Trapped between two worlds, and effectively two genres, is a new ABC series starring Ryan Corr & Bob Morley.
“Hey mate… why’d you lie to Nico about the Christmas drinks?” Charlie asks his friend Nate as they work together over some carpentry.
Nate, remaining secretive about the real reason for his absence at a work function says, “I had to go to the doctor.”
“Are you right? Are you crook?” Charlie asks.
“Yeah all good mate,” Nate replies.
But the inability of men to deal with their vulnerabilities, or deeper issues such as depression, is at the core of new ABC comedy, In Limbo.
The premise centres around Nate, having taken his own life, reappearing to Charlie in ‘ghost’ form to seek his assistance to cross over to the other side. But only Charlie can see Nate, for reasons not apparent.
Undead tales are not new to television, with Ghosts, Spirited, Glitch, Dead Gorgeous alongside movies such as Blithe Spirit, Bettlejuice and, well, Ghost.
This new series by Bunya Productions blends serious themes with touches of comedy with the latter presenting as something of a ‘buddy ghost’ comedy. Mental Health, and men’s reluctance to deal with such, drives this 6 part series.
Charlie (Ryan Corr) is a Brisbane-based crane operator who has known Nate (Bob Morley) since childhood. While Nate has a seemingly perfect life as husband and young father, Charlie is attempting the dating scene again, a year on from a failed relationship.
Inexplicably, Charlie finds his friend dead on the floor of his home -spoiler alert- having taken his own life. For two seemingly happy-go-lucky blokes, it is a brutal reality call, all during the festive season.
“Did he have a history of mental illness?” a police officer asks a numb Charlie…. “suicide rarely makes sense to the people left behind.”
For Nate’s widow Freya (Emma Harvie) it is devastating news, with a forlorn and guilty Charlie going out of his way to assist, whether as soccer coach to her daughter Annabel (Kamillia Rihani) or in completing the cubby house that both men were building before the untimely death.
But not even Charlie could have expected to come face to face with Nate in ‘ghostly’ form, cracking jokes, acting like there has been no changes, save for his ability to successfully cross over to the other side. It isn’t entirely clear if Nate is an apparition or a figment of Charlie’s mind (I think we’re supposed to overlook Morley’s reflection and shadow, which the budget clearly was unable to erase with CGI).
Even before Nate has been farewelled with a funeral, Charlie and Nate are back to matesy gags and laconic humour, on a mission to help Nate’s spirit ascend… or descend.
“I can’t do it alone and I need your help,” Nate insists.
While Ryan Corr is the earth-bound straight man, Morley is the comedic spirit in this relationship. In the middle of this most-serious theme, In Limbo is more successful at drama than comedy.
The scene where the men come face to face, post-Nate’s death, was handled too unrealistically for my liking. There’s no genuine fear at the prospect of seeing a dead friend suddenly alive, which subsequently took me out of the credible world that had been set up.
Any anger from Charlie is fleeting, with Nate back to wisecracks about dunnies and bubble baths. It might have been more believeable if Charlie’s blokey logic had rejected the whole afterlife concept requiring a little more Patrick Swayze-like persistence from Nate (which in turn, may have elicited more comic scenes).
All six episodes will be available on iview which hopefully means a brief wait to get to scenes of more substance as raised by the premise. In Limbo is commendable for tackling mental health, suicide, and comedy but the balance of genres is itself trapped between two worlds with neither ultimately quite satisfying, despite having its heart in the right place.
In Limbo screens 9pm Wednesday on ABC.