The Strange Calls, a loopy six-part Australian sitcom that began streaming this weekend on Hulu, opens as Officer Toby Banks (Toby Truslove) arrives in the small Aussie coastal community of Coolum. Still reeling from a painful romantic break-up, Toby has moved here from a larger city, looking to start over in his new capacity as the night shift officer for the Coolum Beach Police Department. Had he done his homework, he would have discovered this job has a suspiciously high turnover rate.
Toby isn’t encouraged by how things start out for him in his new locale. His testy superior, Sgt. Neil Lloyd (Patrick Brammall), can’t even remember Toby’s name properly and seems to take a mildly sadistic glee in showing Toby his new “office,” a dilapidated RV with only a battered bicycle available as his night-shift police vehicle.
And then the calls start coming in. One man reports his intense fear of a giant squid to whom the caller owes several million dollars. A woman asks for assistance in removing a tall tree that has gotten stuck up her cat (that’s not a typo). Understandably, Toby thinks he somehow has landed in the crank-call capital of the world.
Then he meets Gregor (Barry Crocker), the elderly (he admits to 47) eccentric who functions as the town’s unofficial nighttime security officer. Gregor knows Coolum inside and out, and he tells Toby the place is an epicenter of eeriness.
“It can be pretty weird around here once the sun goes down,” he cautions Toby. “Some of those cries for help are more real than you can possibly imagine.”
Almost immediately, Gregor begins driving Toby around as he investigates a series of increasingly bizarre cases involving werechickens, zombie cats, a theater ghost and much more. Toby also begins to learn that Gregor enjoys a personal life that seems to be, um, unusually full (he may or may not be the star attraction on an erotic webcam for senior women).
Created and directed by Daley Pearson, who also wrote some of the episodes, The Strange Calls is a very funny, off-kilter and distinctly original comedy series that looks like what you might get if you crossed Broadchurch with the old 1991-92 comedy-fantasy series Eerie, Indiana. Katherine Hicks has a recurring featured role as Kath, a pretty caterer who strikes some romantic sparks with Toby, but the show’s focus wisely stays on Toby and Gregor, an inspired comic odd couple. The Strange Calls is so delightful and unpredictable that I happily binge-watched all six half-hour episodes in one sitting and was left wanting even more.
Highly recommended for fans of unconventional adult(ish) comedy.