Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Do We Really Need Paranormal Paparazzi? Early Impressions

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Director: Scott Preston.

Cast: Dave B. Mitchell, Julie Alexandria and Rachel Fine.

Travel Channel's "Paranormal Paparazzi" is one of those reality shows that an enthusiast of this pseudo-reality genre has to dread. The negative connotation of the latter P word only further blurs the line between what is fictional news and what are factual accounts of real incidents worth exploring.

True to this series’ name, it takes citizen journalism to a whole new level and it can very easily pull focus on only one specific side of the paranormal reality television sub-culture and throw everything else out the window. Some clips are interesting to watch, like those showing how the legendary Mothman can also be spotted in other States besides West Virginia, but in terms of chasing down random people for a quote, that is unneeded. At the same time, viewers have to ask why the Mothman has left his West Virginia home. Apparently, according to this show, sightings of this legendary creature are allegedly a nation-wide phenomenon.

This show is more tabloid-style a la "Entertainment Tonight." In the same token, this program’s presentation format is like "Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files." Reporters bring their finished stories for program host, Aaron Sagers, to dissect.

As Sagers explains in the first episode, he's bothered by the idea of putting out stories about people who are just out to make a name for themself. By his own admission: "How do we know that we are not just creating a crop of paranormal celebrities, or people who want to be paranormal celebs?"

While he's actually referring to a story about a group of female teenagers from Scottsdale, Arizona who are self-proclaimed exorcists, he's also unintentionally talking about his own show and every other program that features individuals wanting to prove that they are brave enough to challenge tradition. That also includes staying overnight in a locale reportedly occupied by a monster or ghost.

The irony is that Sagers will become one of these celebrities himself, should this program succeed. He is putting himself in front of the camera to give his take on the stories that his crew of would-be journalists — some inexperienced< — are seeking out. His criticism is put forth and he gets the help of famous celebrities like Max Brooks, author of World War Z, to explain why zombies may or may not be real. He will no doubt tap into his network of contacts, which includes Jason Hawes of The Atlantic Paranormal Society or Dave Schraeder of Darkness Radio, who may support or dispute the facts of the cases his team of reporters are researching.

In this group, Joshua Warren specializes in research, Rachel Fine and Branden Wellington are newcomers, and Scott Gruenwald hails from a comedy/experienced investigator background. This older gentleman was part of a comedy skit group called “Paranormal STU” and he is a member of Verify Paranormal, a group that was featured on Paranormal Challenge. Viewers who have seen Gruenwald’s previous works may have to ask if he is finally being serious about investigating the unknown.

Brenden proves to be very likable onscreen but the stories he finds are back-page tabloid material rather than pieces for the New York Times. Gruenwald needs to talk about his body of previous work or post his resumé if he wants his investigations to be believed. His past work as a showman seems to outshine everything he is attempting to do now in "Paranormal Paparazzi."

As with any reality television show, news format or not, a reporter's credibility needs to be established first before any story can be told. Sagers’ experience is briefly mentioned; he is an adjunct professor, journalist and columnist. Strangely, none of the schools, networks or publications are listed. Viewers have to go online to learn that he's the founder of ParanormalPopCulture.com and he did work for CNN.

Either the Travel Channel finds name-dropping unacceptable or the producers are taking the audience's knowledge of who's who in the world of well-known paranormal celebrities for granted. Not everyone is in the know. Sadly, nothing is done in this particular program to make study or interest in the paranormal any more credible. Even Brian Kubach (Piranha) admits with a smile why being spooked is fun. He's been caught on tape saying: "Everyone is being haunted. This is the new thing: it's hot to get haunted."

The true emphasis of this series is to focus on the horror entertainment industry and Dread Central spotlights people working behind the scenes rather than getting in on the real action. Their segment on showing how Robert Pendergraft of Aunt Dolly's Garage does his magic and what director John Gulager intended with Piranha 3DD in the first two episodes are the only good highlights in what would otherwise be an awful show. With many more programs seeking to provide more thrill rides than travel reports of why some locales needs to be visited, cheesy reports are provided by the bucket-load. But for those viewers who want to believe, they will have to skip everything the television media puts out there and join a club instead. That way they can experience for themselves if the paranormal world is indeed real.

Overall: 4 out of 10.

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Paranormal Paparazzi on Facebook

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