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Eliza DushkuEliza Dushku - ’Tru Calling’ It As An ’A’ For Effort
By Scott Nance
Wednesday 13 April 2005, by Webmaster
I’ll admit it: It’s not the greatest series on television. It’s not slickly produced. Its scripts can lapse into stilted dialogue — the same sort of not-quite-right, slightly too formalistic speech that’s more common to soap operas. And the acting on the part of some of the secondary players seems occasionally wooden.
I want upfront to dispense with the reasons folks will come up with not to like "Tru Calling." Because for all of those, the fact remains it’s a quality series, and one — had Fox stuck with it — that could have only gotten better with time.
The series stars former "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" bad girl Eliza Dushku as Tru Davies, a morgue worker where dead bodies ask for her help, and she obliges them by reliving days over again to put right what had gone wrong.
"Tru Calling" is something of the red-headed stepchild of the "greater Whedonverse." Tim Minear’s series "Wonderfalls" died more quickly than "Tru," but "Wonderfalls" had the benefit of being called quirky and becoming a darling of the critics.
By contrast, "Tru Calling" just sort of sailed under the radar for an entire first season, and briefly started production on a second until Fox ultimately pulled the plug. It was never "hip" the way "Wonderfalls" had been.
Nevertheless, Fox’s recent decision to bring out of mothballs the six previously unaired hours of "Tru"’s abortive second season is bittersweet, because it’s great to see more "Tru," but sad to know this is the last of it.
Watching these episodes, it’s clear that "Tru Calling" is a real "coulda, woulda, shoulda" story.
This could of really been a good series, especially since fellow Buffy alum Jane Espenson had just joined it as co-executive producer just before Fox decided to give it the ax. The involvement of Espenson, one of the most talented acolytes of Joss Whedon, presaged real potential for growth. Espenson wrote last week’s episode, "In The Dark," one of the best of the series so far.
It would have been great to watch the introduction of Jason Priestley as Jack, who has become a dark nemesis to Tru’s do-gooder. (In "Tru Calling," it’s great to see both Dushku and Priestley play against type. Dushku is best known as Faith, the rogue Slayer on "Buffy," while Priestley is remembered as good-boy Brandon Walsh on "Beverly Hills 90210.")
And all of this potential should have come to pass, if only Fox had given the show the time and support it needed to reach its stride.
"Tru Calling" clearly has its faults, but in general they aren’t the result of laziness. If anything, a real sense of making an effort, of trying for quality, shines through even the show’s warts.
Ms. Dushku, especially, should be singled out for applause. She clearly put her best foot forward week in and week out on this series. She particularly deserves credit for moving up from what had been an important, secondary, part as Faith on "Buffy" and "Angel," to taking the lead role on "Tru Calling." The series’ successes often rested squarely on her attractive shoulders.
"Tru Calling" is the television equivalent of a piece of handmade furniture, in which you can see individual imperfections, but taken as a whole, it’s obvious that it was put together by people who give a damn and not by a slick, mass-producing corporation.
The complete first season is already available on DVD, and must be selling at least somewhat well, judging from the fact that I bought mine at such a mass-market, mainstream store as my local Target.
Fox has been airing the last handful of episodes Thursday nights at 9 p.m. ET. Like the series itself, its ratings have been decent, but not great. But that’s with just minimal support and promotion on the part of Fox.
I wish I could tell you that if we fans could give the ratings a spike, there is even a glimmer of a chance that the network may once again pick up the series. But I can’t: I’ve been told Dusku has moved on to other projects. The train’s already left the station on this one.
So watch now to see what coulda, woulda, shoulda been before it’s really gone for good. Other than that, we can only hope Fox decides to put these six episodes of the "second season" on DVD, as well.