DEAD LIKE ME
Created by Brian Fuller
You can undoubtedly tell from the title of this new TV series that it has a lot to do with death. What you might not know yet is that Dead Like Me has much more to do with life, and what we do with ours, than it has to do with dead bodies, cemeteries, etc. Even with a brilliant cast playing some of the most memorable characters in years, the star of the show is humanity and how we deal with death — from both sides of the grave.
George, played pouty, whiney and so very vulnerable by Ellen Muth, has every reason to be in a foul mood — just about to embark on a life of mindless drudgery (to top off her meaningless life), she is killed in a way anyone would consider extremely undignified. Now, she is supposed to slip into the role of a Reaper, one of the undead, whether she likes it or not. George is expected to start right away and not ask too many questions. None of her questions will be answered anyway, so why bother? But, she is bothered and bewildered. She’s also downright pissed off.
For George, it seems cruel and unusual treatment for a person so young who never seemed to matter. But, she does matter, especially to her idiosyncratic little sister, Reggie (Britt McKillip), who has found her own, unique ways to handle the loss. Every episode reveals more about the pain, confusion, and misplaced anger her death has left with her family. If Joy (Cynthia Stevenson), her mother, seems in a hurry to forget her, maybe there’s more regret than thoughtlessness in her stern actions. And if George’s father (Greg Kean) is merely absent as much as possible, perhaps the memories are easier to ignore among strangers.
All this pain she has to see in her own “life” is not enough. As a Reaper, she still must make a living, find a place to live, and put up with two bosses: the almost psychotically cheerful Doris Herbig (Christine Willes) at her day job working for a temp agency and the tough, firm Rube (Mandy Patinkin) who bedevils her with Reaper assignments every day. One of these days she’s going to wonder if being truly dead might not be easier all around. Certainly it would be easier than releasing the life force of children and watching them die.
There is no place George fits in. And the harder she tries, the less she feels that she belongs anywhere that she is allowed to go. George, like so many of us, still had a lot to work out when she was “taken,” so she won’t be allowed to move on for some time yet. Probably not until the very last episode of the series which, if Showtime and viewers give it a fair chance, won’t be for many years.
Humour of the darkest kind. Kooky characters brought to life by the likes of Mandy Patinkin, Callum Blue, and Britt McKillip, who play out the joy and the sorrow and the promise of life. Sharply incisive insights into just what strange creatures we humans are. Dead Like Me makes Showtime a necessity and a bittersweet delight.
Death. It kind of makes you think.