Picks and Pans Review: Tru Calling

UPDATED 11/03/2003 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 11/03/2003 at 01:00 AM EST

FOX (Thursdays, 8 p.m. ET)

[STARS 2]

I don't know how to say this, so I'm just going to say it: You're going to die today."

Tru (Eliza Dushku from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) may not know how to say it, but she's evidently going to be saying it a lot in this erratic new series, which blends elements of Six Feet Under, Crossing Jordan and Early Edition. Freshly graduated from college, Tru takes a job at the city morgue because she thinks the résumé entry will help her gain admission to medical school. Naturally the rookie finds herself all alone on the first night and hears spooky whispering coming from the crypts. When curious Tru opens one, a female corpse says, "Help me" in a tone of irresistible urgency. At this point a higher power hits rewind and Tru's day starts over. Her mission: Do some preventive detective work and keep the newly deceased from being killed.

Pay close attention during the Oct. 30 premiere and you'll hear a minor character say Tru used to be a track star. This key bit of background explains why she goes dashing through the streets like a gold medalist every time the script calls for fast action. (One word, Tru: Taxi!) The opener never really makes us care whether the dead woman gets a renewed lease on life, and it contains a clumsy late twist with no clear purpose except to establish that this show ain't over till it's over.

Surprisingly, the drama gets better in-the second episode, in large part because the Dead Person of the Week is a hand-some fireman who strikes romantic sparks with Tru. I don't know how often she can fall for a guy who enters her workplace on a slab, but the love element gives this particular story extra poignancy. Also on the plus side, Tru gives the running a rest.

"She's hot—weird but hot," a morgue staffer says of Tru. Dushku has the sex appeal, all right, but her character doesn't strike me as especially strange for someone in direct communication with the dead. This show needs to make the supernatural seem less ordinary.

CRIME DRAMA

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