Bringing You the Daily Dispatch

Dead Boy Detectives: this ghost sleuth show is silly, spooky and wicked fun
Culture TV and Radio

Dead Boy Detectives: this ghost sleuth show is silly, spooky and wicked fun

Ever since I smoked my first cigarette (aged 29), I have been glad to no longer be young. It seems very tiresome, very intense. There are a lot of things you need to keep tabs on. Being young means knowing what side of all this Drake beef you need to be on, or paying attention to New Music Friday. You need to develop a special technique so you can vape in public without getting in trouble for vaping in public. Big jumpers, the Sidemen. Steven Bartlett is always trying to sell you Huel. Not for me, thanks. I’m 36 and, culturally, I may as well be dead. I’m here instead Googling “stocks and shares ISA for normal people or do you have to be a sort of … what is stocks and shares ISA?”.

Anyway! Something else for young people, now. It’s called Dead Boy Detectives and it’s on Netflix (from 25 April), and there’s a very real chance that if you’re reading a column in the Guardian then, and I mean this nicely, it’s not going to be for you. But I am here to tell you that the young person TV show is actually really fun, and possibly very much worth your time, as long as you don’t make the grave error of taking it too seriously.

What is Dead Boy Detectives? Well, you’ve got two (and it says here “teenaged”) ghosts – waspish 1916-era boarding school murder victim and brains of the outfit Edwin Paine (George Rexstrew) and cocksure 80s earring-haver Charles Rowland (Jayden Revri) – and they are lingering in the veil between life and death because they have some unfinished business to resolve. What that has meant so far is that they have started a detective agency and do some otherworldly detectiving. Cursed masks, ghost children with friends who are psychics, etc, etc. Your usual ghost detective fare. I have to say, as a concept, I love it – they’re dead, they have access to magic, let’s see what goes wrong – and would have been very up for a straightforward case-of-the-week format. But what Dead Boy Detectives does right is pull a thread of a story through all the “cats who can talk” and “roommate with a curse” that keeps the whole thing whirring along. There are about 900 different sets in the first episode alone. You just keep seeing new, dazzling, interesting things. You barely need to look at TikTok at all while you’re watching it.

Dead Boy Detectives is a sort of spin-off of 2022’s The Sandman (it is similarly based on DC Comics characters invented by Neil Gaiman), and that, I think, is what keeps it interesting. I have made the mistake recently of watching the latter seasons of Silicon Valley (at this point getting to the finale is a war of attrition I am waging solely against myself, for reasons I cannot qualify as viable), and that show keeps doing the same storyline trick: Richard jolts into a room, announces there’s been a huge balls-up that threatens the future of their company for ever, 21 minutes go by, and some magic stroke of luck resolves everything and nobody ever mentions it again (the format worked early on in the show, when they remembered to make jokes, but wears very thin by season six). Dead Boy Detectives could easily have fallen victim to this – here’s a god-king, look! I hope you didn’t see a flash of the only weapon that could defeat him in the very first scene of the episode. Oh wait, you did? Well – but it remembers to be smarter than that. Yes, there is a magic backpack and for some reason one of the characters always carries a cricket bat around. But it’s fun, OK? It doesn’t matter.

The very first scene of Dead Boy Detectives is, well, bad. The two leads are running away from a ghost in a cursed gas mask, and they keep doing repartee at each other that seems as if it was written by an AI trained only on BuzzFeed quizzes, and doing the cardinal sin of overexplaining the lore and the magic all while the chase is going on (“Cor, I hope this ghost in the cursed gas mask doesn’t catch us! ’Ere, quick, let’s have a dive into this mirror … I’m also a ghost, by the way”) but by the end of the episode the script and the actors have found their rhythm and there’s a lot of silly, spooky, wicked fun to be had. Tumblr has been needing a magical mystery-solving hour-long show with two handsome leads doing banter since Supernatural ended in 2020, and I do think Dead Boy Detectives can fill that void. But if you have no idea what that sentence means, maybe stick to something older. Countdown’s on in a minute!

Source: theguardian.com