Saturday , March 2 2024
Eliza Dushku talks to dead people. . .

Tru Calling

Fox may’ve blown it again this year with its scheduling of The Simpsons’ annual Halloween anthology, but at least they got the timing right for its new Tru Calling. A night in the city morgue with former slayer badgrrl Eliza Dushku? What could be more pre-Halloween?
On the basis of its Thursday premiere, though, it looks as if we won’t be spending all that much time in cadaver town: heroine Tru Davies spends more time on the street doing Run Tru Run than communing with dead people. As written by Jon Feldman, Tru Calling is a mystery in reverse. Spunky college grad Dushku, in order to pay for med school, gets a job as forensic attendant in the city morgue. Basically, the job entails charting bodies and checking personal possessions of incoming stiffs who’ve all died “unnatural deaths.” But somehow Tru (who once heard her murdered mother speak to her) has gained the ability to heard the pleas of these newly deceased – and travel back one day to prevent their untimely demise.
“Why do they come to me?” our heroine asks her ne’er-do-well gambler brother. “Maybe because they know you’ll listen,” her brother replies. Which is all the explanation we’re given. While Joan of Arcadia at least has a chatty deity to fall back on, the source of Tru’s powers is unexplained (though a couple of times she wonders aloud if her late mother isn’t somehow involved). Me, I have no difficulty buying the talks-to-dead-people bizness; it’s the traveling-back-in-time bit that strains credulity.
The way director Phillip (Dead Calm) Noyce directs the trip in time is kinda sharp, though: a barrage of jump cuts replaying snippets of the day we’ve already seen. As a technique it makes more sense than the pointlessly showy fastforwarding we got on Fox’s Keen Eddie. In addition to saving the lives of her new dead pals, Tru’s time traveling gives her opportunity to improve her own life – and the lives of her family and friends. She pulls her brother out of a deadly poker game to give him a winning ten of clubs; she tries to waylay the delivery of cocaine to her insufficiently rehabbed sister. Feldman & Noyce openly acknowledge the replay-yer-day plot’s debt to Groundhog Day: both mornings we see Tru wake to a clock radio playing the same tune – only instead of Sonny & Cher, it’s the Donnas.

Tru’s first conversation with the morgue dead is a brief ‘un. Left on the job by herself, she hears whispering coming from the crypt. She opens drawers until she comes upon the body of a gunshot victim who’s just come in that night: the blond turns her head, looks into Tru’s eyes and croaks, “Help me!” That’s it? (So what’s with all the other whispering if that’s all she’s gonna say?) Tru quickly closes the drawer, and it isn’t until she wakes up to replay her day – and sees the same girl alive and walking to work – that she realizes what she’s supposed to do. She follows and investigates the victim-to-be, learning that she has two ex-boyfriends, then she spends the rest of the episode running back and forth through the city, trying to suss out which of the two’ll try and shoot the girl.
Not bad for an opening ep, but if they expect to keep our interest for a full season, they’d better make the dead less tight-lipped, downplay the family soapsuds and give Dushku (so entertainingly hard-nosed in her role on Buffy, the Vampire Slayer) more to do than sprint all over the place. Considering Fox’s weak-assed history supporting fantasy series, one can only hope the show’s writers pull it together quickly. In network TV, do-overs come few and far between.

About Bill Sherman

Bill Sherman is a Books editor for Blogcritics. With his lovely wife Rebecca Fox, he has co-authored a light-hearted fat acceptance romance entitled Measure By Measure.

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