I just discovered the Australian show, Glitch and it injects a real breath of fresh air into the back from the dead genre which was so popular a few years back.
First, some background into the genre: A&E’s 2015 The Returned was an official remake of the excellent French 2012 series Les Revenants, whereas ABC’s Resurrection was based on a 2013 novel called The Returned but was actually no relation.
The French series was based on a 2004 film called Les Revenants (translated to They Came Back) that was about the effects of some 70 million people coming back from the dead and trying to “return” to the lives they lost, which is not to be confused with HBO’s The Leftovers in which no one came back but 140 million people vanished! Confused?
If you were before, now you’ll have to add ABC’s Glitch to the list. That’s the Australian Broadcast Corporation (not ABC, the American Broadcasting Company) series, which was made in 2015 but is apparently entirely original.
Now you’ll understand why studios return unsolicited scripts unopened – because just like this and Volcano and Dante’s Peak and Dennis the Menace and Dennis the Menace – people are always having the same idea at the same time.
Glitch tells the story of James Hayes (Patrick Brammall) a small town cop in Yoorana. One night a routine call to the local cemetery sees seven people rise from the dead. Some had been buried just a couple of years while others had been buried for more than a century but all are in perfect health and have no memory of their identities.
With assistance from a local doctor, James is determined to keep the story from leaking and help the resurrected find out who they really are.
At the time of writing, I’m four (out of six) episodes in and while the quality has diminished, I’m still enjoying the series. I haven’t watched an Antipodean series since Jane Campion’s excellently disturbing Top of the Lake and this makes me remember that watching a series from the other side of the world can be surprisingly refreshing; Despite the high production values (unusual for ‘Straya!) there are no stars or recognisable actors, and it’s safe to say that not one actor was chosen for their good looks. Except maybe Charles. And Kate.
Australian dialogue is always a strange brew – so laid back it’s horizontal yet, at the same time, queerly rigid. Hence the writing is sometimes similarly cumbersome and over-expositionary yet retains a much more naturalistic vibe. I love my American drama but this is just more… real, apart from the few times when characters make occasional illogical turns.
The fictional town of Yoorana is the perfect backdrop for the (Mary) Shelley gothic resurrection theme – buildings are either Queenslander-like hotel pubs bathed in orange streetlamps or English interlopers amongst the New South Wales landscape – an otherworldly place with peeling, silver-barked trees and strange bird calls (I really miss those possums and swishy trees!) where the light diffuses unlike any other country I’ve visited.
The fact that cops in Australia don’t carry guns lowers the life or death stakes but the human drama is raised.
*errata – episodes five and six clearly show the cops with guns but not being American, the actors just don’t know how to hold them nor the director how to film them.
There are a few threads that don’t work – James’ police colleague Vic is a constant misnomer and his motives after a car wreck are unclear. One minute he’s a concerned busy-body, the next he’s a goddamned Terminator. The God-fearing religious Italian, Maria’s story is repetitive until the writers saw fit to abruptly do away with and several of The Lazarii are cardboard cutouts.
Fitzpatrick and Bo’s story seems a little shoehorned in to have a token First Nation presence whereas, after Standing Rock, I think the world is ready for a more serious discussion of First Nations instead of them being pushed to one side and forgotten about. If Fear The Walking Dead can tackle the subject matter, then surely these female Australian, presumably liberal screenwriters can do better.
Speaking of forgotten about, in the most underdeveloped storyline of all, the town’s very suspicious Big Pharma company Noregard (pronounced Nore-gard, not No-regard) better not be at the heart of the mystery because it’s only had about three throwaway mentions. Also, some of the cause and effect detective work needs a little more… erm, cause than “I went to the art gallery and happened to see a mould of your face so I know you died in the year 1830.”
AND THE UGLY…
Glitch’s biggest glitch is that for a show about people rising from their graves, it forgets that it’s a paranormal show – after the initial (and very well handled shock) large swathes of the series pass almost without reference to the fact that these guys are dead. It treats them as amnesiacs. The biggest thing I would want to know should I shuffle back to this mortal coil is how the hell I got here.
I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that this is because Glitch is written and made by female writer/directors. That’s not a diss – in an odd way it’s a compliment – the show’s emphasis is on emotional beats and feelings. A male crew would have made for a spookier show but hey – horror is the biggest exponent of style over substance – its tricks of the trade maketh the genre.
There was one huge continuity error which a script editor/supervisor should have picked up on in a logic pass – while at a “paddock party” one of the resurrected characters, Kirsty dances to a current EDM track and proclaims “I love this song!” but how could she when she was murdered in 1988?
Just as one kookaburra does not make spring, one small story continuity error does not take anything away from Emma Freeman’s reliable hands behind the camera, for which she won the Australian Director’s Guild Award for Best Direction in a TV series.
Worth noting also that five out of six episodes were written by women, with three and a half penned by Louise Fox who wrote a single episode of Broadchurch for Chris Chibnall.
Glitch is available on Netflix and a second series is coming sometime in 2017. Right now, I’m going back in for episodes five and six… see you on the other side.