Times Staff Writer

"We're going ghost hunting, Jack!"

That line pretty much sums up the premise of "Shadow Chasers," a new series that ABC is launching at 8 tonight (Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42). The title is especially apt considering its scheduling--in the long shadow behind NBC's runaway hit "The Cosby Show."

"Shadow Chasers" is sure to be accused of imitating "Ghostbusters," but its two principal characters are investigators, not eradicators, of unexplained phenomena, and as such are traveling TV pathways that have been trod before by such series as "The Sixth Sense" in 1972 and "Project UFO" in 1978.

What differentiates this show from the earlier forays into the occult is its sense of humor. Rather than the zaniness of "Ghostbusters," though, the comedy is much more akin to that of another ABC series, "Moonlighting," with a goofy relationship at its core between Trevor Eve as a straight-laced anthropology professor and Dennis Dugan as a brash, seedy hypester who writes for a national tabloid.

At two hours, tonight's first episode stretches the light-hearted premise beyond its capabilities as the newly formed team looks into the terrorizing of a small-town neighborhood by what appears to be a ghost. But the characters are engaging and there are enough suitably weird slamming doors, falling statues and flying chairs to give the show a promising sense of suspense and fun.

Most encouragingly, under the capable guidance of writer, director and co-executive producer Kenneth Johnson, "Shadow Chasers" avoids falling into the trap of being silly or condescending. As he has done before with "The Bionic Woman," "The Incredible Hulk" and the original miniseries "V," Johnson makes a comic-book theme palatable by building stories around real issues of the day--as in tonight's show, which hangs on a boy's guilt and anger over his father's death.

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