TV is the answer

Beth Carpenter

To continue in the theme of talking about not only shows about dead people, but shows by Bryan Fuller, this week’s topic is “Dead Like Me,” a show about grim reapers. While the opening credits feature traditional grim reapers heavily cloaked and carrying scythes, doing every day activities, there are no skeletal figures roaming around the show.
The first episode follows Georgia “George” Lass, played by Ellen Muth, an 18-year-old who’s already over life. She is hit by a toilet seat as it falls from a space station and dies. But not really. She comes back to life as a reaper, someone who takes the souls of people before they die, in order that they might feel no pain when the moment of death occurs.
Reapers are a very organized bunch, split into departments based on the types of death each reaper deals with. George is in the “External Influence” division of reapers, meaning she deals with murders and suicides. A grim job, if you’ll excuse the pun. The head of her division is Rube, played by Mandy Patinkin, a slightly misanthropic leader who takes a special interest in George, perhaps because she reminds him of the daughter he once had.
Other members of the group are Mason, played by Callum Blue, Roxy, played by Jasmine Guy and Daisy, played by Laura Harris. Roxy is generally considered to be second in command – a sassy meter maid-turned-police officer – and she doesn’t put up with any nonsense, not from people whose souls she takes or from her fellow reapers. Daisy is a former starlet who supposedly died on the set of Gone With the Wind, and Mason is a druggie who died chasing the ultimate high.
All reapers are forbidden to keep in touch with their former lives, making sure they have no contact with the families they have left behind. However, George has a great deal of trouble with this, often visiting her family to see how her mother Joy, played by Cynthia Stevenson and her sister Reggie, played by Britt McKillip, are getting along. Reggie has taken to stealing toilet seats from her school and Joy develops a perhaps too-intense fascination with labeling and organizing. George’s visits sometimes give them added anguish; though she has taken on a new identity post-death, she still acts unnervingly like the family member they lost.
The episodes range from light-hearted tones, such as the revelation that even after death, one must do paperwork, to darker themes, such as the deaths of small children. It may take a while to warm up to George and the show in general, but Rube and Roxy are so likeable that from the first episode they were my favorite characters. The show ended after two seasons due to rumored disputes among the actors.
You can buy the complete series on DVD, that includes the direct-to-DVD film “Dead Like Me: Life After Death,” but it’s about the stupidest movie I’ve ever seen, so I’d avoid it. Look instead for just the episodes and enjoy another quirky show about what life after death might be like.