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TV Series Review

Superheroes come in more shapes and flavors than ever these days, especially on TV. Jake 2.0 features an average Joe turned into a he-man G-man after nanobots invade his body. Joan of Arcadia’s titular Good Samaritan gets her orders directly from God. Even the old standbys, like Smallville’s Superman, have been repackaged for a new generation. On Fox’s Tru Calling, Tru Davies races back and forth through time, getting “do-over days” in which she solves crimes and saves lives.

This drama’s choice to target teens is obvious. But Tru Calling’s subject matter is rarely as trendy or disposable as its production values. Eliza Dushku (best known for her short stint on Buffy the Vampire Slayer) plays the twentysomething Tru, who works the night shift at the city morgue. If that isn’t creepy enough, on her first night on the job Tru discovers she has a hidden talent—hearing dead people. And each time they ask for her help, her day literally rewinds so that she can intervene. “It hasn’t happened yet,” she tells her boss after she sees him get shot, “and we’re going to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Just as Jake, Joan and Clark Kent never hesitate to help those in need, Tru also heeds destiny’s call and selflessly risks her life to save others. Similarly positive is the series’ attention to the negative fallout of fatherly neglect. “It’s funny,” Tru says sadly, “I can prevent death, but I can’t make a father take an interest in his own daughter.” Deprived of a relationship with her dad, Tru routinely attempts to strengthen bonds with her siblings. Her efforts go beyond lunchtime conversations as she tries to short-circuit her sister’s attraction to illegal drugs and her brother’s addiction to gambling.

Profanity is mild and infrequent. And thankfully, Tru is usually too busy for sexual dalliances. That’s not to say she’s virginal. Early episodes allude to an affair with a college professor, and her boyfriend sometimes sleeps over. Another concern is the residue of violent homicides. Blood spatters on a mirror, a drowned body floats in a pool and Tru is seen operating on a gunshot victim. But rather than fixating on disaster, most of the series’ footage shows Tru racing to prevent it.

No reasons are given for Tru’s supernatural powers. And despite the dead’s ability to talk to her, she rarely asks burning questions about God or the afterlife. Curious. Perhaps they’re forthcoming, but from what perspective? And what about Isaiah 8:19’s challenge, “Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?” If Christian families decide that Tru Calling’s content is acceptable, they’ll still have to grapple with its preternatural premise.

Episodes Reviewed: Jan. 8, 15, 22, Feb. 5, 2004

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