Wanted: Grim Reapers

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The seasons are nearing completion, and we’re down to the dregs. Finding a show to latch onto and review is like pulling teeth-painful no matter how you spin it. So generally, it’s a lot easier to update people on an old show that could use some recognition.

This week, the winner is “Dead Like Me.”

“Dead Like Me” premiered on Showtime in 2003. The show, created by Bryan Fuller, the mind behind “Pushing Daisies” and “Wonderfalls” is about George Lass (Ellen Muth), an 18–year–old college dropout whose life comes to an end when she is blown into smithereens by a toilet seat from the de-orbiting Mir Space Station.

Post-death, she discovers that the great hereafter isn’t on her list of to-dos. No, George gets to be a grim reaper, a particularly painful twist of fate, since nothing sucks more than watching other people head into the light when you aren’t allowed to as well.

George is joined by her fellow reapers, the short-lived Betty (Rebecca Gayheart), leader and father–figure Rube (Mandy Patinkin), tough-as-nails Roxy (Jasmine Guy), sweet but misguided Mason (Callum Blue) and actress “Daisy, Daisy Adair” (Laura Harris). Each day, they are each given a post–it with an E.T.D. (Estimated Time of Death). If they don’t show up to collect the soul, repercussions befall them.

Dead before she actually lived, George spends her time growing up and learning all of the things she would have preferred discovering in life. Living after her death also allows her to haunt her family and watch it slowly fall apart.

“Dead Like Me” aired for two seasons on Showtime. The reasons behind its cancellation are sort of vague, with some stating that ratings were low, others saying ratings were sky–high, some saying creative differences sealed its demise and others saying the cancellation was just a totally stupid move and one which we will never know the motive for. Whatever the reason, “Dead Like Me” survived television for two seasons, and the world is all the richer for it.

Being on Showtime means “Dead Like Me” isn’t always kind. It’s always a little eccentric, but it never goes out of its way to be nice.

The dialogue is cutting, the characters imperfect, the circumstances cynical and the acting way above average.

Of course, there are your lessons–of–the–episode, but they aren’t anything you’re likely to find on “Full House.” Half–humor, half– tragedy, “Dead Like Me” is the closest thing you’ll find to real life — just maybe a little more interesting.

In 2009, “Dead Like Me: Life After Death,” a direct-to-DVD sequel to the series, was released.

If you’d like to see what time has done to the original cast, it’s worth a go, but the movie lacks the charm of the original series.

For all intents and purposes, I’d recommend staying with the first two seasons.

“Dead Like Me” is a little gem in the tough world of television. It was brave, it was bold, it wasn’t afraid to drop pianos on people’s heads.

I’ll mourn its passing until the day I die, and at the very least I can thank the show for giving me a glimpse of one insane post–death option of an occupation.

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