Calls: Apple TV+ Apocalyptic Series Most Audacious Experiment Yet

Calls is a Twilight Zone-style anthology series that premiered on Apple TV+ back in March but to "watch" it now is a very different experience from back then. We say "watch" because the show is really a series of radio dramas. Each half-hour episode of Calls tells a self-contained story that ends up adding to a tapestry where everything is explained at the end. Each story involves everyday people caught up in what turns out to be the same apocalyptic event. Each episode takes place on a different date, some of them months apart.

Calls: Apocalyptic Show is Apple TV+'s Most Audacious Experiment Yet
"Calls" graphic courtesy of Apple TV+

An actor in Los Angeles calls his girlfriend in New York but can't get up the nerve to break up with her while she's seeing a menacing figure lurking outside her building; A man in his 20s freaks out when his wife tells him she's pregnant and drives away to sort through his feelings, but each phone call he has with her, his mother and his best friend come from further and further in the future as the life he could have had falls further away from him; a man gets a phone call from his neighbour and gets sucked into a maelstrom of lies, adultery, and betrayal involving his wife and a bank heist; a woman tries to call her husband to talk him out of divorce while her desperate sister begs for help as a mysterious ailment cause her body to deteriorate; a distraught man phones 911 to confess to a murder, only to get a call from his victim hours before her death… all the stories are defined by life-changing phone calls that plunge the callers into mystery and horror.

Calls, adapted from a French series created by Timothée Hochet by director Fede Alvarez, is the most audacious experiment from Apple TV+ so far. The actors do not appear on the screen at all. We only hear their voices. And many of those voices might be instantly recognizable: Karen Gillen, Nick Jonas, Clancy Brown, Jennifer Tilly, Danny Huston, Rosario Dawson, Lily Collins, Judy Greer, Ben Schwartz, Riley Keough, Stephen Lang, Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Pedro Pascal. These are actors who span the geek universe in a wild Science Fiction anthology show. You could just listen to the show as you make dinner or pour a drink but Alvarez does something interesting here: he offers subtitles, lines, and graphics that change colour and shape in synch with the character's moods and the story's twists. It makes the viewer read subtitles and watch the changing colours and graphics as if it were synesthesia.

Calls is about the discovery of the multiverse. Loki, What If…? and the MCU movies and TV shows right now are about the emergence of the Multiverse. The multiverse is a concept that's been kicking around in comics and Science Fiction for decades, but suddenly it's looming large in mainstream pop culture now. Calls premiere back in March, but since then Loki and What If…? have come along and pushed the concept of the multiverse into the pop culture mainstream. Calls is about the Multiverse fracturing and causing chaos in several universes and timelines. Loki and What If…? are about the Multiverse fracturing into chaotic alternate timelines. Time travel and alternate timeline stories explore the fantasy of the road less traveled and the possibility of going back to correct mistakes. The sense of urgency in these TV shows suggests something is in the air, along with the new UFO craze. It makes one wonder why.

Calls is now streaming on Apple TV+.

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About Adi Tantimedh

Adi Tantimedh is a filmmaker, screenwriter and novelist. He wrote radio plays for the BBC Radio, “JLA: Age of Wonder” for DC Comics, “Blackshirt” for Moonstone Books, and “La Muse” for Big Head Press. Most recently, he wrote “Her Nightly Embrace”, “Her Beautiful Monster” and “Her Fugitive Heart”, a trilogy of novels featuring a British-Indian private eye published by Atria Books, a division Simon & Schuster.
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