Tru Calling: Season 1
November 22, 2005
Phillip Noyce, Thomas J. Wright, Paul Shapiro, Jeff Woolnough, Dave Barrett, Jesus Trevino,
Starring: Eliza Dushku, Shawn Reaves, Zach Galifianakis, A.J. Cook, Jessica Collins, Benjamin Benitez, Matthew Bomer, Jason Priestley, ,
So you’re a co-star in one of the most successful TV shows of all time that’s just finished after seven years. Do you A) do your own spin-off series, or B) take the lead in a brand new project? For Buffy regular Eliza Dushku it seems taking the plunge into the unknown was the right move because, while Tru Calling lacks an original premise (girl re-lives days to prevent deaths), it does what it does very well, offering up some clever late surprises in the season and concentrating on character over flashy effects.
Tru Davies (no really, that’s her name, else there’d be no witty title) is a Bostonian med-student who takes a less-than-desirable job at the local morgue to boost her grades and finds herself being asked by corpses to prevent their perishing. The day rewinds and Tru must use her wits to discover who the impending corpse is and how they’ll buy the farm. This set-up does get a little repetitive but there’s enough mileage in the supporting characters to keep things going. There’s Tru’s wheeler-dealer brother Harrison, who’s never without a deck of cards or a pint in his hand, ex-druggie sister Meredith and shopaholic best friend Lindsay. Not to mention conveniently-hunky crime scene photographer boyfriend Luke, who quickly gets a headache about Tru’s impromptu Clark Kent disappearances.
So it’s Columbo meets Beverly Hills 90210 meets Groundhog Day. Natch. Every mythical superhero needs a guide and here it comes courtesy of kooky morgue supervisor Davis, the first person to discover Tru’s strange gift and steer her along the right path as her mentor. But does he know more than he’s letting on?
Dushku has a certain energy that isn’t really utilised here as goody-goody-two-shoes Tru, yet she remains an engaging presence throughout, delivering the odd absurd line with a directness that demands respect if not believability. You can also tell the producers are aware of her male fanbase, hence we get a bounty of glorious running shots, undercover costume changes (a nurses uniform no less) and our Tru is even in a beauty-pageant that turns into a murder mystery. Zach Galifianakis perhaps gets the most mileage out of his sociopathic character Davis, one minute a wise father-figure, the next an uncomfortable super geek (witness his date with Tru’s sister where he spends his time discussing Lord of the Rings). Brother Harrison grates at first but his obnoxiousness gradually grows on you and as for sister Meredith…she seems to vanish half way through the series as if the writers got bored of her.
Just when you start to feel the storylines are repeating themselves as often as Tru is re-living days, the writers reveal tantalising tidbits about Tru’s past that make you realise there’s more to this than random deaths (who says Tru is the first person to have this ‘gift’?) and it draws you in ever deeper, introducing a late new character (an oddly laconic Jason Priestly) to stir things up on a grand scale ready for season two, which is just the breakout scenario the show needs.
Apart from the numerous deleted scenes we get an awful music video of the opening theme song and four featurettes: ‘Finding the Calling – The Pilot’, ‘The Tru Path – Season 1’, ‘Evil Comes Calling’ and ‘The Making of Tru Calling’, each comprised of approximately ten minutes of interviews with the cast and writers. To round things off there are audio commentaries on key episodes from creator Jon Harman Feldman and actors Eliza Dushku, Jason Priestly and Zach Galifianakis. This is a solid, if unsurprising package, but the show itself has just enough tricks up its sleeve to keep you enthralled. Watch out for the second and final series.