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Tag Archive: Tru Calling


We here at borg.com can’t be the only ones who are fans of time loops, and the folks at Universal Pictures must think the same thing.

This time around, time loops–the story trope featuring a repeat of time usually offering the protagonist an opportunity to fix the recent past–are going to be coming at you for Friday the 13th–October 13, 2017.  And unlike many horror movies that are pushed to a February release, this horror flick is being delivered when everyone wants to see it, right in time for Halloween.  Does this indicate it might be better than the average horror flick?  This next time looper comes on the heels of the teen mystery film Before I Fall, a release from January, which was preceded by last year’s sci-fi thriller, ARQ.  Before that, time loops were found in everything between Groundhog Day and Source Code, TiMER, Looper, and television shows Early Edition, Haven, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Eureka, The X-Files, Star Trek, and Xena–Warrior Princess.  Yes, we can’t get enough of the time loop.  Check out our previous discussions of time loops at borg.com here and here.

And this one has a throwback horror title–Happy Death Day–which is either the title of a bad slasher flick (Happy Birthday to Me, My Bloody Valentine) or just a clever title for the kind of throwback gore flick horrors fans are all over.  Which will it be?  Happy Death Day appears to be less like the time loops listed above and more like Tru Calling, the Final Destination film series, Donnie Darko, Haunter, and Butterfly Effect, at least as the time loop element is delivered.  You might recall Tru Calling was a weekly series starring Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Eliza Dushku as she tried to save someone from dying each week via time loop.  The Final Destination films added the bloody violence while also attaching to a rollercoaster ride full of “oh, no, they didn’ts.”

Happy Death Day hails from director Christopher Landon, screenplay writer on horror films like Disturbia, Paranormal Activity 2, 3, and 4, and Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse.  It stars Jessica Rothe (La La Land) as the young woman who gets murdered, only to continue to get murdered in different ways by a creepy masked character no matter what she does to prevent it.  Unlike most modern horror flicks with the kind of production quality in the trailer, the film does not have a single known quantity actor to anchor the film.

Here is the first trailer for Happy Death Day:

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Rose McIver iZombie

Review by C.J. Bunce

Raise your hand if you wish you could watch more adventures of Buffy Summers, Veronica Mars, Claire Bennet, or Tru Davies.  Fortunately you can get your fix here and there–you can find Buffy in comic books in Dark Horse Comics’ Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10, Veronica continues in a series of novels by Rob Thomas, Heroes is coming back to NBC, and, well, it doesn’t look like we’ll ever see Tru again.  But thanks to Veronica Mars’ creators Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero, a new strong woman-led series might make you think they are all back.

iZombie premiered Tuesday night adding another winner to the pantheon of solid hit shows the CW Network has been churning out of late, alongside Arrow, The Flash, Reign, Supernatural, and the Vampire Diaries.  iZombie follows Olivia “Liv” Moore, a cardiac medical student resident who ends up at a party on a boat where all the guests break out into an infection and become zombies.  Liv thinks fast and jumps off the boat, but not fast enough.  She’s scratched and dies, only to return as the undead.  Her so-called life crumbles from there and she ends up working for the medical examiner’s office where she can get easy access to unwanted brains, which she needs to eat to avoid getting mean and stupid.

Zombie brains

And the execution of that off-the-wall premise is simply brilliant.  There’s no hiding the fact that the voice of Rob Thomas’s Veronica Mars is echoed in Liv–many scenes aren’t just banter between characters, but chock full of Liv’s inner-thought narration.  It was that storytelling device that was a big part of what made Veronica so accessible and endearing.  And it even works for a zombie.

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iZombie brains

It began as a successful comic book series by Masks writer Chris Roberson and artist Michael Allred for DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint about a gravedigger zombie gal who eats brains to survive.  This week Allred’s own adaptation of his iZombie world comes to television on the CW Network, but with some changes, like swapping Eugene, Oregon for Seattle, Washington.

Rose McIver plays Olivia “Liv” Moore (“live more”– get it?), a medical student turned zombie who gets a job at the coroner’s office in order to gain access to the brains she must eat so that she can maintain her humanity.  And there will be plenty of brain eating going on in the series.  But each brain she eats brings with it the final memories of the dead, so she shares her visions to solve their deaths with help from the medical examiner and a police detective.  If they can grab some of the spark of Tru Calling, another show about a young woman who gets visions that allow her to solve crimes in a morgue, there could be an interesting series coming our way.  That is, if you’re not yet tired of zombies.

But this series has the one thing that should get you to at least give it a try.  It’s produced by Rob Thomas, the creator of Veronica Mars, who has proven he knows how to make great stories.  Check out several previews for the series, after the break.

iZombie poster

McIver has been on plenty of TV series, including appearances on both Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess in the 1990s.  Also starring will be Heroes’ Adam Monroe, David Anders (also Arrow’s Cyrus Vanch), a good performer who is always a scene stealer.

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Eliza Dushku Tru Calling

Between 2003 and 2005, Fox aired one of the best supernatural thrillers to date. Fans of Eliza Dushku, missing her superb performance as vampire slayer Faith on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, could get their fix with Tru Calling.  After years of sitting on the shelf Tru Calling is finally being re-broadcast Wednesday nights on the Chiller cable network.

Eliza Dushku’s first starring vehicle of her post-Buffy days, Tru Calling had an excellent sci-fi premise, Medium meets Groundhog Day.  Medical student Tru (Dushku) gets a part-time job in the morgue and discovers that the recently deceased can ask for her help, causing her to relive their final days, in the hopes of saving their lives or solving their murders.

Tru Calling is one of those forgotten series that made our borg.com10 TV series that didn’t make it (but should have)” list back in 2011.   Lots better than Dushku’s role on Dollhouse, Tru Calling also was the first time we noticed many current genre favorites.  Tru’s co-worker mentor in the morgue was played by The Hangover‘s Zach GalifianakisMatt Bomer (White Collar, Chuck, Space Station 76) played Tru’s boyfriend.  But several more actors were barely known then, and featured in guest spots on the show.

Tru Calling

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Back in Beginner Computing class in junior high, we learned the BASIC computer language on Commodore VIC 20s.  The first program you learn to write is this:

10 PRINT HELLO

20 GOTO 10

The end result is a loop, printing the word HELLO over and over again infinitely like this:

HELLOHELLOHELLOHELLOHELLOHELLOHELLO

HELLOHELLOHELLOHELLOHELLOHELLOHELLO

HELLOHELLOHELLOHELLOHELLOHELLOHELLO

HELLOHELLOHELLOHELLOHELLOHELLOHELLO …

It’s an easy way to illustrate a temporal loop or time loop, a recurring story element in science fiction and fantasy works.

In 1905 Spanish philosopher George Santayana wrote “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  He didn’t mean this literally.  As science and science fiction would later speculate, repeating the past may be a possibility one day.

It is difficult to determine who first put the literal repeat of history into story form, but it is a recurring science fiction device that is often used to great effect.  Classic sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick used the time loop in his 1975 short story “A Little Something for Us Tempunauts.”  The best and most well known example of this is the Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day, where for for some unknown reason a weatherman’s day is repeated until something happens that is supposed to happen–he gets the day exactly right.

Unlike later uses of this device, in his short story Philip K. Dick did not express the element as a repeat of the actual narrative story, but an explanation of cause and effect.  In his story, time traveling astronauts go on a mission, where destruction of the mission results in a time loop that may or may not result in the preservation of an eternal life for everyone.  We don’t see the result, but hear from the tempunauts they have been there, done that, before.  Over and over.

Usually use of a time loop on sci-fi/fantasy genre tales involves at least one person being able to realize the existence of the repetition.  Bill Murray’s weatherman knows the day is repeating in Groundhog Day.  Yet the other characters are not aware at all.  In other uses, characters get to experience deja vu or even fatigue from living time over and over.

This week’s episode of the Syfy Channel’s Haven, the series based on a Stephen King story, is titled “Audrey Parker’s Day Off,” and is one of the best of the series so far.  The main character Audrey Parker, played by Emily Rose, wakes up to repeat a day after she comes upon a death at a crime scene.  She is in bed with friend Chris, played by Jason Priestley, to whom she must explain a different plan for each new day.  In each new day she tries to figure out how to not cause any death, by changing the variables of each day.  In the context of the mystic “troubles” the town of Haven is dealing with, Audrey as the only person person unaffected by the troubles.  With Audrey the show uses this story device quite well.  The parallels to Groundhog Day are unmistakable, but viewers can’t help but like it when it is adapted in a new way as was done here.

Jason Priestley may be strangely tied to time loops, as he also appeared in a television series entirely about time loops, called Tru Calling, one of borg.com’s favorite series.  In Tru Calling, a graduate student and morgue worker named Tru played by Eliza Dushku is able to relive days in the hope of saving the life of someone who died on that day.  Usually she has several opportunities to do this.  Priestley’s character later in the series comes along as an agent of death to undo the seemingly good that Tru has been doing.  His view is that Tru is interfering with the proper course of events, as if only one timeline is correct, and with him it is the first timeline.

Early Edition was another series focusing on the ability to “do over.”  The loop also occurs in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “Life Serial,” on the series Eureka in the episode “I Do Over,” the X-Files episode “Monday,” and the Xena, Warrier Princess episode “Been There, Done That.”

In theaters now is the fifth film in the Final Destination franchise.  This series presents a variant on going back to change the past, without the ability to try again via repeats, although with the character of Clear played by Ali Larter in the first two movies, the repeat effort seems to be there all the same.  In the world of the Final Destination films, an individual lives out a horrible accident, then snaps back in sort of a deja vu state, with only seconds to try to prevent the course of events from happening.  However, like Priestley’s character in Tru Calling, an unseen power, like his agent of death, is set about to return the normal and proper timeline, even if it means the death of dozens.

In Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut’s hero Billy Pilgrim similarly becomes what Vonnegut calls “unstuck in time”.  He has no choice, he appears in various stages of his own life, but with the choice of changing events.  This also happens in the episode of Angel called “Time Bomb.”

Captain Picard  (Patrick Stewart) experienced the same problem a few times in Star Trek: The Next Generation.  In  the episode “Tapestry,” John de Lancie’s omnipotent character Q plunges Picard into the past to allow Picard to not only revisit his past, but to change it if he wishes.  With no regrets, Picard changes nothing, even when that means a Nausicaan will again put a pool cue through his heart, resulting in Picard again needing an artificial heart for the rest of his life.  But whereas revisiting the past in story form has been around for centuries–think Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol–a temporal loop requires repeated visits to the past.  Luckily Scrooge gets it right after merely watching his past, and Q is just fine with Picard’s choices the second time around.

Actually the best Star Trek representation of the temporal loop is the Next Generation episode “Cause and Effect,” which might as well be an essay on how time loops work.  The episode starts with a poker game between the bridge officers.  The ship then experiences a temporal distortion and a ship comes out of nowhere to collide with the USS Enterprise, resulting in the destruction of both ships.  Then we have a commercial break, and the show appears to repeat again.  I know of at least one person who almost turned off the show, thinking there was something wrong with the network feed.  Brilliantly, the audience must be confused.  What did we miss?  In this story, characters are impacted by the repetition, they feel tired, and they experience deja vu.  Luckily Lt. Commander Data figures out how to leave a subtle clue for the next repeat, allowing him to save the ship before the end of the hour of the episode.  His crew had been repeating the event for mere days, but the other ship caught in the anomaly, the USS Bozeman helmed by a captain played by Kelsey Grammer, has unknowingly re-lived the same day for decades, and the show ends with Picard informing the other captain of some pretty bad news about his lost time.  Breaking a time loop is also the focus of the Charmed episode “The Good, The Bad, and The Cursed.”

Writers use time loops again and again because they are fun, and modern audiences understand them, mostly because of the success of Groundhog Day.  In fact in this week’s episode of Haven, “Audrey Parker’s Day Off,” when Audrey explains all this to Interim Chief of Police Nathan Wournos, his response is “you’re stuck in my second favorite Bill Murray movie.”  When on the following day Audrey has to explain the recurring events yet again, she cuts him off when he is about to repeat the line and finishes it for him.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

By C.J. Bunce

Yesterday, Elizabeth C. Bunce began Part 1 of our list of the best TV series that started off great but were ended too soon by the networks.  So far that list includes Life, The Riches, Tru Calling, Eleventh Hour, and The Dresden Files.  What is the right number of episodes for a series, the right number of seasons?  One of the best series of all time, the BBC’s Life on Mars, lasted only two seasons, but as with a lot of British series, and unlike a lot of U.S. series, we got a complete story, wrapped up with a solid conclusion.  Veronica Mars lasted three seasons, but as much as we’d like to see more of Veronica, her dad, and her friend Mac, the series didn’t seem to have anywhere left to go, so it probably had the right amount of seasons for its story.  I felt like the Dead Zone could have had more seasons but it actually had a full six seasons, but a lack of a clear ending means we never know what happens to the evil senator-turned president and Johnny’s fate–the goal the story was driving toward in the last seasons.  And then there are series that started out as TV phenoms, but lost momentum from production theatrics, unresolved major plotlines, or writing that just couldn’t keep up with the initial successes.  In this category we put Heroes, Everwood, and Twin Peaks, shows we adored, but ultimately they had their chance and just blew it.  The following series, however, kept up their momentum to the bitter, but premature, end.

Wonderfalls (2004/Fox/14 episodes)

I missed Wonderfalls in its initial run and only learned of it when borg.com contributor Jason McClain loaned me the series several years ago.  I don’t know how I missed it the first time around as it had a lot you want for a good series–good characters, unique story, fun circumstances and a great cast.  Canadian actress Caroline Dhavernas plays Jaye Tyler, an unmotivated college graduate stuck in a dead end job working as a sales clerk under some dim-witted, high school manager-types in the gift shop at Niagara Falls.  She is like  a grown-up cynical, smart, feisty, but frustrated version of Daria from the Daria MTV series.  Jaye is an underachiever, smothered by her well-meaning but overbearing brother, sister and parents.  We get to see Jaye meet up with a love interest (who comes to Niagara Falls with his fiance) and hang out with her best friend in a local bar.  And then souvenir animals in the gift shop start talking to her.  Great fantasy, the animals, including a deformed make-it-yourself orange lion and a talking wall trout, among others, serve as muses to Jaye, giving her cryptic directives that she initially will not listen to.  But they are persistent and the result is light-hearted, endearing, and funny.  

Cupid (1998-1999/ABC/15 episodes)

Before Cupid we only really knew Jeremy Piven from a small role as an annoying friend of Emilio Estevez who gets shot by a young Denis Leary in Judgment Night, and as Spence Kovak, a character that migrated between TV shows like The Drew Carey Show and Grace Under Fire.  His deadpan delivery that helped form his success today in Entourage was only brewing when he starred as Trevor Hale, a psychiatric patient who believes he is the one and only Cupid, sent down by Zeus from Mount Olympus to help 100 couples get together, but without his trademark bow, taken by the Gods as punishment for his wrongdoing.  I remember watching the show eager to see how he would make his love connections over the course of the series.  A premature thought since he only made it through a little over a dozen connections.  Here we also got to know Paula Marshall (Spin City, Veronica Mars, House, M.D.) as his friendly but concerned psychologist.  Was Trevor actually Cupid or just a guy in need of some medical help?  We’ll never know, but we think he really was Cupid.  A remake was tried, but it couldn’t come close to this series.

Journeyman (2007/Fox/13 episodes)

Not many science fiction series take place in the real world and Journeyman‘s genre bending and lack of a niche probably led to its short life.  Journeyman appeared as a standard drama but with a great twist.  Kevin McKidd plays journalist Dan Vasser in an updated Quantum Leap-type role.  Vasser has a wife and a kid, and a nagging brother played by Reed Diamond.  One day he steps into a taxi and finds he is transported to the past–like Vonnegut’s Billy Pilgrim he is unstuck in time.  We soon learn he can travel back and forth, and he is guided in his travels by the past version of his thought-to-be dead ex-girlfriend.  An early version of the Burn Notice formula as well, Vasser tried to fix the past, learn from it and use it to make the world better, all the while struggling with the trials of everyday life.  Journeyman was a fun ride each week, and then it just vanished.  The bitter wife and brother seemed to detract from the story, and made us hope Vasser could stay in the past.  With only Vasser as a likable guy, it was probably hard to keep viewers coming back despite the idea’s great potential.

The Flash  (1990-1991/CBS/22 episodes)

It can’t be emphasized enough, the importance of good writing can make or break a show.  But even with a comic book favorite writer like Howard Chaykin, The Flash couldn’t make it work.  John Wesley Shipp, an ex-Guiding Light soap actor with the build for a superhero, to this day is the only actor in a series to successfully pull off the look of a comic book superhero (Lou Ferrigno’s The Incredible Hulk excepted).  The production used lighting, unusual camera angles and quick motion photography to document the comic book look to the story of Barry Allen, a scientist trying to discover the truth behind his amazing power of speed.  Every kid loved the show, it filled a niche that  no other show filled at the time, and is still a fan favorite.  We even got to see Mark Hamill as the Trickster, a post-Star Wars role, but early stage of Hamill in his later long career of voice-over work.

The Lost Room (2006/SciFi/3 episodes)

The Lost Room is a bit difficult to categorize, because it was intended as a mini-series, but the third episode left open the possibility of a full series, and what a great series this could have been.  The Lost Room of the title is in a motel along Route 66, a room that has no place in the normal timeline.  A mysterious “event” takes place in 1961 that causes all the Objects in the room at the time to take on powers of their own.  Peter Krause plays detective Joe Miller, who loses his daughter in the room.  Joe tries to find Objects to help him learn about the mystery of the room, and he encounters Kevin Pollak, a keeper of certain Objects.  The SciFi channel crafted the show well, with the hapless star guiding the viewer through the various puzzling Object encounters.  Peter Jacobson (House, M.D., Law and Order) is especially funny as the keeper of a ticket–tap someone with the ticket and they then appear falling from the sky to a highway in the middle of nowhere.  There was so much that could be done with this series, you wonder why no one gave it more of a try.

Do you have any TV series you would include on this list?  Share your favorite lost series–we love to check out new series we may have missed!

By Elizabeth C. Bunce

Our DVR broke this week.  I won’t go into the trauma of missing the last installment of Zen on Masterpiece Mystery, or of losing the final three (still unwatched) episodes of the now cancelled Men of a Certain Age.  The upside of this technological crisis, however, was that it spurred us to unearth old TV favorites on streaming video from Netflix and break out some DVDs.  There’s always something kind of bittersweet about that, though, especially running across old friends that were cancelled well before their prime, and in some cases even before they quite hit their stride.  And so, in memoriam, tonight borg.com will spotlight a few of our genre favorites that were cancelled too soon.

Life (2007-2009/NBC/21 episodes)
NBC’s short-lived quirky police procedural about a mild-mannered homicide detective wrongfully convicted of murdering his partner’s entire family starred English actor Damian Lewis (Assassin in Love, Showtime’s new series Homeland) and Sarah Shahi (USA’s Fairly Legal).  Its offbeat mix of gruesome murders and weird-but-lovable cast members was probably a little too offbeat for most viewers, but we loved Lewis’s Zen-meditating Charlie Crews and his efforts to fit back into his life and job after eleven years in prison and an undisclosed multimillion dollar settlement with the LAPD.  An intriguing series-long mystery plot (who really killed Crews’s partner?) might have made it more difficult for new viewers to join mid-season (although we had no trouble getting hooked after just one episode), but was thoughtfully resolved in the series finale.  Standout performances by Donal Logue and Adam Arkin only compound our sense of loss for this series.

The Riches (2007-2008/FX/19 episodes)
Before the days of Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy, FX broke every rule of tasteless TV in this outrageous series about a family of Travellers trying to make it as “buffers” in an upscale suburban neighborhood, after assuming the identities of a family killed in a car accident.  Starring standup comic Eddie Izzard as title character “Doug Rich,” and Minnie Driver (Phantom of the Opera), The Riches featured scams, drug abuse, murders, robbery, and a host of other illicit goings-on–and that’s just by the heroes!  Alternately appalling and hilarious, ultimately The Riches just couldn’t hold on to its early impressive ratings, and was cancelled after only 19 episodes, leaving loyal viewers without even a semblance of closure to the Riches’ compelling storyline.

Tru Calling (2003-2005/Fox/26 episodes)
Eliza Dushku’s first starring vehicle of her post-Buffy days, Tru Calling had an excellent sci-fi premise, sort of Medium meets Groundhog Day.  Medical student Tru (Dushku) gets a part-time job in the morgue and discovers that the recently deceased can ask for her help, causing her to relive their final days, in the hopes of saving their lives or solving their murders.  Co-starring The Hangover‘s Zach Galafianakis in a wonderful role as Tru’s morgue mentor, and White Collar’s and Chuck’s Matt Bomer as Tru’s love interest, Tru Calling was gearing up for great things, the mysteries surrounding Tru’s power only building, just as the series was unceremoniously axed by Fox.

Eleventh Hour (2008-2009/CBS/18 episodes)
This American adaptation of the even-shorter-lived BBC medical thriller (with Patrick Stewart) starred accomplished English actor Rufus Sewell (Zen, Knight’s Tale, Pillars of the Earth) as Dr. Jacob Hood, FBI consultant solving baffling scientific crimes.  Not an outstanding series by any standards, Eleventh Hour was nevertheless competent and entertaining, and one had the feeling that the performers were better than the material they had to work with.  I firmly believe the show could have gotten even better, but it was trapped in a dead-end timeslot (Thursdays at 10 pm) and ultimately failed to interest the CSI viewership the network hoped would bolster ratings.

The Dresden Files (2007/SyFy/12 episodes)
I’m still stinging from the cancellation of this great adaptation of Jim Butcher’s bestselling urban fantasy series. Starring the always-solid Paul Blackthorne (guest appearances in Burn Notice, Monk, Leverage, Warehouse 13, and others), the show featured excellent writing, engaging paranormal storylines, and an absolutely winning cast, but wasn’t given the same network or fan support of later SyFy hits like Warehouse 13 or Eureka. Fortunately, all twelve episodes are currently available via streaming video on Netflix.

Tomorrow, C.J. Bunce will continue the list with the rest of our list of TV series that ended too soon.

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