TRU CALLING: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON
Directed by Various
Produced by Various
Written by Various
Director of Photograpy Robert McLachlan & David Moxness
Music by Robert Duncan, Joe Ehrlich
Cast: Eliza Dushku, Zach Galifianakis, Shawn Reaves, A.J. Cooke, Matthew Bomer & Jason Priestley
2003/880 mins/Color/Dolby Surround
1.78:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment DVD
Type-casting is something that many actors claim they want to avoid. Still, being pigeon-holed into a certain type of role is a reality and it can have an effect on both the actor and the audience. For example, I've never been a big fan of Eliza Dushku. The slutty tough-girl persona that she showed on BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and in films such as BRING IT ON and WRONG TURN did nothing at all for me and I found her bluster to be quite annoying. So, it was with great trepidation that I approached TRU CALLING. Could I tolerate Ms. Dushku starring in her own series? As it happens, the actress has more range than I'd ever expected and she's been placed into a particularly addictive show.
Dushku stars in TRU CALLING as Tru Davies (I can only assume that Tru is short for "Trudy", as it's never explained in the show.), an independent young woman who has just graduated from college. This is quite an accomplishment, as Tru has had a tough life. At the age of 12, she witnessed the murder of her mother. At the funeral, Tru was convinced that she heard her mother's voice coming from the corpse. Soon after that, her father abandoned his family, and Tru and her siblings -- older sister Meredith (Jessica Collins), now a lawyer, and younger brother Harrison (Shawn Reaves), a professional gambler and hustler -- have been forced to rely on one-another for support. But, now that Tru is a college graduate, she can begin her internship at a nearby hospital and be on her way to medical school. However, the internship falls through and Tru is referred to the city morgue, where she takes a job working for the enigmatic Davis (Zach Galifianakis). While this isn't the job that she's hoped for, Tru still feels that the medical experience while look good on her applications.
Things in the morgue take a turn for the bizarre when the first corpse that Tru begins to work on suddenly opens it eyes and asks for help. Tru then finds herself taken back through time to the beginning of that day. Now she faces a race against time to find and save the victim. This becomes a recurring pattern for Tru and she quickly discovers that she must learn as much as possible about each corpse that comes into the morgue, as she'll need those clues to find and help the person. She must do this without appearing to be psychotic. She confides in Davis and Harrison, who often assist her in her endeavors, but keeps the trust from her best friend, Lindsay (A.J. Cook) and her sometimes boyfriend, Luc (Matthew Bomer). As Tru begins to cope with her power, she learns that she may not be the only person who can re-live days.
To say that TRU CALLING is an original show would be an untruth. The premise mixes parts of EARLY EDITION, GROUNDHOG DAY, and THE X-FILES. And this isn't the show's only problem. While our familiarity with the subject-matter allows us to easily swallow the plot, many of Tru's actions must be taken with a grain of salt. She goes to some incredible lengths to save some of the victims (see the episode "Past Tense") and one has to question the reality of her resolve. Also, when she save these characters from their doom, most of them never stop to quiz her on exactly who she is and how she knew to be in the right place at the right time. (There's nothing wrong with being grateful, but this is totally unrealistic.) And my biggest complaint, albeit a weird one, no one ever questions her name! If you met someone named "Tru" wouldn't you ask them where that name came from.
Despite these problem, and my odd ranting, series creator Jon Harmon Feldman and his team has managed to take the familiar ingredients found in the show's premise and cook up an intriguing series. One of the things that I found most endearing about TRU CALLING was the fact that the show realizes that its basically a one-note program. And in the first few episodes, we get the same thing over and over; a corpse asks Tru for help and Tru spends the next 30 minutes trying to save the person. But, as the series progresses, the writers begin to throw curve balls at the audience and they tweak this formula, by having the obvious cause of death be a red herring or misleading Tru (and us) as to the circumstances involving the death. This helps to keep Tru on her toes and the audience interested. As the individual episodes begin to vary in their stories, the show also develops a story arc involving Tru's past and Davis' knowledge of her powers. During this time, the program takes its time in developing its characters as well, giving all of the major players time to evolve. The show takes on a new twist when Jason Priestley joins the show as Jack Harper, a morgue attendant who harbors a dark secret. This pumps new blood into the show and makes the last 7 episodes very exciting. The season finale is quite good, as it presents an emotional story and opens many new questions for Season 2.
And as for Eliza Dushku, she's redeemed herself with this character. Gone is the brash egotistical nature seen in her other roles, having been replaced by a young woman who has confidence, but is also very confused by what's going on in her life. While this new side of Dushku dominates the role, there are definitely some moments where she reminded me of Faith from BUFFY, especially when she refers to Davis as "D". It should be noted that her wardrobe hasn't changed much from her previous roles. I enjoyed the irony of the episode where she gave Harrison advice on her to dress appropriately and then she attempts to wander into a military hospital wearing some questionable casual-wear.
While TRU CALLING isn't perfect, it's that rare show which transcends genres. The fact that corpses talk to the main character immediately put the show into the realm of horror or the supernatural, but it also contains elements of action, drama, romance, and suspense. The only thing that the show could have used more of is comedy, as many episodes (see "The Longest Day") are very depressing. With the dearth of reality shows on TV today, compelling series are a rarity and TRU CALLING is worth checking out.
TRU CALLING: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON rises from the slab onto DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The 6-disc boxed set contains all 20 episodes from the show's first season. The episodes have been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. For the most part, the image is sharp and clear. The show is especially dark at times, and these dark moments can show some noticeable grain. Also, some shots look slightly blurry. But, on the positive side, the colors look good and there are no overt signs of edge-enhancement or artifacting. The DVDs carry a Dolby Surround audio track. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects with no overt defects. As with the BUFFY DVDs, the audio is very impressive, as the track provides generous stereo and surround effects. There is also a nice amount of bass from the front speakers. This gives ambience to the show and sounds better than some 5.1 tracks.
The TRU CALLING boxed set contains a nice assortment of extras. Six episodes feature audio commentaries featuring series creator Jon Harmon Feldman. Also appearing with Feldman on the various commentaries are executive producer Dawn Parouse, actors Eliza Dushku, Shawn Reaves, and Zach Galifianakis. These commentaries, especially those with the cast, are fun and informative, as they discuss the making of the show, as well as their experiences working in Vancouver, where the series was shot. They touch on the casting, the sets, the music, and the storylines from the shows. The rest of the extras are found on Disc 6. There are three featurettes on the DVD. In "Finding the Calling: The Pilot" (11 minutes), Feldman and Parouse discuss the origins of the show and how they brought it to the networks. There are comments from Dushku, Reaves, and Galifianakis who discuss their characters. "The Tru Path: Season One" (8 minutes) gives an overview of the season with comments from the cast and crew who touch on favorite episodes. Jason Priestley's Jack Harper character is profiled in "Evil Comes Calling: A Late Season Twist" (7 minutes). The interesting thing here is that the speakers talk as if Season 2 is a given, although Fox has been dodgy on when the show will come back. The final extra is a music video for the show's theme song "Somebody Help Me" by Full Blown Rose.
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Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2004. ©