“Dead Like Me” is a series that debuted in the summer of 2003 on Showtime; it was inexplicably cancelled after just two seasons.
This show was completely off my radar initially, but I was hooked after I caught two episodes at a friend’s house. If you’re any kind of science fiction/fantasy fan, this show is well worth watching if you can catch the re-runs on Showtime or if you know someone who’s purchased the series box sets.
In the darkly comedic pilot episode (directed by Scott Winant, who also directed episodes of “Once and Again”, “The West Wing”, “thirtysomething”, and “My So-Called Life”), we meet a disaffected 18-year-old girl named George (Ellen Muth) who lives in Seattle. While on her lunch break from her first day at a dead-end job, George gets hit with the flaming, hurtling remains of a space station toilet seat. Newly dead, she discovers she’s to become an afterwordly wage-slave and join the ranks of the undead Grim Reapers who patrol the city extracting departed souls from their bodies and escorting them to their afterlives. Her lack of faith and direction in her life made her unsuitable for either Heaven or Hell, and as a consequence she became the final soul to fill the spiritual quota of the Reaper who harvested her; she must act as his replacement.
The show also starred Rebecca Gayheart (Urban Legend, Scream 2) as Betty, Jasmine Guy as Roxy, Callum Blue as Mason, Laura Harris (A Mighty Wind) as Daisy, and Mandy Patinkin (probably best known as Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride) as Rube. All played Reapers who tutor George in her new job and unlife. Harris was a mid-first-season replacement for Gayheart.
Being undead in this show’s world is rather unglamorous: the Reapers still need food, shelter, and clothing, but they don’t get a salary for the work they’re compelled to do for the universe. So, they either have to rob the dead and squat in their apartments … or they have to get a low-profile, dead-end job to get by.
The writing is top-notch; most of the scripts were done by series creator Brian Fuller, who wrote for Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and also did the script for the recent, very good TV adaptation of Stephen King’s Carrie. The musical score and song selections were done by ex-Police member and veteran composer Stewart Copeland.
While the acting is uniformly strong, Patinkin is especially wonderful to watch. The special effects are very decent, and because this is Showtime, the series is fairly uncensored when it comes to language and sex.
Georgia “George” Lass: Ellen Muth
Mason: Callum Blue
Betty: Rebecca Gayheart
Daisy: Laura Harris
Roxy: Jasmine Guy
George’s Father, Clancy Lass: Greg Kean
George’s Sister, Reggie Lass: Britt McKillip
Delores Herbig: Christine Willes
George’s Mother, Joy: Cynthia Stevenson
Rube: Mandy Patinkin
Musical score: Stewart Copeland
Editor: Dona Nogan
Production Designer: Richard Hudolin
Director of Photography: Danny Nowak
Executive Producer/ Writer: Bryan Fuller
Pilot Director: Scott Winant