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Series / Julie and the Phantoms

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Julie and the Phantoms is a 2020 Netflix original series created by Dan Cross and David Hoge (and directed by Kenny Ortega of High School Musical and Descendants fame) based on the 2011 Brazilian show Julie e os Fantasmas.

It centers on Julie Molina (Madison Reyes), a teenage girl with a passion for music who stopped playing ever since her mother died. But when she meets three ghostly musicians — singer and guitarist Luke (Charlie Gillespie), bassist Reggie (Jeremy Shada) and drummer Alex (Owen Joyner) — members of the 1990s band Sunset Curve who died on the night of their first big gig, Julie gains back her love of music and the three ghosts team up with her to become the band they never got to be while alive.

Julie is also accompanied by her best friend Flynn (Jadah Marie), and Alex runs into ghostly skater Willie (Boo Boo Stewart) who introduces the band to Caleb Covington (Cheyenne Jackson), a mysterious ghost who owns the Hollywood Ghost Club.

The 9-episode first season was released on September 10, 2020, but had no updates for an entire year. As of December 18, 2021, it has officially been cancelled and not picked up for a second season.

This show provides examples of:

  • The '90s: Sunset Curve died in the 90s as teenagers and very much still look like they're still living in that time, retaining the same fashions and hairstyles. Their flashbacks also count.
  • The New '20s: Sunset Curve believe at first they are still in The '90s, because for them, their deaths were just 2 hours of sitting in a room. They are confused once Julie takes her phone out of her jeans pocket to google them. They eventually get the hang of it, though.
  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade: Julie’s mom isn’t dead in the original Brazilian show. This makes it play out more like a typical teen drama with the added feature of ghosts, while the English version focuses heavily on Julie grieving over her mother.
  • Adaptational Name Change: Everyone but Julie and Nick has a different name than their original Brazilian counterpart. Daniel (Luke), Félix (Alex), Martim (Reggie), Bia (Flynn) and Pedrinho (Carlos) are just a few. Julie's last name also changes from Spinelli de Almeida to Molina.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: Luke is much nicer than the sarcastic and cynical Daniel, his original Brazilian counterpart, at least at first.
  • Alliterative Name: Caleb Covington.
  • Alpha Bitch: Carrie, who lords her father's wealth and connections over everyone and is rather cold and condescending towards Julie and Flynn, naturally comes off like this.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: When Reggie suggests that Julie is a witch, Alex says there’s no such thing as witches, but Reggie points out that he used to think there was no such thing as ghosts.
  • Bedsheet Ghost: Reggie invokes this as a joke to scare Carlos and Victoria by throwing a bed sheet over himself.
  • Betty and Veronica: Julie has been pining over the sweet and popular Nick for years. But by the seventh episode, she finds herself falling for the lovable rogue, dead rockstar Luke.
  • Big Eater: Luke, Reggie, and Alex gorge themselves at Caleb's club, when they are told one of the benefits of being there is being able to eat as well as be seen by the living. Considering they are just teenage boys, it's rather justified.
  • Cassandra Truth: When Julie tells her dad and brother that she’s just seen a ghost they don’t believe her, thinking that she is still grieving.
  • Cast Full of Pretty Boys: The first episode introduces us to Luke, Reggie and Alex, and the list keeps growing from there.
  • Catchphrase:
    Luke: We’re Sunset Curve.
    Reggie: Tell your friends.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Julie's late mom is never actually identified as Rose, the waitress at The Orpheum who saw Sunset Curve's last performance — unless you pay attention to the fact that she was given the band's CD and T-shirt, as well as a Freeze-Frame Bonus in "Finally Free". The same CD is the one used to summon the band in the first episode, while the T-shirt is what causes Julie to realize their connection in "Unsaid Emily". Otherwise, she is only called "mom", "you", "my sister", etc.
  • Cliffhanger: At the end of "Stand Tall", Nick, while visiting Julie, gets possessed by Caleb. Julie opens the door for him and...roll credits.
  • Coolest Club Ever: The Hollywood Ghost Club, an exclusive club sealed off to the public where rich people pay to see ghosts and are sworn to secrecy. It’s so cool, in fact, that the phantoms completely forget about their gig at Julie’s school dance while they’re inside.
  • Dance of Romance: While imaginary, Julie and Luke have one of these in the episode "Edge of Great."
  • Deal with the Devil: While the exact details are vague, these types of deals are Caleb's specialty. And if you do resist his temptations he will play dirty and find a way to force you to accept his offer.
  • Defiant Strip: In the season 1 finale, Luke, Alex, and Reggie are enchanted into high-end suits by Caleb as he gives them An Offer You Can't Refuse in the form of a musical number. However, once they are able to break free of the spell and reunite with Julie, their outfits have changed to match their usual style, illustrating them staying true to themselves and their band regardless of the cost. Luke ditches the jacket and the sleeves of his shirt entirely, as he is The Leader and a Mr. Fanservice, Alex wears his jacket open with his shirt collar and sleeves partially undone, as he is the most gentle, laid-back member of the group, and Reggie sheds the jacket and wears a few extra pins on his vest, fitting his somewhat punk-inspired aesthetic.
  • Demonic Possession: The Cliffhanger ending of the first season ends in Caleb taking over Nick’s body.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: The boys were crushed by a truck in the original, while they die of food poisoning in this version.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Caleb is seen bumping into Alex in “Wake Up”, but is formally introduced in “I Got The Music”.
    • An instrumental version of "Unsaid Emily" appears in the episode before the one centered around it.
  • Egocentric Team Naming: It’s called Julie and the Phantoms. Justified as Julie is the only one who actually y'know exists in the real world, and everyone else thinks Luke, Reggie and Alex are holograms.
    Luke: So does this mean you’re joining our band?
    Flynn: Actually, I think you’re joining her band.
  • Family of Choice: Julie, Luke, Reggie and Alex. The boys already viewed each other as a family before their deaths (especially as they were distant from their own parents), and Julie joins them over the series.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Ghosts that get branded by Caleb are forced to perform in his cheesy club act for the rest of eternity. If they don't comply to his demands before their souls handle their unfinished business and move on to the afterlife, they cease to exist. The Phantoms however, when they run out of time on fulfilling their unfinished business and cannot ascend to Heaven, would rather choose non-existence rather than disappoint Julie, by ditching her for Caleb's club.
  • Foil:
    • Carrie to Julie. Both are hard-working performers, the frontwomen of their respective groups and inherited a love of music from their parents. However, Carrie relies on her father's connections and wealth, and won't share the spotlight with other band members. Julie got to where she is based on her own talent, and the whole show is about her enabling the boys to be seen.
    • Trevor/Bobby to Luke as the two most ambitious members of Sunset Curve. Luke cares first and foremost about the music itself, will keep playing even if people can't see him, and is fiercely loyal to those he loves; while Bobby cares more about fame, and steals his friends' work to get recognition for himself.
    • Caleb to Julie. Both of them have unusual powers relating to ghosts and want the boys as part of their band. However, Caleb's powers are based on control and he'd prefer to destroy the boys completely if they don't follow him; while Julie's connection with them is fuelled by love, and she's willing to lose them forever if it keeps them safe.
    • Rose Molina and Emily Patterson. They both had musically talented children who end up performing together. But Rose encouraged Julie's gift and music brought them together, while Emily disapproved of Luke's playing and it drove them apart. For bonus points, Luke helps Julie reconnect with her mom (through Rose's song "Wake Up), and Julie helped Luke make peace with his mom (through "Unsaid Emily".)
  • The Food Poisoning Incident: How Luke, Reggie and Alex die. More specifically, poisoned street dogs.
  • Foreign Remake: Of the Brazilian television series Julie e os Fantasmas.
  • Former Friend of Alpha Bitch: Julie, Flynn, and Carrie used to be best friends but they had a falling out.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Having been stuck in a black room for 25 years since their death in 1995, the phantoms are pretty out of touch with 2020 pop culture.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • When Luke, Reggie and Alex are eating their hotdogs at the beginning of "Wake Up" you can see a missing person's poster for Luke on the wall behind them.
      • And next to his poster is one that says "Unfinished Business"
    • Julie's luggage in "Finally Free" contains stickers from The Orpheum and others belonging to "Rose & The Petal Pushers", presumably the name of Julie's mom's band.
  • Friendship Song: “Flying Solo”, which is about Julie and Flynn’s friendship. Its lyrics are taken from a poem Julie wrote about Flynn.
  • Garage Band: Sunset Curve, their garage being Julie’s mom’s. They were going to be much bigger after their gig at the Orpheum if not for three of the four members dying before they even got to play.
    • The titular Julie and the Phantoms also count as this, since they frequently play and practice in the same garage.
  • Ghostly Goals: Luke, Reggie and Alex believe theirs is to play at the Orpheum.
  • Girl Posse: Dirty Candy. Not only are they Carrie’s posse, but they’re also a dance group.
  • Go to Your Room!: Ray sends Julie to her room after finding out she overslept, missed three classes and a test.
  • Group Hug: At the end of "Stand Tall", Julie, Luke, Reggie, and Alex do a big hug upon realizing that the latter three have been miraculously freed from Caleb's curse through The Power of Friendship.
  • High-School Dance: Where Julie and the Phantoms have their first gig. Flynn also DJs at this dance.
  • "I Am Great!" Song: “Wow” and “All Eyes On Me”, both of which feature a Boastful Rap by Carrie.
  • I See Dead People: Julie is able to see the Phantoms for some unknown reason.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Each episode is named after a song featured in that episode.
  • I'm Having Soul Pains: The phantoms feel painful jolts of electricity from time to time after Caleb places his curse on them, which will only stop if they join Caleb’s Hollywood Ghost Club house band. If not, they’ll be shocked until they cease to exist.
  • Internal Reveal: Julie only learns that her mother, Rose, really was connected to Sunset Curve in "Unsaid Emily", even though the audience already knew this since the first episode.
  • Invisible to Normals: Ghosts are invisible to lifers and can only be seen by other ghosts. Exceptions are the phantoms, who can be seen when playing music with Julie (which she excuses as the phantoms being holograms), and Caleb, who has the power to make himself and other ghosts visible.
  • Jacob Marley Apparel: Invoked. When the phantoms appear in Julie’s garage, they are wearing the clothes they died in, but later Averted as they are able to change their outfits with their own clothes that were left behind in Julie’s garage.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: After Julie And The Phantoms hijack the stage to perform in the second episode, Carrie states she worked really hard on her performance, and it should've been her moment. It's hard not to see where she's coming from, as Julie had yet to regain her place in the music program, while Carrie was still enrolled and was presumably chosen to perform.
  • Left Hanging: The final shot has Julie opening the door to Nick unaware that he has just been possessed by Caleb, and then... the show wasn't picked up for Season 2.
  • Love Interests: Nick to Julie, and Willie to Alex. Later Luke and Julie for each other.
  • Male Band, Female Singer: Julie and the Phantoms. Although Luke sings too, and Reggie and Alex provide backup, Julie is the lead and begins every song. Justified as the boys can only appear when playing with her.
  • Meet Cute: Alex and Willie meet because Willie crashes into him while skateboarding. The moment is accompanied by a slow-mo hair flip from Willie and everything.
  • Muggle and Magical Love Triangle: Julie finds herself torn between long time crush Nick who’s a regular guy and Luke, the guitarist of the Phantoms and a ghost.
  • Musical World Hypothesis: “I Got the Music” features an opening musical number to a song of the same name with the whole student body participating in Spontaneous Choreography, which is in odd contrast to the diegetic musical numbers we’ve had until this point... until we find out that it was all in Julie’s head and she was singing and dancing to the music in her earphones this whole time.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Despite their opposing views, Luke and his mother are both equally stubborn and refuse to be the first to apologize. Luke acknowledges this is "Unsaid Emily."
    ''"Who'd be the first to break? Guess we're alike that way"'.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Ghosts are able to teleport and some of them, like Caleb, are able to perform magic. The phantoms also count as this, since their music can be heard even if they’re invisible and when playing music with Julie, they become visible.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: In "Finally Free", Julie finds out that Luke has been visiting his parents since he came back as a ghost. It's shown that his loss hit them hard, as he was their only child, and they continue to celebrate his birthday every year.
  • Parental Love Song: Of the child-to-parent variant. Luke wrote "Unsaid Emily" about how he regrets running away, and wants to make amends with his parents and say he loves them despite everything.
  • Pet the Dog: At the end of Julie's performance at the Orpheum, Carrie seems to have been honestly wowed and applauds her.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: The death of Rose, Julie’s mother, leads to Julie having to visit her old studio garage and in turn, meet the phantoms.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Reggie, whose energetic and sometimes ditzy behavior lends to more comedic moments than the rest of the band, who are more low-key by comparison.
  • The Power of Friendship: The phantoms choosing to be with Julie over Caleb somehow breaks Caleb’s curse.
  • The Power of Love: While the exact circumstances are ambiguous, Julie's Anguished Declaration of Love somehow broke the curse on the phantoms and made it possible for her to physically touch them.
  • Rock is Authentic, Pop is Shallow: While Julie and the Phantoms are more pop rock than most versions of this trope (and much more so than Sunset Curve was) they are often placed in juxtaposition to Dirty Candy's bubblegum pop dance numbers. Dirty Candy are privileged commercial pop who cares more about aesthetics and costumes while Julie and the Phantoms are the soulful songwriters.
  • Rock Trio: The phantoms, with Luke on guitar, Reggie on bass and Alex on drums.
  • The Runaway: Luke's parents didn't support him being in a rock band at seventeen. The fights lead to Luke running away, something he later regrets.
  • The Runaway: During the titular song in "Unsaid Emily", we see flashbacks to when Luke first ran away from home, which judging by the decorations in the background happened close to, or even on, Christmas. The montage continues with his parents missing him while he's gone, until it ends with them seeing the emergency lights flashing outside their window, and instantly break down, knowing what happened to their boy.
  • Running Gag: Sunset Curve, who are from The '90s, being unfamiliar with modern technology and trends.
  • Satellite Love Interest: Nick doesn’t really have a personality other than being Carrie’s boyfriend (later ex) and Julie’s longtime crush. This has the potential to change in the second season, given his possession by Caleb.
  • Secret-Keeper: Flynn is the only person who knows that Julie's "holograms" are actually ghosts. She is told explicitly by Julie and sworn to secrecy. Julie's little brother, Carlos, later finds the truth on his own, as well.
  • Sequel Hook: Several. Sunset Curve still haven't discovered what their unfinished business is; Julie is now able to touch the phantoms as well as see them, suggesting they may be able to do more together; and Caleb has possessed Nick and could cause further trouble for Sunset Curve.
  • Shirtless Scene:
    • Reggie loses his shirt while teleporting in “Wake Up”.
    • Luke eagerly strips off his old shirt for a fresh one in “Bright”.
  • Shout-Out: Specifically, lots of 80s references all over the place.
    • “Wow” has the lyric, “‘Cause we are the champions like Freddie Mercury”.
    • Carrie and her band, when in full costume, look like an evil version of Jem And The Holograms, albeit with a fifth, yellow-themed member. Julie saying that her bandmates are holograms also harkens back to Jem.
    • In episode 5, Reggie finds out about the Star Wars prequels... and Jar Jar.
    • Julie's fantasy in the seventh episode sees her and Luke dressed in clothes and hair very similar to that of Johnny and Baby from Dirty Dancing, but with the color of her dress and his shirt inverted.
  • Skate Heaven Is a Place on Earth: Or a place in the afterlife. Due to him being a ghost, Willie is free to treat LA like his own personal skate park, including in front of cops arresting living skaters, in traffic or breaking into museums.
  • Spooky Photographs: Ghosts don’t show up in photos, instead they appear as glowing orbs.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Julie and Luke develop feelings for each other over the season but can't be together or even touch, since Luke died years before she was even born. They get to have their first hug at the end of the final episode when Julie makes the boys corporeal again, so time will tell how it turns out.
    • Alex and Willie move into this territory when the band makes sworn enemies of Caleb who owns Willie's soul and threatens to destroy him if he helps Alex.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: How Julie first comes up with the idea of passing the Phantoms off as holograms, after their first performance together and they disappeared a girl ask if they are holograms and Julie instantly agrees.
  • Superior Successor: Julie to Bobby/Trevor, as the fourth band member. While Bobby only succeeded by stealing Luke's songs and betraying the boys, Julie is a talented songwriter in her own right and proves to be a much more loyal and committed band member.
  • Take the Third Option: The boys are faced with joining Caleb's club for eternity or being wiped out of existence. They try to take the third option and complete their unfinished business so they can cross over. When that fails, they discover a fourth option - their connection to Julie can breaks Caleb's hold on them.
  • Technician vs. Performer: Carrie's girl band Dirty Candy versus Julie and the Phantoms. Dirty Candy is highly choreographed, commercial and auto-tuned; while Julie and the Phantoms play and write their own songs, and often improvise when they're on stage.
  • Teleporters and Transporters: How ghosts get around.
  • Tender Tears: The Sunset Curve boys are easily moved to tears when something emotional happens, as shown when they accidentally watch Ray reminiscing about Rose in "Bright".
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted. Julie was seeing one named Dr. Turner after the death of her mother, and says that she'll get sent back should she tell anyone she's been talking to ghosts.
  • Time-Shifted Actor: Bobby, the fourth member of Sunset Curve, is played by Taylor Kare as a teenager in the prologue and flashbacks. When Bobby/Trevor appears as an adult in the present day he's played by Steve Bacic.
  • Titled After the Song: Every episode in the series are named after a song played in the episode itself.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Carrie starts to applaud after the end of Julie and the Phantoms’ performance at the Orpheum, realizing their talent and becoming a little less jealous of them.
  • Unfinished Business: Ghosts wander among lifers on Earth because they have unfinished business that they have to resolve before they can cross over into the afterlife. Luke, Reggie and Alex presume that their unfinished business is wanting to play at the Orpheum and when they do so, they can cross over. It’s not, even though they do play there in “Stand Tall”.
  • Unrequited Love Switcheroo: Julie starts the series with a crush on Nick who is dating Carrie. By the time Nick breaks up with Carrie, Julie had bonded with Luke over songs and songwriting and developed a crush on him instead.
  • Vengeful Ghost: After finding out Bobby, the one member of Sunset Curve who didn’t die, stole Luke’s songs, released them under the alias Trevor Wilson and got rich off of them, the phantoms take their revenge by sneaking into his Malibu mansion and haunting him. This is what also leads them to meet Caleb.
  • Villain Recruitment Song: “You Got Nothing to Lose”, which Caleb sings after he forces the phantoms to join his house band. Also qualifies as a Villain Song in general.
  • Wrong Assumption: Julie assumes “Unsaid Emily”, a song written by Luke, is a love song and calls him a romantic. We later find out that Emily is his mother.
  • Year Outside, Hour Inside: Luke, Reggie and Alex believe that they spent an hour in a black room after their death, Julie informs them that they’ve been dead for 25 years.
  • You Look Like You've Seen a Ghost: Said word-for-word to Julie by her dad after she runs out screaming from her mother’s studio after seeing The Phantom’s for the first time.