Paranormal State



10 p.m. Monday, Dec. 10

With its whiff of academia and its occasional use of scientific instruments, "Paranormal State" sets a new standard for reality shows that suggest -- but never really prove -- that there are all kinds of spooks, spirits, ghosts and demons out there who get their posthumous kicks by tormenting the living.

This series has a semi-academic gloss because Ryan Buell, the deathly serious leader of the investigating team, and his college-age followers, are students at Penn State. In the end, though, Buell resolves the problem with a good old-fashioned prayer session, a priestly house cleaning or consultations with a medium or demonologist. Apparently, scientific methods can only get you so far when it comes to defeating those pesky evil spirits.

My favorite parts are when Buell whispers his observations because, presumably, the spirits might overhear him and get upset that he is talking about them behind their invisible backs.

In the first two episodes, Buell and his ghostbusters learn that problems, from black mists to mysterious children's laughter, all arose right after the current occupants settled into their home. The obvious answer: Move. But that would leave "Paranormal State" without the grainy film and special effects needed to suggest Buell and company are truly masters of the paranormal and, ultimately, ready for book tours and expensive consultations.