‘Ghosted’ And The Power Of Tone

by Frank Martin

Tone is an unsung hero in the realm of storytelling. It’s often taken for granted as it is usually built right into the genre. A comedy. A horror. A romance. It’s hard to separate the tone of a story from its genre, and it’s something that I talk about often as, sometimes, it’s necessary to get just the right tone in order to make a story work. We see this in great series like Cobra Kai. But it’s often helpful to view other less successful series in order to analyze the power of tone and how it can be utilized to tell a story.

A great example of this is the Fox supernatural sitcom Ghosted. It wasn’t a huge success and did not get renewed for a second season, but the show still can still be a lesson in tone. The series was laid out in a buddy cop format starring Craig Robinson and Adam Scott as a supernatural skeptic and believer, respectively. They are recruited by a secret government agency whose mission is to stop supernatural disasters.

Of course, the cult hit X-Files comes to mind when you hear the premise. But where that show is a serious drama, thriller, and often horror, Ghosted is a straight comedy. It makes no qualms about being anything else. Yet, interestingly, the premise of each episode is grounded in straight-up horror. A hayride haunted by ghosts. An evil businessman who steals people’s blood for immortality. A devious A.I. hellbent on taking over everything. These are all ideas that could be used as the foundation to a horror story. In fact, these all probably were horror stories at one time. But through the simple use of tone, these concepts are turned completely around for laughs.

This might seem simple to someone not interested in storytelling. Yes, anything could be a comedy if you just make it funny. But if you want to be a storyteller, it is important to understand the vital role each building block of storytelling takes. And when it comes to tone, it could change everything.

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