Paranormal State: Wikis

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Paranormal State
Paranormal State tvshow screenshot.png
Genre Paranormal
Docudrama
Reality
Format Live-action
Starring Ryan Buell
Heather Taddy
Sergey Poberhezney
Katrina Weidman
Josh
Eilfie Music
Michelle Belanger
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 4
No. of episodes 65 (List of episodes)
Production
Camera setup Multiple
Running time 22 minutes
Production company(s) Four Seasons Productions
Go Go Luckey Productions
Picture Shack Entertainment
Distributor A&E Television Networks
Broadcast
Original channel A&E Network
Original run December 10, 2007 (2007-12-10) – present
External links
Official website
Production website

Paranormal State is an American docudrama[1] paranormal reality television series that premiered on the A&E Network on December 10, 2007. The program follows and stars the Pennsylvania State University Paranormal Research Society, a student-led college club. The show features the students' investigations of alleged paranormal phenomena at reportedly haunted locations.

Contents

Production background

The show is produced by Four Seasons Productions International and Go Go Luckey Productions (which produced MTV's Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County and Newport Harbor: The Real Orange County, and A&E's now-cancelled Rollergirls). Gary Auerbach and Julie Auerbach (who head Go Go Luckey Productions) and Betsy Schechter (Four Seasons) are the executive producers.[2][3]

The show was tentatively titled "Out There," "Dead Time" and "Paranormal U" before being called "Paranormal State."[2][4]

Every episode of the show is outlined by the production team first, co-executive producer Tina Gazzerro has stated, to ensure that a producible episode will result. "We try to identify where we get our discovery moments, our 'Ah-ha!' moments," Gazzerro told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Information about the event under investigation may also be held back from the students in order to create dramatic tension, and only situations which will have a conclusive outcome are investigated. "We may have information we don't give to [the PRS team]," Gazzerro said, "but we need to make sure [the episode is] produceable." Story arcs are also outlined for each "character" on the show, and the production team has publicly expressed its hope that a romantic relationship will develop between the research team leader Ryan Buell and one of the women on the series. The production team and the show's researchers say that no pressure is put on the research team to act in certain ways or make paranormal discoveries.[5]

A&E had high hopes for the new series. Cable television reality shows about the paranormal require only about a quarter of the budget of a scripted show of the same length. They also draw much-coveted younger viewers, and lean slightly more female than male (a difficult demographic to draw for most cable networks not explicitly targeting women) [6]

Fourteen half-hour episodes were ordered for the first season. A&E upped that order to 20 shows after seeing the pilot and the first few episodes.[5][7] Had the show not been picked up by A&E, Buell said he had another series deal in the works with the Auerbachs and their production company.[8]

The show was initially scheduled to debut in May or June 2007, but was pushed back to December 2007 (although no reasons were reported).[9]

The show debuted on December 10, 2007, with 2.5 million viewers watching the first two back-to-back episodes,[10] making it the third-most watched show on A&E since 2004.[7] The cable network reported that this included 1.6 million people aged 18 to 49 (a highly coveted demographic by broadcasters and advertisers). It also included 1.5 million viewers in the 25-to-54 age range, A&E's target demographic.[11] The show's second season began on July 28, 2008 on A&E; its third season, on January 19, 2009 on the same channel. The fourth season premiered on December 15, 2009 on A&E.

Critical reception

Critical reception for the show has been mixed.

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Positive reviews

A review called the show "reality TV at its reel frightening best."[12] Most critics who enjoy the show credit it for being "spooky".[7] In a typical comment, one reviewer said the show was "...the perfect blend of bump-in-the-night scariness and cinéma vérité. It's 'The Blair Witch Project' meets 'Unsolved Mysteries.' But if you scare easily, don't watch this show alone."[13]

Reviewers have pointed out that the show effectively utilizes a number of cinematic techniques common in horror film. The editing leaves open the question of whether paranormal activity is actually occurring, and the cinematography uses night-vision and infrared photography to create a suspenseful atmosphere. The writing on the show is particularly effective at creating a sense of portent and dread, one reviewer noted, and the music and graphics contribute effectively to the tension and fear as well.[3][5][6]

At least one critic has pointed out that the investigatory team's failure to find paranormal activity each episode gives the show credibility other series about the paranormal lack.[14]

Negative reviews

The Orange County Register gave it a "dishonorable mention" as one of the worst new shows of the 2007-2008 television season.[15] The New York Times critic Neil Genzlinger faulted the series for being too low-budget and not frightening enough (a The Blair Witch Project minus the fright). As Genzlinger wrote:

Mr. Buell tries to generate interest in his personal demons as well, but he's just not that compelling. ... Maybe "Paranormal State" is pure put-on. If so, it's not deft enough.[16]

Some reviewers have strongly criticized the high production values which others praise.[17] As one otherwise positive review noted, "The biggest drawback to the series is that it's over-produced, with too many eerie sounds and visual effects. Is the heavy breathing something picked up by PRS microphones, or is it a sound effect added after the fact by the show's producers?"[14]

Critics have also pointed out that the show lacks visual punch. People interviewed in the show declare that they "feel" a spirit next to them, but nothing is shown to the TV viewer. In the series debut, the audience is told that a young boy sees ghosts, but the audience is not able to see any evidence of this.[16][18] "The most compelling footage seems to come more from the editing room than beyond the grave," noted one industry trade publication.[17] Reviewers say the show also fails to effectively integrate and utilize the team's (apparently) sophisticated audio and video equipment to heighten tension or help support their claims of paranormal activity.[18]

Others have noted that the show's stars are not particularly good performers or presenters.[3][13][16] Buell and the changing cast of supporting "paranormal trainees," psychologists, counselors and psychics seem inexperienced and are ineffectual at creating a sense of fear or suspense. "Buell looks self-conscious and sounds like he is reading from cue cards," one critic wrote. "The remaining three members of the core team ... don't seem confident or mature enough to take on a crabby Starbucks' manager, much less a demonic presence."[18]

Several observers have been extremely critical of the open-mindedness (some reviews call it gullibility) of the team of investigators. Typical of these reviews is the opinion of the Boston Herald, whose critic wrote: "There hasn't been a more suggestible crowd gathered since the last 'Crossing Over' taping with alleged psychic John Edward."[3][19]

One news report even challenged the show's popularity. Variety suggested that the show's initial popularity may have been due to its lead-in show, Intervention. The lead-in show had 2.4-million viewers the night Paranormal State debuted. It was the most-watched episode of Intervention in that show's four-year history.[11] Others pointed out that cable shows about the supernatural and paranormal have drawn extremely high ratings since 2002, and that high initial ratings for Paranormal State should not be a surprise.[6]

Ad campaign

The advertising and marketing campaign for Paranormal State broke new ground. In November 2007, a six-story billboard was erected at the corner of Prince and Mulberry Streets in New York City by BlueBlastMedia. Behind the billboard were two directional audio (or audioSpotlights) which produce a highly focused beam of sound. Passers-by who walked directly in the path of the sound would hear spooky, disembodied voices whispering suggestive messages such as "What's that?" and "Who's there? It's not your imagination." But someone standing next to that person would hear nothing. The billboard had a dramatic effect on people coming within range of the "cone of sound" created by the directional audio speakers. The billboard was apparently the first commercial use of the technology on a billboard.[20] A video of the installation can be seen here.

A no-boundary "bleeding" page-across Web ad of the series name showed up on IMDb on January 17, 2009 at about 8:45 pm EST. There was a blank "advertisement" space on the page, but the ad did not reappear. The graphic did not in the end, it seems, represent some kind of computer meltdown.[21]

Ryan's demon stalker

As of January 3, 2008, Ryan Buell claims the demonic entity is no longer following him. In a Q&A section of the Penn State Paranormal Research Society's forums, he responded to a question on the topic by stating, "I haven't been troubled by any bunnies (the PRS calls demons "bunnies") as of late. There came a point in my life where I let go of some of that baggage. When it comes to that whole side, there's a back story that involves my group dealing with a case three years ago. I kind of reached a resolution with that. Coincidentally, the bunny tried to make another cameo appearance when we were filming the final investigation of the season, but we just told it to go to you-know-where. I hope it makes the cut!".[22]

Controversies

Paranormal State has been the subject of several controversies such as whether the show is depicting real or faked paranormal activity, and whether the show is documentary or scripted entertainment.

In the episode entitled "School House Haunting," which first aired on January 28, 2008 the "client" whose home the team investigated was Shannon Sylvia, a cast member of another paranormal show, Ghost Hunters International. On January 29, 2008, Ryan Buell posted an entry to his blog on the Official Penn State Paranormal Research Society website concerning his view of psychics and, in particular, the inclusion of psychic Chip Coffey on the show.[23] In the comment section of the blog, several people questioned Sylvia's inclusion in the series, asking why a high-profile paranormal investigator would hire the Penn State Paranormal Research Society to investigate her property when she essentially has a team of her own. Later on she declared members of TAPS as well as other high profile investigators have indeed investigated her home and were pleased with the EVP results. Though, in his blog, Buell mentions that it was his visit which brought her into the study of the supernatural as an investigator herself.[24]

There has also been some speculation as to the fabrication of entire episodes on the website GhostTheory, after a family that appeared on the show came forward to voice their experiences working with the cast members.[25]. However, it must be noted that the claim of falsification is solely based on opinion. The accusations made by the skeptics and the family (mainly a woman named Kelli) offer no hard facts. The article on GhostTheory is nothing more than testimony based on her word alone, thus making it a he-said/she-said debacle. One of her claims is that the two mediums on the show, Chip Coffey and Michelle Belanger, fought with each other throughout the entire investigation. On "Darkness Radio," both Chip and Michelle went on-air together to laugh off the claims as purely fictional. The community at large viewed this "controversy" as unreliable (see Discussion of Controversy) and ultimately judged it as a publicity stunt from Kelli, who soon after tried to promote herself as a professional psychic. She and the author of the article were accused of lying in order to gain publicity, and both have since disappeared from the public light.

The web site Paranormal State Illustrated dissects scenes and has proven instances of fabrications, falsifications and misinformation presented on the show. When the Webmaster of ParanormalStateIllustrated.com cannot prove wrongdoing, he will use a phrase such as "It is my opinion..." to describe a questionable occurrence.

References

  1. ^ "Paranormal State on freebase". http://www.freebase.com/view/en/paranormal_state. Retrieved 2009-05-27. 
  2. ^ a b Martin, Denise. "Reality Sets in for New A&E Series." Variety. March 13, 2006.
  3. ^ a b c d Lowry, Brian. "Paranormal State." Variety. December 9, 2007.
  4. ^ Hughes, Elaine. "A&E Begins Filming Paranormal Show." Penn State Daily Collegian. Nov. 10, 2006.
  5. ^ a b c Owen, Rob. "Ghost-Hunting Is All in a Normal Day's Work for Penn State Researcher." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. December 9, 2007.
  6. ^ a b c Becker, Anne. "Networks' Scary Strategy." Broadcasting & Cable. December 10, 2007.
  7. ^ a b c Nordyke, Kimberly. "Some Freaky Goings-On in A&E's 'Paranormal State'." Hollywood Reporter. December 17, 2007.
  8. ^ Hughes, Elaine. "Club May Get TV Exposure." Penn State Daily Collegian. April 6, 2006.
  9. ^ Scrabis, Johanna. "Paranormal TV Series to Investigate Ghosts, Myths." Penn State Daily Collegian. February 5, 2007.
  10. ^ Levin, Gary. "Nielsens: 'The Hills' has Millions of Eyes." USA Today. December 18, 2007.
  11. ^ a b Dempsey, John. "'Paranormal State' Intrigues Viewers." Variety. December 11, 2007.
  12. ^ Elkin, Michael. "Ghost Listeners." Jewish Exponent. December 27, 2007.
  13. ^ a b Toby, Mekeisha Madden. "'Paranormal': It's a Real Ghostbusters." Detroit News. December 10, 2007.
  14. ^ a b Owen, Rob. "Penn State's Double Dose of National Media Exposure." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. December 5, 2007.
  15. ^ Hewitt, Michael. "The Best and Worst Shows of 2007." Orange County Register. December 25, 2007.
  16. ^ a b c Genzlinger, Neil. "Television Review: 'Paranormal State'." New York Times. December 16, 2007.
  17. ^ a b Weprin, Alex. "'Paranormal State' Undermines Own Concept." Broadcasting & Cable. December 14, 2007.
  18. ^ a b c Peterson, Karla. "The Difference Between Fright and Wrong." San Diego Union-Tribune. December 10, 2007.
  19. ^ Perigard, Mark A. "'Paranormal' Doesn't Stand a Ghost of a Chance." Boston Herald. December 10, 2007.
  20. ^ Mindlin, Alex. "For Your Ears Only." New York Times. December 9, 2007.
  21. ^ IMDb page.
  22. ^ Buell, Ryan "Ask RYAN BUELL a question..." Penn State Paranormal Research Society Forums January 3, 2008.
  23. ^ Concerning Psychics & Chip Coffey.
  24. ^ Episode Post-Mortem: Schoolhouse Haunting
  25. ^ [1]

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