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Disclaimer: I am not an Australian, nor do I play one on TV, so actual, authenticated Australians can correct me on points of fact and cultural background.

As you know, Bob, the Australian dramedy Spirited can be characterized as The Ghost and Mrs Muir, uh, rebooted. [The 1947 film starring Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison AND NOT the TV show, I like to think.] Just as Mrs. Suzy Darling has left her douchebag husband and moved into an apartment that was once the penthouse of a hotel, she is visited by the ghost of the dead punk rock star who died in it (Henry Mallet, of the band THE NERVE), and romance weirdly ensues. There are annoying characters that quite often bring you out of the Austen-esque trance Henry and Suzy's attraction and predicament induces, and I'm not sure a second season (which it has just gotten) is recommended (more on that later), but overall I can still recommend it highly: fun, wry, and occasionally heart-stopping.

I have not encountered either of the two leads in anything else . . . well, not knowingly - Matt King has had small roles in a fair number of sfnal British TV shows and film I've seen. Sorry, Matt! that I didn't remember you! Claudia Karvan - well, she's kind of a cipher, and I'm not sure if that's her character or her acting style. Always a little bit vague. I like her, though, especially when she's doing gymnastics. (!) I'm not sure I know how to talk about the relationship that grows between them yet. The lightest touch of the reality of their separation settles on their scenes together, and almost as lightly dissipates. It's very wistful.

For your reviewing pleasure, here's a pretty good episode guide and here are links to the streaming flash episodes (watch 'em before they get taken down!).

I can't but hear their name in the voice of Endora from Bewitched.

You can't have a PUNK ROCK GHOST AND MRS MUIR without talking about the music, which is consistently incisively chosen and, while it may partake in the indie-auteur-mixtape syndrome* just a little tiny bit, it feels much more indebted to Todd Haynes (Velvet Goldmine) than to Wes Anderson (bleah). From The Saints' "(I'm) Stranded" in the opening credits, to Bridezilla's "Western Front" (from Episode Four "I Remember Nothing" closing credits) (the one with the OK-GO BUT NOT music video**), the show seems to have a diligent cultural memory, and I learned a lot about Australian music through it. Here, from Episode Three ("Wild Horses"), are the Leftovers, from Brisbane, who burned brightly and briefly!


The material produced for the show (both the songs by the fictitious band The Nerve and Jed Kurzel's original score) and the judiciously chosen tracks from the 70s (the whole thing's a sweet little love letter to the Australian punk scene, which rose at almost exactly the same time as the British, and approximately independently***) are mostly really awesome songs by talented musicians that have at least something to do with the plot. And this canny writing of The Nerve and Henry Mallet into music history, while it sometimes appalls with its caricatures, it gives Matt King some really wonderful material to work with/against.

Episode Two, "Everybody Loves You When You're Dead," has a few choice scenes where Henry discovers his past via music, including this one in which he and Suzy watch the documentary concerning M. Mallet.

This is funny in a wish fulfillment/rewriting history kinda way: the #1 song in Britain for most of March 1977 was The Manhattan Transfer, "Chanson D'Amour," and not Yazoo's "Don't Go" (which wasn't released until 1982). If only! This is perhaps how the show deals with the anxiety of influence, Australian punk feeling like the wanna-be red-headed step-child. And while Henry can carp that Ian Curtis got a feature film made about him (and not just an obscure documentary), the show's blend of verisimilitude and snark give you the feeling that Henry had it pretty sweet, fictional or not.

It's a lot of fun, the soundtrack. For your pleasure, three contemporary Australian acts featured in the show, two of which toured with Bridezilla: Cabins "The Moon", The Mess Hall "My Villain", and Eddy Current Suppression Ring "Which Way to Go."

More to come!

*See Will Schmenner, "The Mixtape and the Auteur" (The Baffler, v2n1). Very nice overview, with due diligence done w/r/t Tarantino.
**Made by the same people who did the Spirited credit sequence: Daniel Fletcher and Justin Kurzel. I don't know why the credit sequence is so freaking much better than their other work, unless they were high.
***On the Leftover's youtube page I link to above, one commenter has the same injured, if incorrect, reply to assertions that they were ripping off the Sex Pistols as Henry does: they "pre-dated the Pistols by about 2 years." So there.
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