Monday, May 10, 2010

'Dead Like Me' was a great TV series

Dead Like Me: The Complete First Season (2003)
Starring: Ellen Muth, Mandy Patinkin, Callum Blue, Laura Harris and Cynthia Stevenson
Director: Various
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

"Dead Like Me" was a criminally short-lived television series that focused on Georgia Lass (Muth), a young woman who dies in a freak accident, only to immediately be drafted as a Reaper where she works with Rube (Patinkin), Mason (Blue), and other "undead" who are charged with the task of extracting human souls so they can move onto the afterlife.

The show lasted two seasons, and it presented a curious mix of the macabre and humorous, of the spiritual and the tragic. Much of the show's humor is derived from the way the Reapers have to make their way through their "afterlife" which turns out to be just as much of a grind as living is. An equal amount is also gained from the oblique bureaucracy of the "soul-collecting business" the Reapers are part of--Rube gets assignments from unseen upper-management, and he then gives assignments to the Reapers... usually by writing them on yellow Post-It notes. The tragic aspects of the show come mostly into play by watching Georgia's family attempt to cope with her death, and its disintegration.

For a show that features at least one grisly death per episode, and which often makes light of those grisly deaths, it is a surprisingly uplifting show. Just about every episode carries messages about love, friendship, responsibility, and how much of an impact our presence (and absence) in the lives of those around us has.

(I once saw some comments about the show online where the poster was calling show evil and promoted the occult... well, if a show about the Angels of Death walking among us and having to work odd jobs to pay their rent is tainted by the mark of Satan, then I suppose "Highway to Heaven" must have been the ultimate in evil TV, and Michael Landon must have been just this side of the Anti-Christ... because "Dead Like Me" respects the mystery of God and Heaven enough to NOT claim to have any answers about what lies beyond the Veil.)

The show does take the position that everyone, from the moment of birth, has a time at which they are slated to die. That "appointment" is unavoidable, and if isn't kept through inaction on the part of an assigned Reaper, Bad Things happen to the soul. Even worse things happen if someone is somehow killed (At best, it describes what happens if someone some how is killed before their appointed time, and no Reaper is there to deal with the situation. But the show never gets into exactly where souls go or what happens to them.

"Dead Like Me" is definitely one of the very best television series to ever be produced. It's too bad it only lasted two seasons and a made-for-television movie wrap-up.

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