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Series / The Strange Calls

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The Strange Calls is a 6-episode 2012 Australian Occult Detective comedy series. The story focuses on Toby Banks, a fresh night shift police officer placed in the small unorthodox town of Coolum. Despite Banks' boss's insistence that Coolum is a highly respectable model town, supernatural phenomena lurk below the surface. Banks is accompanied by Gregor, an enthusiastic older man who is an expert about the town's paranormal history and phenomena. He is posted in a caravan taking emergency calls at night, every one of them only describable as strange. These calls summon him to solve some mystery or petty crime with supernatural underpinnings.

Toby is insistent on realistic interpretations and doesn't believe the goings-on are anything but mundane, while Gregor is well-versed in the supernatural and excited by the events.

It's a little bit like Hot Fuzz meets The X-Files.

This show provides examples of:

  • Accidental Pervert: Toby has a tendency to trip and fall into people. In episode 4 he bursts into a clearing in hot pursuit of a suspect, but trips and falls onto a teenage boy who was sitting there, who calls Toby a pervert.
  • Agent Mulder: Gregor always has a bizarre supernatural explanation for whatever situation the two are dealing with. He's pretty much always right.
  • Agent Scully: Toby is always skeptical of Gregor's fantastical explanations for things, even after he sees clear evidence. His boss is even more skeptical.
  • Almost Kiss: In the final episode, Kath and Banks lean in for a kiss, only to be interrupted by Gregor's groaning. Banks breaks away to go attend to him.
  • And the Adventure Continues: At the end of almost every episode, the wrap-up of the episode's plot is interrupted by a new strange call with another weird situation for the characters to deal with, which is never shown onscreen.
  • At the Opera Tonight: Toby has to find whoever’s sabotaging the local theater before their production of The Phantom of the Opera debuts.
  • Audience Surrogate: Toby, being the new guy in a town with supernatural circumstances
  • Berserk Button: Do NOT take Gregor's board games.
  • Body Horror: Episode one has a man slowly turn into a chicken.
  • Buddy Cop Show: A supernatural, humorous variant. The series focuses on Toby, an often-ignored young cop, working together with Gregor, an old eccentric, to solve crimes. While Gregor's not actually a cop, he's often helpful and does more than most people on Coolum's police force do.
  • Butt-Monkey: Toby is constantly put down and taken advantage of by his boss, Gregor, and almost anyone they meet on a case. One gag has Gregor giving a very long list of people in town that hate Toby (including one couple who like everyone).
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: Once an Episode. Gregor is an eccentric old man full of weird, seemingly irrelevant stories and hang-ups, but he's pretty much always right about whatever supernatural thing is going on.
  • Curse Cut Short: Subverted in Episode 4. Gregor (in the context of a conversation about catching a cat) says, "I love catching p-" and the rest of the word is cut off by a loud truck passing by. Immediately afterward, he says "Pussy. I was going to say pussy. I love catching pussy."
  • Dirty Old Man: Gregor is very enamored with camwhore websites and frequently uses them while Toby is in the room. He sure looks like an old man, though he claims to be 47.
  • The Ghost: Mrs. Merryweather is a resident of the town who frequently calls the hotline with worries that need reassuring. She's never seen on screen, and we only hear Gregor and Banks' side of the conversations with her.
  • Hypocritical Humor: After Banks' trailer is vandalized, Gregor delivers a long speech about how he needs to chill out more and not overreact to things like this. Then, he realizes his board games have been stolen and starts screaming and swearing, giving an over-the-top reaction that far outpaces Toby's.
  • I Can't Believe It's Not Heroin!: One episode has some townspeople becoming addicted to a jingle, which causes them to become mowing-crazed violent lunatics. They go through severe withdrawal symptoms involving twitching and vomiting when separated from it. Many of the townspeople mistake them for being on ice (methamphetamines). The same episode also treats "Pocket Pets" (a Tomodachi-like video game) like an addictive drug.
  • I Choose to Stay: In the last episode, Banks, the fish out water in the small town of Coolum, is offered a promotion back in the big city. He chooses to stay at his job instead, partly out of love and loyalty for Gregor.
  • Left the Background Music On: In the last episode, Gregor gives Banks an emotional farewell, as an instrumental version of the show's theme song (a mellow folksy song) swells in the background. After Banks tells him he's chosen to stay, Gregor goes outside and tells some musicians he hired that they should switch to something else.
  • The Matchmaker: Gregor very actively tries to encourage Banks' relationship with Kath, and often invades Banks' privacy to do so by sending her flowers and text messages under Banks' name.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The supernatural events always have just enough plausible deniability to maintain Banks' insistence that they're perfectly normal crimes. The framing strongly implies the magical explanation, but it's never shown on camera.
  • Mean Boss: Sgt. Neil has no respect for Banks, and usually flat-out overrules him when he's actually trying to work on the case. He frequently also makes him do personal errands that are only vaguely related to police-work, such as replanting the city park to prep for the Tidy Town contest or build sets for his play. A lot of these things are also during the day, inconsiderate considering Banks works at night.
  • Miles Gloriosus: Sgt. Neil is a strapping police chief with a mustache who has a reputation of killing sharks and possums. When confronted by an actual dangerous police situation (Gregor and Banks are tied up by a crazed florist), Sarge collapses into incoherent sobbing and is comically useless, while Butt-Monkey Banks ends up rescuing them all. As soon as they leave the situation, Sarge tries to take credit for the whole daring escape.
  • Mistaken for Racist: Gregor accuses a theater worker of being racist and wearing Black Face when she really got a bucket of black paint dumped over her at the start of episode three.
  • Mistaken Nationality: Nobody can decide where Lola comes from, whether she's Swedish, Danish or Hungarian, and they keep confusing what European country she's from. She'a actually a mermaid.
  • Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here: Coolum is a small, idyllic seaside town, and Toby's superior is determined to keep it perfect. However, it's full of supernatural goings on, which it's Toby and Gregor's job to deal with.
  • Obi-Wan Moment: Parodied. Older mentor figure Gregor has been attacked with a serum that will turn him into a tree. Lying on a stretcher in an ambulence, he quietly accepts his fate, and offers some last wishes to a tear-stricken Banks. His last words before fading away, seemingly into death/treedom: "If any dogs piss on me, shoot them." Further subverted in that these turn out to be Parting-from-Consciousness Words, as the nurses had just sedated him.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: The mermaid who appears in one episode looks like a normal human woman while dry, and gets her tail back when wet, and has irridescent scales. These mermaids have songs like sirens and use music and sex appeal to lure men to their deaths, and then eat them.
  • Our Sirens Are Different: Lola is actually a mermaid who uses sex appeal and a magical song to lure men to their deaths.
    You're not faaaat.
    You're thiiiin.
  • Parting-from-Consciousness Words: Delivered softly and dramatically by Gregor "If any dogs piss on me, shoot them." The whole scene is played like a death scene, but the nurse actually just sedated him.
  • Recycled In Space: Sgt. Neil's production of The Phantom of the Opera, where it takes place during World War II on a boat and is an allegory for fighting the Germans. Oddly enough, it turns out that this was the exact vision of Burt, the ghost who's haunting the theater and the original author of the play. Burt is pissed because the new production doesn't have enough dead fascists in it.
  • Running Gag: People (mostly Gregor) calling Toby fat at random moments, even though he's clearly not.
  • Scenery Porn: The series is full of Establishing Shots of Coolum, all of which are gorgeous shots of waves crashing on the seashore, clouds passing over a mountain, etc.
  • Seen It All: Gregor is all too familiar with the towns strange goings-on and just rolls with it.
  • Straight Man and Wise Guy: Officer Toby Banks and his sidekick Gregor have this dynamic. Banks is an earnest, hapless, and mildly dorky By-the-Book Cop who takes everything about his job very seriously, and is always skeptical of any supernatural explanation by things. Gregor meanwhile is an old man with lots of weird fetishes and eccentricities, who constantly makes fun of Banks and ropes him into wacky adventures relating to his expertise on the town's supernatural doings.
  • Suggestive Collision: In Episode 3, Banks grabs who he thinks is the vandal, and they crash to the floor. It turns out to be Kath, his Love Interest, and Banks is lying on top of her.
  • Taking the Bullet: In Episode 6, Banks and Gregor are trying to escape being held hostage by a guy with a serum to turn people into trees. Banks makes a sudden move and their captor turns the spray on him, but Gregor jumps forward and takes the brunt of it instead, developing a painful rash that threatens to turn him into a tree.
  • Third Wheel: Banks is all set to go on a date with his love interest, Kath, but the date is crashed by his boss, who also has an interest in her. Awkwardness ensues.
  • Transflormation: Episode 6 features a guy who developed a serum that turns people into trees, and has used it on himself (he's halfway through the tranformation). His evil plan is to turn the rest of the town into trees as well.
  • You Are Fat: Gregor frequently causally describes or refers to Banks as fat, even though he's pretty average in build. This causes Banks to develop some insecurities on the subject.
  • Younger Than They Look: Maybe. Gregor appears elderly but insists he is 47. He has once claimed to be 90 out of self-convenience, and Banks has referred to him as 68.