SCHOOL SPIRITS Review: High School Is Tough When You're Dead

Peyton List stars as a high-school student investigating her own murder. And I thought Chemistry was tough!

Managing Editor; Dallas, Texas, US (@peteramartin)
SCHOOL SPIRITS Review: High School Is Tough When You're Dead

Imagine if you were dead, but could still show empathy toward the living. How cool would that be?

School Spirits
The series debuts Thursday, March 9, on the Paramount Plus streaming service. I've seen the first three episodes.

Like many great detectives, Maddie must solve the case. She is fiercely driven by her own need to uncover the truth. One complication: she's dead.

Maddie begins the show by waking up dead, so that's not a spoiler. As appealingly portrayed by Peyton List, she bumbles and stumbles her way through the introductory scenes, as she meets the other members of the "Split River High After-Life Support Group" and learns the ground rules of her new life in purgatory, stuck within the same high school grounds where she, somehow, lost her life.

Different from the other members of the support group, Maddie doesn't know why or how she died. Guided by new best friend Charlie (Nick Pugliesse), Maddie quickly susses out the boundaries that will limit her existence for the time being, as well as the narrow parameters that restrain her from investigating her own death.

Thus, her deductive reasoning, essential for any detective, is complicated because she must also figure out how to motivate living people to take actions on her behalf, when she can't communicate with them directly. Being dead is really a bummer, isn't it?

The show avoids that sort of sarcastic nattering, though, and includes a minimum of profane wisecracking. It goes fairly light on any explicit bloodshed, while not indulging in the ample common profanities that are laced through the dialogue of too many other shows to count, all aiming to appeal to "Generation Z." Instead, it displays rare empathy for the behavior of individuals under stress, as well as their actions, which might easily be misunderstood.

Peyton List makes for a believable protagonist; her main preoccupation, the driving force of her new existence, is finding out who killed her and why. That's all she really cares about, but she's not insensitive to the sufferings of others, whether emotional or physical.

It's easy to believe she would not be a lone wolf looking to avenge her own death, but, rather, someone who wants to keep others from injury and/or death, by bringing the responsible person(s) to justice. Or at least to stop them from hurting others. We'll see how the show develops over the course of its eight episodes, but the first three are worth watching for a refreshing change from the usual-usual among streaming shows.


From an official release: "The series was created by Nate Trinrud and Megan Trinrud, who also co-wrote the series premiere. The graphic novel is planned for publication in fall 2023 by Clarion Books/HarperAlley, an imprint of HarperCollins Children's Books.

"Oliver Goldstick (Pretty Little Liars, Bridgerton) serves as showrunner with Max Winkler (Cruel Summer, Jungleland) directing the first two episodes. Goldstick, Nate Trinrud, Megan Trinrud, and Winkler serve as executive producers."

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