I'm not going to persevere with Spirited, the Australian supernatural drama about a dentist who discovers the ghost of a rock star in her penthouse, for a variety of reasons. Having been unimpressed with the pilot, "Everyone Loves You When You're Dead" was pretty much on a par with that opener's quality. I marginally preferred it, but can't shake the impression Spirited would make a better film than a television series, with careful tweaking of the concept and better actors. Matt King's undoubtedly great as the British ghost of a rocker who died in 1982 and has reappeared 28 years later without his memory, but everyone and everything else isn't clicking for me...
In this second episode, dentist Suzy (Claudia Karvan) is still struggling to keep her life together now she's a single mum of two kids, with a ghost pestering her to investigate his past. Nothing much happened beyond Suzy's circle of friends becoming concerned she's having a mental breakdown, and insight was given into Henry's (King) tragic past via a DVD documentary on his band "The Nerve" -- where we learn he went missing during a tour of Australia in the early-'80s, his body was never discovered, and he was estranged from his kindly mother, etc. Is he back on Earth to reconnect with his aged mum, or perhaps write the "masterpiece" he was apparently struggling to compose before he died?
There were moments that worked well in "Everyone Loves You When You're Dead" -- I particularly enjoyed how Suzy managed to talk to Henry in public without arousing funny looks, by pretending she's on her mobile phone. Simple, effective, clever. But on the flipside, we have to suffer the ridiculousness of a comedy priest sprinkling Suzy's penthouse with holy water, while inexplicably holding a ferret. A key problem with this series is that I don't care about Suzy's failed marriage, because her husband was proven to be a creep she's better off without last week (although he's played more sympathetically here), and I'm not detecting any sexual chemistry between Suzy and Henry. Is that even the intention, or am I stuck on a belief we're heading for a Ghost-like romance here? If so, they should have started that amorous flavour by now. If not, is there really mileage in a TV series where Suzy and Henry are just platonic friends?
I daresay they can squeeze a whole season from Suzy's separation, parental woes, and the mystery of Henry's death, but I'm not convinced it'll stay fresh for long. By limiting Henry to the hotel he supposedly died in, the show has also squandered the opportunity to have Henry interact with the wide world, which feels like a mistake. Then again, I'm confused about how he regularly manages to appear inside Suzy's dental practice -- does she work inside the building she's living in?
Overall, I may watch a few more episodes just to see if it's going to find its feet and funnybone, but the appeal of Matt King's performance isn't enough to keep me engaged with this story. But it's a great concept. I await the Hollywood remake that pushes the emotional buttons, because there's a beautiful "weepy" nestled in here somewhere... but the writers and actors aren't quite getting at it.
WRITER: Ian Meadows
DIRECTOR: Jessica Hobbs
GUEST CAST: John Bluthal, Jane Harders, Russell Dykstra, Yael Stone, Paul Gleeson, Charlie Garber, Elan Zavelsky, Tasneem Roc & Sam Pearson
TRANSMISSION: 1 September 2010 - CHANNEL W