The CW's 'P.E.T. Squad Files' From Milo Ventimiglia Spoofs the Paranormal TV Genre
How did co-creators and stars Michael Hobert and John Dale come up with the digital series, about a dysfunctional team of ghost hunters? By watching "Ghost Adventures."
The CW's digital hub, The CW Seed, launches Thursday with a new original series that parodies the popular ghost hunters genre.
The P.E.T. Squad Files (P.E.T. is short for Paranormal and Extra-Terrestrial activity), executive produced by Heroes alum Milo Ventimiglia, chronicles the misadventures of a group of former community college students, led by a trust-fund baby with aspirations of being on-camera and a former ROTC guy hooked on finding actual aberrations, who search for paranormal and extra-terrestrial activity in a mockumentary style. The premise for the comedy series was originally inspired by Syfy's Ghost Hunters.
"[Co-creator Michael Hobert and I] saw all of the ghost shows on television and saw how they've been on TV for 20 years — maybe less — but there's still people trying to find and document the actual existence of ghosts and no one's ever found the f---ing ghost," co-creator John Dale tells The Hollywood Reporter, who along with Hobert play the two main investigators (they also happen to be adversaries).
The unscripted paranormal shows lent themselves to being spoofed — with Dale and Hobert adding their own twist, of course. "They were just begging to be parodied, so we took our spin on it and added an alien element, which is funny enough on its own," Dale says.
Ideas for the bite-sized installments flowed relatively easily but when they did hit a wall creatively, all they had to do was turn on the TV. "We'd watch three episodes of [Travel Channel's] Ghost Adventures and say, 'Oh, there's a storyline!' " Dale says, with Hobert chiming in that a whole season could be born out of an hour of television.
They recalled watching Ghost Adventures thinking how "ridiculous" the situations were, with one of the lead characters of P.E.T. Squad almost a carbon copy of Ghost Adventures star Zack Bagans — a happy accident the duo assure. "We realized that we had parodied him without ever seeing the show," Dale says. "Now we can take from him what he's already given us."
Situations that the P.E.T. Squad find themselves in include a haunting on a farm, an alien abduction, an exorcism and lockdowns, where paranormal investigators lock themselves into a haunted site through the night. Where some of the humor in the P.E.T. Squad comes from, Dale says, is how easily the team "could probably be finding ghosts if we had the wherewithal of how to do it."
When Ventimiglia, who has been backing digital series as of late (he produced and starred in the first season of Crackle's scripted effort Chosen), was shown Dale and Hobert's three-minute short, he was immediately sold. (Dale says they had originally shot more than 20 minutes, whittling it down to a manageable, web-friendly length for pitch.)
It was Ventimiglia and producing partner Russ Cundiff's connections that ultimately brought the project to The CW Seed. "It's easily digestible content," Ventimiglia tells THR of why he chose to support P.E.T. Squad. Cundiff notes the differences between the web and TV: "Digital is definitely different from television. You can't make a verbatim television show [but] you can make something close." For Ventimiglia, who watches everything online, his excitement in the digital space was apparent, noting that the Internet "is a great space to play in."
Dale and Hobert were hopeful that they could continue P.E.T. Squad, saying they have much more story to mine. And they're already thinking about new genres to possibly parody in the future. "I just told them one the other day," Dale shares, with Ventimiglia throwing out the idea of spoofing romance novel: "Like Fabio on the cover! Real juicy [stuff]."
The P.E.T. Squad Files premieres Thursday on The CW Seed.