July 2007 Update!!!!!! There is going to be a movie! Shooting has either wrapped up or is close to wrapping up. Star Ellen Muth goes so far as to hint that that a renewal of the series might be possible. Details are still forthcoming and apart from the movie (and I'm sorry, I don't know if this is a TV, a direct-to-DVD, or theatrical release) nothing definite is known about the chances of the series being revived, but this is definitely good news. There is some recasting. Mandy Patinkin, unfortunately, will not be back as Rube nor will Laura Harris as Daisy. It appears Rube's character is being replaced by a new head reaper, while a new actress will be playing Daisy. Otherwise all the other actors will be back. The rest of my review now appears as it was first written back in February 2004.
I would place DEAD LIKE ME on the shortest of short lists of the truly great television shows of the past decade and a half (that date referring to the debut of TWIN PEAKS and a more artistically serious form of television). Most television shows are unambitious affairs, either because of constraints from the networks or lack of creative talent at the top, but DEAD LIKE ME stands head and shoulders above the competition. It is not nearly as well as it deserves, primarily because it was a series that appeared on Showtime, which limited its exposure.
The television show begins--we learn later--with a toilet seat from the MIR space station rushing to fulfill its destiny on planet earth, namely to ignite into a ball of fire and strike eighteen-year-old Georgia "George" Lass, who is taking her lunch break on the first day of her temp assignment with the Happy Times Employment Agency. George looks up at the descending ball, inaudibly utters the word "sh#t" and immediately enters the next stage of her existence, if not her life. Much to her astonishment, she finds herself standing a few feet away from her body, able to see the living, but herself unseen by all except for a few Grim Reapers, whose job it is to see her into her afterlife. Usually this involves aiding them to the place where they will spend eternity, but in George's case, she is recruited very much against her will to become a Grim Reaper. The rest of the first season deals with George's deep resistance to accepting her new vocation, as well as coming to terms with her death, the loss of her family and the discovery of what they unexpectedly meant to her, her need to find a living (it turns out being a Reaper is an unpaid position), her yearning for friends and companionship, and her growing awareness of what it means to be a human being.
The show succeeds on virtually every level. The scripts are consistently superb, many of them by series creator and STAR TREK: VOYAGER alum Bryan Fuller. The production values are far beyond the normal television series. The special effects (and there are more than one would expect on a show of this kind) are always striking. The photography is simply unmatched in television. I might be inclined to defend the statement that this is the show has the best photography in the history of television. The camerawork is difficult to praise too highly, with innovative camera angles, zooms, wide angle lenses, and especially filters to make this an incredibly beautiful show to look at. It was filmed in Vancouver, but it was supposed to be Seattle, but instead of the rain that one anticipates from the climate, there is constant and brilliant sunshine. Green dominates the screen (the color of growing things?) in every exterior shot. It is exhilarating to view a series that is made this well.
The cast is exquisite. Ellen Muth plays George, and I'm not sure they could have gotten anyone more perfect to play the role. She is a perfect blend of sullen, grumpy, vulnerable, and lost, and she manages perfectly to communicate her awakening to life by having died. She is also one of the more interesting actresses to have appeared in sometime, giving the appearance of being average in appearance while in fact being a striking beauty. Her undead supervisor Rube is played by the great Mandy Patinkin, and he turns in his usual exquisite performance. Rebecca Gayheart (who was the original Inara on FIREFLY, but left before the pilot was shot) was superb in the first few episodes as Betty, who was replaced in the team by Laura Harris (of "24") as deceased Hollywood bit player and promiscuous party girl Daisy Adair (who continually regales the group with tales of her sexual conquests of movie stars). Perhaps my favorite moment of the season occurs when the Reapers are forced to catalog and record all the last thoughts of those whose souls they have reaped, and we inadvertently learn Daisy's last thought. She immediately moves from being an unsympathetic character to one that we love more than a little. The hard-as-nails Roxy, who works as a meter maid, is played convincingly by Jasmine Guy (of A DIFFERENT WORLD, and the team is rounded out by Callum Blue as the hapless British thief and druggie Mason. Cynthia Stevenson is great as George's mom. Special mention has to be made of the supporting character who provides perhaps more hysterical moments during the season than any other, Christine Willes, who plays the unforgettable Dolores Herbig "Brown Eyes," George's supervisor at Happy Times, sometimes friend, and host of her own website called "Getting Things Done," on which she is seen whenever she is home "getting things done."
After loving the first season of the show, I was tremendously excited about two things: 1) the DVD set coming out and 2) the second season. I was ecstatic when the show was renewed for a second season. Despite its quality, Showtime has not worked at developing original series as has its rival HBO. But last fall they announced the show had been renewed for 2004. The new episodes should begin appearing in May 2004. I heartily urge anyone who loves great TV like BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, SIX FEET UNDER, and FIREFLY to give this remarkable series a shot. You won't be disappointed.
I am sure the people at Showtime knew what they were doing when they scheduled "Dead Like Me" to start when HBO's "Six Feet Under" was over, because the two shows are certainly complementary. However, while the deaths that begin each episode of "Six Feet Under" have their moments in terms of being rather weird (my favorite was the woman convinced it was the Rapture when she saw the a bunch of helium filled inflatable dolls floating away), they do not have the Rube Goldberg quality of what the gravelings can set in motion in "Dead Like Me."
The idea of the afterlife created by Bryan Fuller, who also created the similarly quirky Wonderfalls," is that right before you die you soul is taken from your body by a Grim Reaper. Although they are replete in the opening title sequence these are not Grim Reapers as in figures in black hood carrying scythes. In fact, they look like regular folk, although not the regular folk they were when they were alive now that they are a peculiar variety of undead. We learn the rules of the game along with young Georgia Lass (Ellen Muth), an 18-year-old sourpuss called George. Having decided to forego the college experience George has been sent out into the world to find a job and during lunch she is passed on the street by a strange man who touches her. We see a light passing from her to him and within seconds a toilet seat from a disintegrating Russian space station strikes her dead.
George is surprised to see herself looking at the big hole in the ground where she had been standing a moment ago and even more surprised to be informed that she is now a Grim Reaper. This task is done by Rube (Mandy Patinkin), who is in charge of a cadre of Reapers in this particular town. This includes Mason (Callum Blue), an English bloke who has figured out that you cannot overdose when you are already dead so indulge in drugs to your heart's contextt; Roxy (Jasmine Guy), a meter maid for the police department with ample attitude to spare; and, at first, Betty Rhomer (Rebecca Gayheart), a former beauty queen who is ready to move on to the next level. We are not quite sure what that is, because while Grim Reapers get to release souls and head them in the right direction (bright lights that assume various pleasing shapes), they really do not know what the final destination is really like for the dead.
Of course, in the early episodes of the series George is not happy with being dead and not exactly thrilled with a job when she is given a post-it note with a name, address and E.T.D. (estimated time of death) so she can go reap a soul. The latter is taken care of when she gets a couple of hard lessons about what happens when she does not (your form in the afterlife is not how you look at the moment of death, but at the moment that your soul is reaped, so it is something you would want to have done before the autopsy). The former is more difficult, because trying to reconnect with her life from beyond the grave is hampered by the fact that she looks different (to everyone else) and she cannot say anything that would convince anyone who knew her before that she was still around.
One of the strengths of this quirky series is that we do not ignore the family that Georgia has left behind as her mother (Cynthia Stevenson), little sister (Britt McKillip), and father (Greg Kean) try to deal with moving on after her death. Watching the Lass family disintegrate is almost a show within the show, capable of standing on its own, because their interaction with Georgia the Grim Reaper is infrequent and usually something indirect. We are as interested in what is going to happen to Joy and Reggie (and J.D. rather than Clancy) as we are to Georgia and her friends.
Another thing that makes "Dead Like Me" work is the actual friendship that springs up between George and Dolores Herbig (Christine Willes). Now known as Millie, George ends up going back to work at Happy Time, the employment agency that she was taking a lunch break from when the sky fell on her head (even when you are undead a girl has to eat). Dolores is extremely annoying, but "Millie" pretends to play along so long that she actually starts playing along with Dolores' weltanschauung.
The cherry on top with this show is Mandy Patinkin as Rube, who finally has a role in which he can say pretty much anything he wants, especially when it comes to what he is having for breakfast and how it is cooked. I like the way he calls George "Peanut" all the time as he imparts to her the facts of being undead. I also like the way Roxy gets mad at people who tear up their tickets, the moments of conscious that Mason has when doing his job, and the way Reggie honors the memory of her sister. But then it is a well- established fact that I like quirky.
Joining the cast during this first season is another Grim Reaper, Daisy Adair (Laura Harris), an actress who had a role in "Gone With the Wind" and makes no bones about how she got the gig before she died. She and George become roommates just to cause further trouble for our heroine (and her frog) and is most definitely the character who rubs me the wrong way. But in the end I have to say that the only thing about "Dead Like Me" that really bothers me is that the post-it notes only have the first initial of the person who is destined to die. You cannot tell a person's gender from just an initial.
on November 21, 2004
A friend once told me that he was creeped out whenever an episode of "The Twilight Zone" featured a ventriloquist's dummy. Those episodes never impressed me, but recently I got chills watching an old episode about a toy telephone.
You can never tell what's going to strike a chord and resonate with a particular person. "Dead Like Me" is not for everyone. Some people will hate it. Others just won't "get" it. It's too bad, really, because they're missing out on something truly wonderful.
18-year-old Georgia (George) Lass, deceased, has a new job: collector of souls of the newly departed--a grim reaper, if you prefer. She doesn't want to be a reaper. She doesn't know how to be a reaper. She gets on-the-job training. What she learns about, mostly, is life.
In life, George was too cool to care about anything. In death, she learns to care, in ways that are funny and sad together. The result is the most consistently moving television show I've ever seen. At the end of each episode, when the credits appear, I find myself shaking my head and muttering, "What a GREAT show!"
The language and some visuals are too harsh for young children. The show contains a lot of adult subject matter--no, not like cable porn--rather, like parents struggling over how to cope with an emotionally troubled 11-year-old daughter. Material for genuinely mature audiences. Very rare, that.
Not for everyone, but I couldn't recommend it more highly. What a GREAT show.
on May 21, 2004
Really. It's one of the only shows I can watch over and over again; it never gets boring and never gets annoying. Each episode carries you from laughter to tears to contemplation, and I have never seen such fantastic acting. Even the minor characters give flawless performances, and the regular characters are nothing short of brilliant -- every single line is delivered just so, and you can't imagine anyone saying it better. All of the characters are given real personalities; their pasts, their lives and their dialogues are carefully-crafted. The characters (especially those who are dead) seem more real and more life-like than real people, and each show makes you think about life and death just a little bit differently than you did before. The direction and production are spotless -- colors are vibrant and intense, timing is perfect, and the picture quality and effects are always perfect for each scene. And, since each show is approximately 40 minutes, it's just enough to fit into your day, but you keep wanting more! Okay, so I'm raving, but this is genuinely my favorite show ever and I come away from every episode with the same "life, but intensified" feeling I get after watching My So-Called Life, or Almost Famous -- there are sad patches, and funny parts, but most of all you really think about life (the good parts and the bad), and it makes you want to live yours better.
on August 8, 2004
Good show for making me think. I like the grim humor: dark but not depressing. I don't get Showtime, so it looks like I have to buy the DVD set. Basically, George does like many people do in a new situation: adjust by testing the limits of the rules. A worthwhile show. The audio and visual quality are very good. I definitely like the widescreen picture. There is some occasional swearing. Sex and violence is about the same as you would see on primetime tv. An episode guide, just for a reminder of what happened this season:
1. Pilot (2 hours): A young woman discovers that she has been assigned a job in the afterlife as a Reaper.
2. Dead Girl Walking: George finds that shirking her duties has consequences for the souls.
3. Curious George: George has trouble letting go of the past.
4. Reapercussions: George learns a lesson when she tries to spare a soul.
5. Reaping Havoc: A new friend jumps to the other side.
6. My Room: George gets a new roommate after losing her friend.
7. Reaper Madness: George has an affair with a living schizophrenic who can see her.
8. A Cook: George brings home a dog. Rube gets a job as a cook.
9. Sunday Mornings: Mason falls for a girl he rescues from a rape. The girl has a crush on George's father.
10. Business Unfinished: The ghost of a rich lady is the target of a money-making scheme.
11. The Bicycle Thief : George wants to buy a bicycle and leaves Happy Time for a higher paying job.
12. Nighthawks: The Reapers have their annual evaluations, which consist of clips from previous shows shown with each reaper's self-evaluation.
13. Vacation: The Reapers take the day off.
14. Rest in Peace: George wants her job at Happy Time back.
on September 23, 2004
I don't have showtime and I bought this because I heard it was an excellent show and it seemed like something I would enjoy watching. I am very happy that I bought it. Georgia is an 18 year old loner forced to find a job. She is very unahppy with her life. On her 35 minute lunch hour she is hot by the toilet seat of a soviet spacestation. One of the many humourous deaths in the show. And she enters the new world of being a grim reaper. Which is a "public service" by the way.
Among the reapers are Rube, who loves food to the point of obsession and is the father figure guy. There is the brit, Mason who is a drug addict and has no qualms with stealing from the dead. There is Daisy, who replaces a reaper friend of Georgia's Daisy is a stuck up southern belle who talks about "blowing" varius famous me all the time. There are a few more interesting character, such as the gravelings, who set death into motion and can only be seen by the undead out of the corner of their eyes.
Georgia has a hard time coping with her death and other emotions. Among her adventures are trying to go home again, saving the lives of people she's supposed to take the souls from (leading to harsh consequences), finding a day job, and quitting her day job.)
To those unsure, it's a mixture of comedy, black comedy and drama. It can make you laugh and then get really serious and make you think. One of best shows on tv now!
My partner and friends think I'm perverse, but I love Dead Like Me and find every episode hilarious. I suppose one could take it seriously and then perhaps be sad or offended, but it would be pretty tough to actually think that someone could be killed by a toilet seat falling from space or that Death has minions who go around taking the souls of people whose names are doled out to them on Post-It notes.
Yet Dead Like Me does work as a "straight" plot (more or less) and that's one of the things I love about it. The fact that the shows cast and crew offer this stuff up with a straight face just makes it all the more funny. And it's what gives the characters enough depth and credibility to make the viewer care about them. From the lead "reaper," Georgia, to her dweeb mother, Joy, to her fellow reaper, the former actress Daisy, the characters are both unique and believeable.
My favorite is Delores Herbig, Georgia's boss at Happy Time Employment Agency. Check out the episode where George visits Delores at her apartment. Even though it's a studio, Delores proudly shows George around the place, stopping at the "scrapbooking" area and showing her the cat's "feeding station." The satire rolls down the walls. And some of the other character's at Happy Time are also hilarious, like the creepy receptionist, Crystal. Trust me, you will choke with laughter.
on June 24, 2004
I bought this set on a whim.... I don't have Showtime, but I remembered seeing a clip on the filming of the pilot on one of those entertainment TV shows. I am SO glad that I did!!!
This is a truly great show! In an age where most TV shows are "reality" based or just another tired, been-there-done-that premise, this one grabs hold and sucks you in. The dialogue snaps and sizzles; making me wish that I could have come up with half of those lines. Each episode's story lines whips back and forth through both comedic and dramatic scences; never dwelling too long on the the sad aspects of death (But just enough to give the show some substance).
The charaters are exceptional. Ellen Muth plays the new reaper; most of the show is seen through her eyes as she learns the rules of her strange new existence, and trying to reconcile herself with those she left behind. Mandy Patinkin plays her boss, Rube. He is an excellent Antagonist for George (Muth). In fact, he comes off as a gruff father-figure for George. Rounding out the cast is Jasmine Guy (Remember her from "A Different World"? You won't here), a tough talking reaper who has a day job working as a Meter-Maid; Callum Blue, a "Trainspotting"-esque reaper; Rebecca Gayheart, the beauty queen reaper; Cynthia Stevenson, George's bitter mother and Britt McKillip, as George's weird younger sister. While there are several other recurring characters, they don't seem to be as important as the one I mentioned.
I recommend this show to any one who enjoys the quirky and unusual, as well as fans of "Tru Calling", "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", "Joan of Arcadia", "X-Files" and "Twin Peaks".
I just wish this show was on regular TV. Now I'll have to wait for season 2 to come out on DVD. Looks like it will be a loooong wait.
on June 16, 2004
"Dead Like Me" proves that cynicism, humor, depth, and even compassion can not only co-exist on a single television series, they can actually flourish together. With sharp and witty writing and directing, "Dead Like Me" explores the bizarre world of our working-class grim reapers, the good folks charged with escorting human souls to the afterlife. As the second-lowest level group of bureaucrats in the afterlife system (best not to ask about the lowest), grim reapers must trudge along "popping" the souls of the soon-to-be-departed before they meet their grisly (and, dare I say, often hilarious) ends. And they must also survive, and pay rent, in the living world.
The chief protagonist on the series is George (a.k.a. Georgia), a recently deceased, uber-cynical, 18 year old who just can't seem to resist rebelling against the whole "death" system. Her fellow reapers include an unapologetically opportunistic drug-smuggler, a meter-maid who does a lot more than write parking tickets, a happy-go-lucky pragmatist who has developed a truly macabre taste in photography, and an actress whose resume is surprisingly out of date. And then, of course, there is Rube.
Rube is the would-be foreman of this somewhat strange assemblage of reapers. He is also, arguably, the most sympathetic, complex, and mysterious character on the show-thanks in no small part to the superb acting of Mandy Patinkin. As with the other characters on the show, no amount of space here can really hint at the depth alloted to Rube by the writers and directors of "Dead Like Me" or the skill with which Patinkin explores that depth. Suffice it to say that Rube plays a lot more like a real person (or real undead person) than any mere television contrivance. Rube is more alive as a dead man than any television character from the living world.
The very essence of "Dead Like Me" is, in fact, its willingness to explore not only the bizarre world of the reapers, but also the lives and personalities of the reapers themselves. Undead life has had (and continues to have) some pretty strange effects on these formerly-living reapers, and watching their individual responses to the problems of their bizarre occupation provides much of the humor of the show.
And, not to leave out the living world, the creative minds behind "Dead Like Me," also frequently turn their attention to living characters on the show, from the "soon to be referred to the past tense" reaper clients to the families they leave behind (most notably George's grieving family). Just about any character is subject to being fleshed-out on this show (even dogs and frogs). A minor character named Angus Cook makes a more memorable impression in one epsiode of "Dead Like Me" (appropriately titled "A. Cook") than most TV series regulars will make in an entire season.
Some have compared "Dead Like Me" with shows like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and similar, more pedestrian, fare. But about the only thing Buffy and George have in common is youth and blonde hair. And the only thing the reapers have in common with television vampires is that they've both been around a while. Of course, one of the problems with television vampires is that they never seem to *realize* they've been around a while. They are also generally kind enough to join up with either the "good guys" or "bad guys" teams of the Buffyverse and its ilk, teams which don't exist in the universe of "Dead Like Me."
But you might want to visit the universe of "Dead Like Me" for yourself, and form your own impressions. Just don't stay too long. You might end up with a post-it note and a new job.
Meet George. Your typical 18 year-old recent High School Graduate that doesn't know what she wants to do with her life, but knows that College isn't part of it. So after her mothers persistance she takes a job as a file clerk, only to die on her first day by having a toliet seat from out-space hit her on the head.
When George Wakes up she finds out that fate has chosen her as a Grim-Reaper. She must help people to the afterlife, until her time comes to go on herself. It might take 2 weeks, it might take 200 years to get to whereever she's suppose to go, but shes doing a job that she has to do.
Over the course of the first season George meets many very interesting "Grim Reapers" including: Mason, your typical out-for-a-buck reaper, Betty the fashionable reaper, Daisy the once movie "star" that blew everybody from John Wayne to Luke Perry, and Rube the leader of the pack.
The Story also follows the effects of George's death on her family, that she thought never liked her only to realize that she was the backbone that held them together.
Now collected for the first time is the complete first season of the showtime series. This is a great series, and desearves to be seen by everyone that likes the bizarre, yet comedic that don't have showtime. Or for fans that want to watch this great season again.