“Hey man…why did you lie to Nico about Christmas drinks?” Charlie asks his friend Nate as they work together on some carpentry jobs.
Nate, remaining secretive about the real reason for his absence from a work function, says, “I had to go to the doctor.”
“Are you okay? Are you a con man?” Charlie asks.
“Yeah, all right man,” Nate replies.
But men’s inability to deal with their vulnerabilities, or deeper issues like depression, is at the heart of the new ABC comedy, In limbo.
The premise centers on Nate, who took his own life, reappearing to Charlie in “ghost” form to seek his assistance in crossing over to the other side. But only Charlie can see Nate, for reasons not obvious.
Undead tales aren’t new to television, con Ghosts, Spirited, Glitchy, Dead Gorgeous along with films like BNimble wit, Bettlejuice it is good, Ghost.
This new series from Bunya Productions blends serious themes with touches of comedy, with the latter coming across as a kind of “buddy ghost” comedy. Mental health and men’s reluctance to face it drives this 6-part series.
Charlie (Ryan Corr) is a Brisbane crane operator who has known Nate (Bob Morley) since childhood. While Nate has a seemingly perfect life as a husband and young father, Charlie is attempting the dating scene again, one year after a failed relationship.
Inexplicably, Charlie finds his friend dead on the floor of his house -spoiler alert- who took his own life. For two seemingly carefree dudes, it’s a brutal call to reality, all during the holiday season.
“Did he have a history of mental illness?” a police officer asks a numb Charlie…. “Suicide rarely makes sense for people left behind.”
For Nate’s widow, Freya (Emma Harvie), it’s devastating news, with an abandoned and guilty Charlie bending over backwards to assist, both as his daughter Annabel’s (Kamillia Rihani) soccer coach and to complete the tiny house. which both men were building. before early death.
But even Charlie couldn’t have expected to come face-to-face with Nate in a “ghostly” form, cracking jokes, acting like there was no change, other than his ability to successfully cross over. It’s not entirely clear whether Nate is an apparition or a figment of Charlie’s mind (I think we should overlook Morley’s reflection and shadow, which the budget clearly wasn’t able to erase with CGI).
Even before Nate is greeted with a funeral, Charlie and Nate return to motherly gags and laconic humor, on a mission to help Nate’s spirit rise…or fall.
“I can’t do it on my own and I need your help,” Nate insists.
While Ryan Corr is the earthbound straight man, Morley is the comedian in this relationship. In the midst of this very serious topic, In limbo he is more successful in drama than comedy.
The scene where the men come face to face, after Nate’s death, was handled too unrealistically for my liking. There is no genuine fear at the prospect of suddenly seeing a dead friend alive, which subsequently took me out of the believable world that had been created.
Any anger from Charlie is fleeting, with Nate returning to making jokes about dunnies and bubble bath. It would have been more believable if Charlie’s boyish logic rejected the whole afterlife concept that required a little more Patrick Swayze-esque tenacity from Nate (which itself may have prompted more comedic scenes).
All six episodes will be available on iview, which hopefully means a short wait to get to more substantial scenes, as hinted by the premise. In limbo is commendable for tackling mental health, suicide, and comedy, but the balance of genres is itself caught between two worlds with neither ultimately entirely satisfying, despite having its heart in the right place.
In Limbo airs Wednesdays at 9:00 p.m. on ABC.