If you asked viewers what they might expect to see on a typical ghost-hunting show, their answers would probably include a lot of the same things. They would probably anticipate some type of spiritual sightings, lots of “scientific” ghostly gadgets and a few paranormal investigators approaching their task with the appropriate (or if you’re a skeptic, feigned) gravitas. In other words, they probably don’t expect to laugh a lot.
But “BuzzFeed Unsolved” is not your typical ghost-hunting show. It’s heavy on the laughs, comparatively light on paranormal evidence, and hosted by two best friends: Ryan Bergara and Shane Madej. The seasons alternate between themes: “True Crime” tackles unsolved mysteries such as murders or robberies, whereas “Supernatural” episodes see the hosts investigate supposedly haunted places to answer the question of whether or not ghosts and other preternatural entities exist.
While Bergara believes wholeheartedly in the paranormal, Madej devotedly plays the role of skeptic, never hesitating to call out his friend when he thinks Bergara’s being ridiculous (which is most of the time). This dynamic is the chief delight of “Unsolved,” contributing to the irreverent, fun tone of the episodes.
The fifth season of “BuzzFeed Unsolved: Supernatural” continues this pattern, offering up six well-crafted, comedic episodes that may not prove that ghosts are real but certainly prove that Bergara and Madej are the most charismatic ghost hunters working today.
Of the six episodes, five follow Bergara and Madej’s travels to haunted locations, and one deals with supposed evidence of alien life. Though these topics are certainly nothing new for the show, the episodes contain fun innovations that attest to the show’s evolution.
The season begins on a high note, with the self-proclaimed “ghoul boys” returning to a location they’ve previously investigated — the “Winchester Mystery House.” This investigation marks the first time in the series when Bergara and Madej sleep in separate rooms for the duration of a night, and this scene is superb. Bergara’s panicked shrieking is intercut with Madej’s carefree belting of the lyrics to the song “Mamma Mia” — it’s one of many sequences in the episode and the season overall that expertly mines the dichotomy of the hosts’ belief systems for laugh-out-loud moments.
Another standout episode is “The Haunted Town of Tombstone,” wherein Bergara and Madej visit famed ghost town Tombstone, Arizona. The episode is fittingly Wild West-themed, including compelling narration of some Wild West history from Bergara and, on the sillier side, cowboy costumes that both hosts don for the entirety of the episode.
The location and the skillful editing allow this episode to function as both an homage to the Western genre and a solid entry into a paranormal investigation series.
But the season finale, “The Haunting of Hannah Williams,” is by far the best episode of the season. The episode sees Bergara and Madej embrace their “Ghostbusters” destiny and make their first house call to investigate a co-worker’s new home. They also invite along a psychic to join them and incorporate a new gadget, the Ovilus, which apparently allows the hosts to converse with ghosts through “environmental readings.” A wide-eyed gaze stays fixed on Bergara’s face for the whole episode, and even Madej admits to having goose bumps at one point.
Of course, not every episode is a knockout: “The Terrors of Yuma Territorial Prison” doesn’t utilize its “Old West” setting as effectively as the Tombstone episode. And the alien episode, “3 Videos from the Pentagon’s Secret UFO Program,” though fun, feels like one of the drier “True Crime” entries rather than something that belongs in such gleefully spooky company.
But on the whole, the season impresses. It may not answer its central question, which is uttered by Bergara at the outset every episode: “Are ghosts real?” But that hardly makes a dent in the show’s appeal. The fifth season of “BuzzFeed Unsolved: Supernatural” proves that believers and skeptics alike can find something to enjoy in the funny, heartfelt chronicles of two supremely inexpert ghost hunters.
Contact Grace Orriss at [email protected].