I’m not sure why, at this point, I keep tuning in to new paranormal television shows. Partly it’s for my son, who loves all things paranormal, and it’s a fun bonding experience for us. Part of me hopes, even prays, that someone, at some point, will make a good paranormal TV show again. And I guess the last part is so that I’ll have something to complain about here. I’m three episodes in to A&E’s The Lowe Files (yes, THAT A&E), and rest assured, there will be some complaining.
Before I get into the review, some full disclosure: I like Rob Lowe. Sure, he has some demons in his past, but he has risen above them. An original member of the “Brat Pack,” and living up to his membership therein with his infamous sex tape scandal, he has, in more recent years, redeemed himself with stand-out acting roles in the “Wayne’s World,” the Austin Powers movies, Stephen King’s The Stand, The West Wing, and Parks & Recreation, just to name a few. So when I heard about The Lowe Files, where Rob and his two sons go off to investigate claims of the paranormal and supernatural, I was more intrigued than I usually am when new shows are trotted out on Destination America or wherever. Especially since it’s not strictly a ghost hunting show. They look for Bigfoot, aliens, secret government bases, and so on. So all that being said, how is the show?
The show is…well, not very good. For a “reality” show, the first thing that hits the viewer is that it doesn’t seem very real. The banter between Rob and his sons Matthew and John Owen seems excruciatingly forced and unrealistic. It comes off as scripted (even if loosely, they are all intent on hitting their marks) and unnatural. The boys seem skeptical or just not too into the whole thing, often chuckling behind the backs of guest stars or rolling their eyes at proposed theories, and it all just comes across as being very awkward. Rob seems to have a genuine passion for exploring the paranormal, but it just feels almost as though he’s dragging his reluctant sons along for the ride.
The first episode, “Haunted Boys’ Reformatory,” does a decent job of introducing everyone, and the Lowe boys stop for donuts and autographs before moving on to conduct a fairly stereotypical ghost hunt: consult their shaman friend, play with some fancy gadgets, ask lots of questions of the ghosts that supposedly haunt the location, hear things going bump in the night and responding with the obligatory “What the f**k was that?” and even playing some pranks on each other for cheap scares. Not any more offensive than any of the other ghost hunting shows out there right now, and at least it has a somewhat different dynamic. Not a bad first episode.
Episode 2, “The Secret Underwater Base,” finds the Lowe family boarding the Bold Horizon, the same ship James Cameron used to research the Titanic, in search of a secret underwater base off the coast of California. The base is allegedly home to either super-secret Navy submarines, or alien spaceships. The base is so secret, in fact, that apparently everyone who resides in the immediate vicinity has heard about it, and it can even be spotted on Google maps. Now, this episode surprised me by how quickly it flew by. The Lowes stop for fish and chips, gawk at the boat, spend 5 or 6 minutes worrying about (and ultimately suffering from) sea sickness, find a few clam shells, and then sort of realize that the “base” is in all likelihood a natural formation. It doesn’t help that, unlike the first episode, this one is only a half hour.
The third and most recent episode, “Bigfoot,” finds the Lowes stopping for McDonald’s, visiting a Bigfoot museum in Willow Creek, and meeting up with Matt Moneymaker of the Animal Planet show Finding Bigfoot. Unfortunately, this episode also clocks in at only 30 minutes, so after they get their food, visit the museum, and drive around narrow roads and elevated bridges and scare themselves with all that, there’s about 4 minutes left to actually look for Bigfoot. And they spend it by all doing Bigfoot howls, while one of the boys (not sure which, but he looks like a Corey…both should have been named Corey, by the way…they just look like Coreys) rolls his eyes at Matt. Which really is quite understandable since it’s Matt Moneymaker and all, but perhaps still a bit rude. Then that’s it. Show’s over. And if you guessed that they didn’t find Bigfoot, go treat yourself to a cookie.
By now, you’ve probably noticed a running theme with this show. It’s a good 18-20 minutes of forced, scripted banter, going to get some food, talking (and disrespecting) the “experts” they bring in, and then a solid 4-5 minutes of them actually investigating the subject of the episode before the credits roll. If they extended every episode to an hour, canned the awkward interactions at the beginning of the show and just acted naturally, and spent the majority of the episode focused on the actual investigation, the show would actually be pretty good. On a positive note, the show is lighter than most in the genre, and it’s still entertaining to watch, in that regard. My 10-year old son likes it, so I’ll keep tuning in with him, for now.