Julie and the Phantoms on Netflix, about an aspiring singer who starts a band with three ghosts, has the look and the feel of a Disney Channel teencom. Aren't they all about aspiring singers? But it's Netflix, so there is gay representation.
15-year old Julie (Madison Reyes) has the standard teencom overprotective single parent, bratty little brother, It-Girl nemesis, and dreamy-boy crush named Nick (why aere they always named Nick?). Her life changes when she accidentally releases three members of a boy band who died after eating bad hot dugs in 1995 (a fourth didn't eat the hot dogs, and lived): They are:
1. Calm lead guitarist Luke (Charlie Gillespie, left)
2. Goofball Reggie (Jeremy Shada). Unfortunately, this is a teencom, so no beefcake.
3. Skateboarder Alex (Owen Joyner, below), who came out as gay shortly before they died. Not to worry, the other guys are totally cool with it. . In fact, they are so completely nonchalant about gay subtexts, hanging all over each other all the time, singing love songs to each other, that they seem like a post-gay anachronism. Were any teens really so nonchalant about gayness in 1995?
The guys adapt quickly to being dead and 25 years in the future. True to sitcom logic, only Julie can see or hear them -- except when they are singing. So why not start the band up again? Julie explains that they vanish at the end of each number because they are in Sweden, performing through holograms.
Yes, we hear the songs.
Teencom complications ensue for Julie, mostly about keeping the secret, pursuing dreamy Nick, and gaining the confidence to sing on her own (she hasn't been able to sing since her mother died). The boys must deal rather poignantly with the faact that their parents, their surviving band mate, everyone they loved has moved on and lived without them for 25 years.
Alex begins dating a Native American ghost named Willie (Booboo Stewart). Their physical contact is limited to holding hands and hugging, but since this is a teencom, that's all the heterosexuals get, too.
Willie accidentally becomes the conduit of the season's major plot arc: He is enslaved by an evil ghost named Caleb (Cheyenne Jackson). When Caleb finds out about the guys, he wants their souls, too. If they fail to comply, he will destroy them; they will cease to exist.
The only way to escape is to go on to the afterlife by finishing the "unfinished business" that is keeping them earthbound. But what is it?
Spoiler alert: They finish the unfinished business in the season finale, but they don't go on to the afterlife. Instead, the evil Caleb takes over Nick's body. So there will no doubt be a Season 2.
My grade: B.