Chalk it up to the glut of paranormal-themed programs, but every time they mention “Chicago Paranormal Detectives” in A&E’s latest painfully earnest not-very-real reality show, it brings to mind a “Saturday Night Live” sketch, a la “Ex-Police.” They are “police officers by day, and ‘Paranormal Cops’ by night,” we’re told, inspired by their supernatural experiences to take “cases” on behalf of those who suspect they’re being haunted. What follows, inevitably, are lots of night-vision photography, eerie music and “Omigod!” moments. It’s enough to rouse the dead, perhaps, but only those most gullible among the living.
Chicago does provide a colorful background for this sort of nonsense, especially since the debut allegedly ties in with an old mobster. The featured cops, moreover, possess that wonderfully gruff “just the facts” style, where presenting conclusions about whether ghosts are involved sounds a lot like being informed that your car needs a new muffler.
Armed with ectoplasmic, heat-sensing toys, the team includes a psychic (she feels something pass through her, which hopefully doesn’t mean deep-dish pizza) to assist the half-dozen investigators. Unlike some of the ghost hunters around, these guys are both deadly serious and not afraid to conclude that there is “definitely more than one entity here.”
Then again, once the genre has exploded to the point where there are ghost-chasing college students and paranormal-probing kids (on Cartoon Network, yet), it’s tough to bring much new to the party, except perhaps a greater measure of certainty and confidence.
The client, meanwhile, a night manager at a retail store, seems a little shell-shocked — and is quickly rebuked when he mutters that he’s “not the only crazy person here.”
Indeed, inasmuch as “Paranormal Cops” taps into a growth industry built around really cold cases, everyone cashing in appears to be crazy like a fox.