From creator Bryan Fuller, the creative mind behind shows with huge potential and originality like Pushing Daisies and Wonderfalls, comes yet another unique show, Dead Like Me. The connection all of these shows had outside of Bryan Fuller, is the fact that all of them were cancelled way before their time, never really given the chance to find their audience. Airing on the Showtime network, Dead Like Me was cancelled after only a short 2 seasons and 29 episodes. Luckily (or unluckily after having seen it) the series was shortly revived with the film, Dead Like Me: Life After Death. Is the series worth checking out?
Dead Like Me revolves around the dead-end life of Georgia "George" Lass (Played by Ellen Muth.) George is a cynical, semi depressed, angst filled teenager whose life is quickly going nowhere. She's recently dropped out of school, she lives at home with her overbearing parent, and can't hold down a job to save her life. While on her lunch break from her brand new job she already can't stand, George's life somehow gets even worse when a toilet seat from a space station traveling 200 miles per hour crashes into and incinerates her.
While scanning the various pieces of her body scattered around, she meets Rube (Homeland's Mandy Patinkin), whom explains she is now a member of the undead and has been chosen to become a grim reaper, whose job it is to claim the souls of those that die and pass them along to the afterlife. Each grim reaper has an unknown numbers of souls to collect, and when they reach that number they get promoted. George happened to be the last soul her reaper needed, so she inherited his job.
After learning the basics, she find out Rube is the supervisory reaper, it's his job to guide the other reapers and hand out the "marks" to them. Rube then introduces George to the rest of the crew... first we have Roxy (played by Jasmine Guy), the tough as nails, hard ass meter maid, whom is stone cold to nearly every other character. Mason (Callum Blue), a likable and rebellious Brit. Betty (Rebecca Gayheart), a glamour girl whom befriends George. Lastly, Daisy (Laura Harris), Betty's replacement when she became too curious about the afterlife and decided to "hitch a ride" with a man to find out about the mystery, a big no-no for reapers.
George's "job" as a reaper, I say job loosely as she's not paid at all, but more of a moral obligation, begins each morning when she gets a name, place, and an estimated time of death (typically shortened as ETD) on a post-it note from Rube. Her job as a reaper entails her to be at the "appointment" to collect the soul, preferably before their death as a courtesy and to ease their way into the afterlife. Her early experience as a reaper takes a toll on her as she attempts to spare their lives, not knowing the various repercussions messing with fate has.
Season One is all about George attempting to deal with the fact that she's dead and tries to understand the various aspects of her new afterlife through reaping. Season two has George finally accepting her place in the undead but exploring the limits of what it means to be a reaper. The one crutch she seems to still not able to let go of is her connections to her family. Various subplots over the series are Betty becoming curious about the afterlife, Mason struggling with the addictions he had when he was alive, Roxy becoming a cop, Daisy going back to acting and the various exploits of George's parents.
Dead Like Me: The Movie.
For fans of the original series, you will recoil at the half assed attempt of bringing back the series. Now this movie wouldn't be so bad, but it doesn't capture what made the series special.
As the film opens, we're recapped to the previous series. We then find out that the reaper hang out, Der Waffle Haus has burned down, and Rube is nowhere to be found. We find out he "has found his lights." George, Roxy, Daisy (now played by Sarah Wynter, replacing Laura Harris), and Mason are reassigned to a new supervisory reaper named Cameron Kane (Lost's Henry Ian Cusack.) A wealthy man whom inherited Rube's job to improve performances. He introduces or favorite reapers to the high life, eating at luxury restaurants and providing new cell phones by which to receive their new reap assignments.
The only problem is that Cameron is no Rube, he's terrible at his job and his "nothing matters because you're dead" attitude has a disastrous effect on the reapers, everyone begins abusing their powers and breaking the rules, such as Daisy lettin a soul wander instead of leading him to the afteriife, Roxy saving a man she was supposed to reap, Mason attempting to abuse immortality for his own financial gain, and George breaks one of the cardinal rules of revealing herself to her sister, all of which have grave consequences.
For whatever reasons, the movie replaced the actress for Daisy, that I can deal with, but taking out and replacing Rube? The heart of the series, with a one dimensional hack no less? Such a terrible decision, I understand if Mandy Patinkin didn't want to return to the role, but that is where production should have came to a screeching halt. Rube, just like George, is irreplaceable. It just doesn't feel the same as the series.
+ Great cast. Over time, some of the cast members became irreplaceable to me, in particular, George's and Rube's actors, Ellen Muth and Mandy Patinkin, make these roles their own.
+ Well fleshed out core characters.
+ The series does death cleverly, kind of like Six Feet Under.
- Shoehorning George's parents into the series was completely unnecessary. They could have worked better in smaller portions throughout the show, instead of giving them their own B plot in every episode.
- Betty's abrupt exit.
- The movie in general.
On a side note For fans of Bryan Fuller and this show, Bryan has recently found success with his brand new show, Hannibal, which follows the exploits of a young Hannibal Lector (played by former Casino Royale Bond villain, Mads Mikkelson.) You'll find a nice little easter egg/nod to Dead Like Me as Ellen Muth guest starred on few episodes, portraying a serial killer named Georgia, whom suffered from a disorder that disillusions the suffering into thinking that they're dead.
Video and Audio:
Overall the video quality is quite solid. Presented in a 1.78:1 Widescreen aspect ratio, the series looks great. The image is sharp, colors are vivid, bright and bold throughout, no signs of any compression or an issues with banding.
Much like the older sets, the audio is presented in a 5.1 Dolby digital mix. There were no signs of any distortions or dropouts throughout the set.
For fans of the show that already own the series, there is almost no difference with picture/audio quality from the previous sets released.
Season One extras:
- Over thirty minutes of deleted scenes.
- The Music of Dead Like Me: A five minute interview with the composer of the series.
- Dead Like Me: Featurette. A seven minute interview with various actors and producers that explains the synopsis of the series.
Season Two Extras:
- Dead Like Me...Again.
An eleven minute interview where the actors discuss their characters, season 2, and the creative deaths.
- Puttling Lie into Death: Gravelings. A three minute segment that talks about the process of developing the gravelings.
- Putting Life into Death: Old Man. A minute and a half segment talking about how the scene was filmed with naked old man.
- Putting life into Death: Falling Flower. two minute segment describing the process behind the falling flower that George catches.
- Putting Life into Death: Death Ripple. A two minute segment talking about creating the special effect of the death ripple.
- Putting life into death: Disco Priest. A minute and half segment talking about a character going into the light.
- Putting Life into Death: Bouncing Glass. A minute and a half segment talking about how they made the bouncing glass special effect.
- Around 10 minutes of deleted scenes.
I think the best thing Dead Like Me had going for it was how unique it was, it was an original idea that was executed quite well. The series is a lot of fun, despite it's subject matter, never trying to take itself too seriously. While not a top tier TV show and the film withstanding, I give the Dead Like Me collection a strong recommendation for it's dark humor, originality, witty writing, and superb cast. Recommended