From zero to hero

It takes one freak ac­ci­dent to change the life of copy­writer Bob in horror-com­edy se­ries Cross­ings.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - TV - By FIONA HO

BOB Boroi sees dead peo­ple. But that’s noth­ing new in TV-land, re­ally. A runof-the-mill copy­writer in an ad­ver­tis­ing agency, Bob (played by Zak­iza­mani Os­man aka Zaki) meets with a freak ac­ci­dent and nearly dies.

In a horror-story cliché, he awakes dis­traught and bug-eyed fran­tic when he sees the soul of a dead man in his re­flec­tion.

Premised on the all-too-fa­mil­iar ze­ro­turns-hero pro­tag­o­nist, Ntv7’s Cross­ings is a lit­tle like Reaper meets Ghost Whis­perer with a teeny dash of Ugly Betty of­fice bitch­ery.

The 13-episode dark com­edy chron­i­cles the life of Bob as he learns to deal with his new­found abil­ity, help­ing lost souls he en­coun­ters to find peace.

He later be­friends tomboy­ish Katie (Dira Abu Za­har), a quasi-filmmaker who joins his agency. In an at­tempt to get rid of Bob’s “ghostly friend”, the duo stum­bles upon Danny (Hansen Lee), a boy­ish geek who in­vents con­trap­tions to de­tect the su­per­nat­u­ral.

In their quest to help the spir­its that Bob sees, the three­some gets into nu­mer­ous comic sit­u­a­tions.

While Zaki ex­udes some gen­uine charisma on­screen, the first-time ac­tor re­ally just looks per­pet­u­ally blur with pie-sized eyes and a be­wil­dered ex­pres­sion. Per­haps a blank, bimbo-in­spired look is what he is aim­ing for in his role as the “lov­able loser”.

Zaki’s char­ac­ter is rather lik­able but he could re­ally use an act­ing les­son or two ... it takes more than just be­ing pudgy and a few clev­erly scripted fat jokes to be funny.

Dira and Lee as the for­mu­laic Ron-andHermione type side­kicks to bum­bling Bob don’t do much for the story ei­ther. Most glar­ingly, there is hardly any chem­istry be­tween the two.

Dira’s strug­gle with the English lan­guage, which she re­vealed at a re­cent press event, is also re­flected in her act­ing – she ap­pears to be lost for words half the time and when she does find them, her speech sounds choppy.

Plus, with her silky-hair and per­fectly made-up face, she looks more like a wannabe rock-chick than the tomboy she sup­pos­edly plays. Still, Dira like her co-star Lee, is pretty to look at.

But with all due re­spect, Lee is sim­ply too hunky to play a geeky so­cial mis­fit! Who is he kid­ding with those bulging bi­ceps and that honed physique? Some­one that good look­ing would be a hit in any so­cial scene or the cast of Gos­sip Girl. That be­ing said, he can pass off as quite a charm­ing goof-off in Cross­ings.

But it is Xavier Fong’s portrayal of Bob’s ef­fem­i­nate but nasty col­league An­thony that steals the show. An­thony takes plea­sure in bul­ly­ing Bob at work, and in his daily let’shurl-in­sults-at-Bob rou­tine delivers some of the show’s fun­ni­est and wit­ti­est lines with ex­cel­lent comic tim­ing.

Sport­ing an ar­ray of colour­ful out­fits, homo-ques­tion­able An­thony spices up the se­ries with the sexy Ruzana Ibrahim as his ma­nip­u­la­tive co-worker/BFF Brenda. They are some­what the lo­calised ver­sion of Ugly Betty’s dra­matic duo Marc and Amanda.

They tend to over­act at times, but they are def­i­nitely en­ter­tain­ing to watch. Ruzana is es­pe­cially con­vinc­ing as the bitchy of­fice beauty who takes ad­van­tage of Bob be­cause he has a crush on her. Though with a face and a body like that, any guy would have a crush on her too ... ex­cept for An­thony with the oc­ca­sional pseudo-Amer­i­can ac­cent when he an­swers phone calls lah, of course.

Nina Sharil Khan also makes a lean, mean screechy-ma­chine as Bob’s hot-headed boss, Miss Mer­lin. Also watch out for the late Yalal Chin as Lee’s bo­gus bo­moh fa­ther who talks with a funny Phua Chu Kang-ish twang.

Cross­ings fid­dles with uni­ver­sal themes such as friend­ship, love and fam­ily, and boasts a set of dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters each week rang­ing from su­per-bad drug lords, trans­ves­tite stereo­types, and even the dis­abled.

It has a de­cent plot­line and some truly fine comic mo­ments but some­thing seems lack­ing in its ex­e­cu­tion.

Its nu­mer­ous at­tempts to get vis­ceral with is­sues like the crum­bling fam­ily unit and marginalised so­ci­eties also fall flat in a case of too many friv­o­lous jokes and frilly an­tics but no real sub­stance to any of the episodes. Then again, it is a horror-com­edy so maybe sub­stance is not a pre­req­ui­site.

That aside, given the sad state of the lo­cal TV/film in­dus­try, Cross­ings is a com­mend­able ef­fort. n Cross­ings airs on Ntv7 ev­ery Fri­day at 8.30pm.

I see dead peo­ple: Zaki (right) plays Bob Boroi, seen here with col­leagues An­thony and Brenda (Xavier Fong and Ruzana Ibrahim).

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