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Eliza DushkuEliza Dushku - "Tru Calling" Tv Series - A Star Vehicle That’s Catching Up To Its Star
Monday 15 December 2003, by Webmaster
“Tru Calling” - A Star Vehicle That’s Catching Up To Its Star
Despite an overcrowded pilot and a couple of shaky episodes, "Tru Calling" is showing significant signs of improvement - to the point where it is now a better bet than most of its creaky competition on Thursday nights.
Tru Davies has a problem. She works graveyards in a morgue, and every so often, one of the bodies she prepares for autopsy asks for her help. Then, she wakes up and replays the previous day - hopefully saving the person whose body she saw the previous night. “Tru Calling” is a mix of “Early Edition”, “Groundhog Day” and a dash of “Run, Lola, Run” - pun intended - with Davies, a poor, university grad, running everywhere in her effort to save lives.
The pilot episode introduced Tru [Eliza Dushku] and her siblings, Harrison [Shawn Reaves], who has a gambling problem, and Meredith [Jessica Collins] whose addiction is cocaine. We also meet her best friend, Lindsay [A.J. Cook], and Davis [Zach Galifianakis], the guy who hires her at the morgue. It also gave her her first “assignment”, a young lady who turned up at the morgue looking like she had been executed.
Between Tru’s backstory [she witnessed her mother’s murder, ten years before, and couldn’t do anything to prevent it], and setting up her relationships with her siblings, best friend, and boyfriend [a weasel who, thankfully, was gone after the second ep], there was enough material for a one-hour drama - but we got her first talking corpse along with two red herrings, before we got to the big finish. It was, frankly far too much material - a ninety-minute pilot would have been much better.
And then there were the intros and extros to each act - a kaleidoscope of images run at a near strobe light intensity that could cause seizures in any epileptics unlucky enough to be watching.
Fortunately, with all the necessary exposition done in the pilot, subsequent episodes have been lean enough that they have been able to tell good, solid stories. Indeed, each new episode has been an improvement over the last until, finally, the show has become almost worthy of its star - and make no mistake about it, Ms Dushku is going to be a star.
The cast has terrific chemistry and the scripts have gotten much tighter. Even the intros and extros have been scaled back to the point where they are merely annoying - not hazardous to your health. Tru’s siblings have had some good moments. Harrison is deserving of special mention because Tru has confided in him and he keeps trying to get her prove it - despite her having done so a number of times [of course his idea of proof is getting the winning ponies for the day’s races…]. Shawn Reaves makes Harrison a charming scam artist/gambler, but also lets his real feelings for Tru come through in unguarded moments.
While Jessica Collins hasn’t had as much screentime as Reaves, her ambitious but slowly failing Meredith is an intriguing character. I expect a major plot arc to come of her drug problem. A.J. Cook, on the other hand, has a bubbly cheerful presence that adds most of the show’s comic relief, though she has helped Tru with her computer skills during a few tense moments. Along the way, there have been hints that Tru’s new “gift” might have been provided through the aid of her late mother, but cryptic comments from Davis have suggested that he is aware of what’s going on with Tru - until, in the latest ep, “Haunted”, he comes right out and says so - in so many words.
Zach Galifianakis is terrific as the slightly portly, generally preoccupied Davis. His responses to Tru’s requests for the most unusual information are so matter-of-fact that you get the feeling he knows something - especially when you consider that her questions are about bullet wounds, poisons, and other rather specialized subjects.
In the end, though, this is Eliza Dushku’s show and she really shines as Tru. She captures Tru’s slightly renegade personality and her emotional conflicts with her new gift - her bewilderment and confusion, the first time it happens, are palpable. She also convincingly shows Tru’s love for, and frustration with her siblings. As the show improves, Ms Dushku shows herself to up to the increasing quality in the writing - especially in her interaction with Davis.
In terms of production values, “Tru Calling” has been first-rate since the pilot. The technical aspects of the show [direction, photography, editing, performance] have been excellent. The problem has been the writing. The pilot was filled, way past overflowing, with plot and character arcs - with the result that we got all the exposition we needed to set up the series, but no one arc got enough time to feel real.
After five eps, the show has pared down the arcs, and developed the characters to the point that it is making some serious gains, quality-wise. The series has another point in its favor - FOX, showing uncharacteristic patience, has picked it up for a full season. This gives “Tru” the opportunity to continue to grow.
For now, “Tru Calling” is a marginal show that is being carried along by its cast and an intriguing variety of deaths for Tru to undo. Given the show’s pilot, one might have figured the show would be axed early and be quickly forgotten. Instead, with FOX’s patience, the show has grown and shows signs of continuing to do so. It’s also preferable to a lot of Thursday night’s creaky old shows. Final Grade Somewhere between B- and C+