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 And as George's angry, tightly-wound mother (Cynthia Stevenson) and withdrawn little sister Reggie cope with death, she breaks the rules to watch over them: their own pouty, glum guardian angel.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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For those who are unaware, Fuller left the show due to "creative differences" with the network. Although it's difficult to say exactly what the extent of the conflict was, we know that it revolved in part around Showtime's refusal to keep actress Rebecca Gayheart on board. Gayheart had previously been involved in an automobile incident where she received manslaughter charges. Because of this, Showtime didn't think it was good for their image to have her playing a grim reaper. Her character, Betty Rhomer, was written off and replaced with the somewhat annoying and overbearing Daisy Adair.
Following the simultaneous departure of Fuller and Gayheart, we still are treated to a couple of great episodes. ( I suspect the studio was running on Fuller's leftover ideas). Yet by the time we've reached Episode 8, the quality has certainly dropped a notch. It's easy to ignore this; after all, the writing has the same spark, even if the swearing becomes a little too profuse. Yet the attention to the story and the characters, and a sense of true genius, just isn't there.
"Dead Like Me" was initially the story of a girl called George Lass who is completely indifferent to life, but begins to appreciate life's curiosities after she is killed and becomes a Grim Reaper. However, after the first few episodes, character development suddenly and almost completely grinds to a halt. George's original character arc is dropped and never resurfaces. Her intellectual awakening and determination to go against the system disappears. Despite the occasional offhand complaint, she begins to seem more or less contented with her position as a Reaper. Viewers might interpret this as a natural character progression, and indeed it makes sense that she could have finally sunk into passive acceptance of her role. Yet it is completely unfitting, because the whole initial point of the series was supposed to be George's ironic post-death awakening to the world around her, and how she broke out of her blind acceptance of the status quo.
Meanwhile, the plot veers off into a series of individual side-stories that don't seem to reflect George's character growth. Although initially the episodes were well-focused and clearly displayed a personal journey, eventually it becomes often difficult to see what connection exists, if any, between the different events of an episode, which don't seem to come together at the end, plot-wise and sometimes not even thematically.
Meanwhile, we are shown scene after scene of George's family, and yet we never seem to learn very much new about them. In Episode 9, we do get a somewhat closer look at her father Clancy, but it isn't exactly what Fuller intended (which I will explain later), and it doesn't touch on the reasons for his shaky relationship with his wife Joy. George's sister Reggie, and Joy exhibit plenty of room for further exploration. Yet we witness scene after scene of the family's stilted interactions, while never actually learning anything about why they act the way they do.
The willingness to take risks disappears. For the first few episodes, the show is edgier and more irreverent. Until suddenly it becomes almost... normal. The apparently critical remarks about religion disappear, despite that they were so central to the show that the opening scene of the pilot was a cheeky revision of the creation story, based on "Frog and Toad". The instances of blood and gore, something which should be expected in a show about death, vanish as well. The sense of boundless creativity is lost, because the hilarious, clever Rube-Goldberg like situations leading to the deaths suddenly stop. While it was initially impossible to predict how any person would die, suddenly the answer starts to seem mundane and obvious (For instance, a milk man gets run over by a milk truck.)
There is one instance in which the show does return to its risky nature. However, it comes across as tasteless and sanctimonious political pontificating, rather than a message that has been thoughtfully and properly buried in the script. It is the episode "The Shallow End", with the transgender woman.
We have clues as to how amazing this show could have been. In an interview, Fuller dropped some explanations as to where the story would have gone had he remained in charge. One of the most significant differences would have been the revelation that George's father was gay, meaning that since he was not supposed to procreate, her life was not meant to exist, causing her to value it even more. Instead, the studio decided to play things safe. There are still hints of Clancy's homosexuality, such as in the pilot episode ("Is a friendly hug between two men supposed to last that long?"). Fuller also mentioned that Betty would have returned to take George on a "mission" to "storm the castle". Whatever that means, I'm sure it would have been more interesting than the collection of mostly forgettable side journeys which the show devolves into.
It's another case of a studio sanitizing and damaging a property because they fail to see what viewers really need. This started off as a daring and highly creative series, something like the next "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", except more extraordinary. Then it dwindled down into a bunch of fun but slightly phoned-in episodes. It just should have been better. I can't help but think that the real reason the show is so well-loved is really because of its beginning. And by the way, if you want a decent finale, watch the movie that concludes the series, Life After Death. It was made without involvement from Showtime and finally addresses a lot of dropped plot threads. While far from perfect, it's a much better send-off than the network gave it.
Don't take any of my complaining to mean that I didn't enjoy Dead Like Me. Even at its worst, it's better than most of television.
I took a stab at some other shows that couldn't hold my interest for even 5 minutes ...
I came across Dead Like Me and watched the pilot, I was hooked truly from the get go
i do not watch heavily filled cuss word shows .. but for some reason Dead Like Me, the characters , the plot and the curiosity of whats next just kept me on the edge of my seat, usually laughing, sometimes tearing up with empathy and understanding of loss.
I am SO glad I came across this show.
The actors/ actresses were so perfectly cast !
At first I didnt like character Dolores Herbig, but then I couldnt wait for her and Millie's interactions!
Every piece of the show was perfectly intricately weaved together to make an outstanding, keep you coming back show.
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