The Strange Calls (starting tomorrow on ABC2, but already available on iView) is so good it’s already picked up for a US pilot. Well, maybe. In this new sitcom gormless city policeman Toby Banks (Toby Truslove) is demoted by his father, the Deputy Commissioner, and sent to work the night shift in Coolum Beach. Arriving without his shoes and not having said goodbye to his girlfriend, Toby at least seems to have caught the eye of local caterer Kath, but then the underbelly of odd goings on in Coolum starts to become clear.
Toby’s first case is a mysterious break-in at local fried chicken joint Frequent Fryers, where no money has stolen. Then his new boss (Patrick Brammall) tells him he has to live and work from an old caravan on the edge of town, with only a bike for transportation. The caravan has a working phone line but the only people who call seem to be wasting his time, then he opens the door to Gregor (Barry Crocker), a believer in the paranormal who has his own theory on the Frequent Fryers break-in.
A reluctant partnership forms (reluctant on Toby’s part) and the pair end up catching the man responsible for the break-in, well, kinda, and so the stage is set for more episodes along the same lines. If the makers of Psychoville had written a SeaChange-inspired police procedural set in Queensland you’d probably end up with something like this. Indeed Psychoville must have been some sort of inspiration as this is also a comedy/drama with a paranormal theme and multi-platform content (The Strange Calls website includes blogs, tweets and videos from Gregor).
References to Gregor’s online life generate some of the best laughs in the show itself, but disappointingly (for us) The Strange Calls isn’t going hell for leather in the comedy department. The drama and paranormal elements are probably more important here, but as they work pretty well and there are some good comedy moments we think it’s a show worth sticking with. Although if ABC casting directors could give Toby Truslove a different character to play at some point, that’d be nice.