When BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER shuffled off TV? mortal coil a couple of years back, rumours were rife that Eliza Dushku was going to topline a spin-off series centring on the exploits of Faith, the morally-ambiguous ?ad girl?Slayer she? played in both BUFFY and sister show ANGEL for four years or more. Apparently BUFFY creator Joss Whedon had some preliminary discussions with Dushku but the project faded away when the actress decided to take, in her words, ?he road less travelled?and signed up for her own brand new fantasy show, the time-travel death-defying TRU CALLING. Bad move, grizzled BUFFY fans (me included). It seems we were right as, after one twenty-episode season and a curtailed six-episode second run, TRU CALLING bit the dust, vanishing into the ether just like other post-BUFFY girl-empowerment shows like DARK ANGEL and BIRDS OF PREY. But now, having had the chance to actually watch TRU CALLING, courtesy of this smart box set of every episode, I? happy to stand up and announce that, given the choice between a Faith series and another batch of TRU CALLING episodes, my vote? with Tru.

The premise of TRU CALLING seems desperately derivative and eye-rollingly familiar. Sultry Dushku plays Tru Davies, a biology student who takes up what she hopes is going to be a temporary job at the city Morgue (the city being Los Angeles, played as usual by a very damp Vancouver). Her supervisor is the creepy, geeky Davies (Galifianakis) – no relation. Tru quickly discovers she has a pretty remarkable ability. Stiffs in the morgue have a tendency to come alive and ask her for help – and when they do she? sent hurtling back in time twenty-four hours. She realises that her destiny is to change history, to save the person who? died. The murder mystery of the pilot episode plays itself out predictably enough and it? hard to see quite where this show can go if it? to avoid repetition. TRU CALLING quickly veers away from the repetitive nature of its first few stand-alone episodes by, in best American TV tradition, introducing some well-planned story arcs which eventually start to pay off as the series progresses. The episodes themselves become more intriguing, beautifully structured and multi-layered and increasingly ingenious as the show? writers play with the core concept and start to expand upon it.

There are some cracking episodes here. Stand-outs include the tear-jerking ?tar Crossed?and the superb ?ongest Day?where Tru relives the same day over and over again as she tries to find the right person to save. ?alentine?is a slasher story with a twist and ?urder in the Morgue?sees Tru racing against time to wind back a chain of events which leads to Davis? death. There? really not a duffer here once you?e bought into the concept and grown attached to the cast. It? a good, solid cast too, a typical ensemble piece. Dushku and Galifianakis are ably supported by the excellent Shawn Reaves as Tru? slacker brother Harrison who provides most of the show? light relief and midway through the series Jason priestly debuts as the mysterious Jack Harper whose agenda, whilst similar to Tru?, is significantly, fatally different. There are other supporting characters – Tru? sister Meredith (who disappears from the series when her drug addiction storyline is handily resolved overnight), her ditzy friend Lindsay, her on-off boyfriend Luke and, eventually, Tru? estranged father who, it appears, has rather more to do with the death of Tru? mother ten years earlier than anybody realises.

By the time the first season ends this show is cooking. All the story strands are working and it? not just ?ictim of the week?any more. The last episode ?wo Weddings and a Funeral?is strong, emotional stuff and sees the death of a regular character. Sadly my review pack didn? include the last six episodes and with the show having been brutally cancelled after ?was the Night Before Christmas?gain?we?l never get to see quite where the series may have ended up. I suspect that, if the show had had some decent Network support and, ultimately, been a bit stronger in its first few episodes, the axe wouldn? have been swung so prematurely and we? have watched this fine show develop into something very special indeed.

THE DISCS: Eight discs with twenty-six episodes. Several commentaries and loads of deleted scenes, a music video and some brief ?ehind-the-scenes?futurities. Well worth your time.

See for yourself view Tru Calling trailer online]]>

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