do with the extra episode order, but can Ghosted just be Dunder Mifflin meets Ghostbusters with a little X-Files thrown in for good measure? Yes it can. Why not? That sounds kind of amazing, actually. The series has all the right ingredients to succeed as primarily a workplace sitcom, where it can more effectively (and hopefully humorously) play up the angle of how chasing ghosts, aliens, and monsters is a fundamentally strange job, but it's still a job, and jobs come with a wide array of perks and hassles, not to mention co-workers who are, deep down, kind of a pain in the ass.
Ghosted has come close to making this transition in the first half of the season, and the episodes that have come closest have been the best of the bunch. But there's still so much about the workplace that hasn't been explored yet, like, outside of Max finding his wife, and Leroy becoming an LAPD detective again, what do any of the other characters actually want? And is there any chance Lennon Parham's Deidre will be coming back anytime soon?
Mostly, though, after seven episodes, it doesn't feel like we know these characters well enough yet – Max and Leroy included – for anything that happens to them to really matter. And that goes double for Captain Lafrey, Barry, and Annie, all of whom interact with one another on a regular basis but it still feels like something is missing — these characters are all familiar with one another, but they don’t act like they know each other; not like the kind of co-workers who make a workplace comedy work well, anyway.
The order for additional episodes suggests FOX is confident enough in the show to give it more time to develop, and the change in showrunner indicates there is at least a plan in place to bring that change to fruition. From the outside, it seems like a step in the right direction. It’s difficult to say what a change in direction will do for the action element of the show, but that has been the weakest part of the series so far, so reconfiguring it or jettisoning it altogether will likely only be considered a positive.