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Dead Like Me - The Complete First Season
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You're about to be collected. "Winningly eccentric" (LA Daily News) and "insistently irreverent" (People), this groundbreaking, original series delivers you into a realm of shockingly funny characters and twisted narratives you'll find completely "addictive" (NY Daily News)!When an errant toilet seat from the falling Mir space station puts an abrupt end to her life, George (Ellen Muth) discovers that death is nothing like she thought it would be. Recruited to collect the souls of others as they die, she suddenly finds herself an unwilling participant in a line of work she never knew existed: Grim Reaping!
Pay cable's "other"show about life and death, Dead Like Me takes a darkly comic look at mortality through the eyes of someone stuck between this life and the afterlife. "Bail bondsmen for the disembodied" is how Rube (Mandy Patinkin), the often exasperated Reaper foreman, explains it to disaffected 18-year-old George (Ellen Muth) after she’s vaporized by a falling toilet seat from the Mir space station and drafted into the ranks of the Reapers. It's now her job to take the souls of the doomed, preferably before their mortal coil is damaged beyond recognition by the devilish machinations of the gremlin-like gravelings.
You wouldn’t mistake George's fellow Reapers for the do-gooders of Touched by an Angel, but they are anything but grim. Charming British shyster Mason (Callum Blue) always has some scam brewing, high-living, fun-loving former flapper Betty (Rebecca Gayheart) treats death as a cabaret ("Reaping Havoc"), and one-time starlet and wannabe actress Daisy (Laura Harris) still nurses her dreams of stardom. Even hard-bitten meter maid Roxy (Jasmine Guy) manages to find a way to let loose.
Dead Like Me puts a light touch on black comedy, but it has a sneaky way of using humor to explore loss, loneliness, and regret, as well as kindness, and courage, and responsibility. George gets a hard lesson when she tries to wriggle out of her assignments like some overgrown kid, only to see the damage of her (in)action in "Reapercussions." And as George's angry, tightly-wound mother (Cynthia Stevenson) and withdrawn little sister Reggie cope with death, she breaks the rules to watch over them: their own pouty, glum guardian angel. There's nothing like your own death to put your life into perspective.
The four-disc set features all 14 episodes of the debut season of Showtime's witty black comedy. The feature-length pilot includes optional commentary by cast members Ellen Muth, Mandy Patinkin, Jasmine Guy, Cynthia Stevenson, and Callum Blue. Other supplements include the nominal documentary featurettes Dead Like Me: Behind-the-scenes and The Music of Dead Like Me (with theme song composer Stewart Copeland), 32 deleted scenes, and a still gallery. --Sean Axmaker
Stills from Dead Like Me - The Complete First Season (Click for larger image)
- 14 episodes on four discs
- Commentary by the cast
- 30 minutes of deleted scenes
- Behind-the-scenes featurette
- "The Music of Dead Like Me" featurette
- Photo gallery
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
I'm starting my third watch of this series, and I love it as much as I did when I watched it in real time. The cast is perfect. Ellen Muth could give a master class in eye-rolling, and Cynthia Stevenson, who is always at least excellent, absolutely outdoes herself as Joy. Lass. And that's just the tip of the absurd and ironic iceberg. Jasmine Guy and Mandy Patinkin ("Rube" - perhaps a nod to the manner in which death often occurs) are outstanding.
This is a good companion series to Six Feet Under (they were on different premium cable channels during the same decade), but it is also well worth watching on its own merits.
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