The early adventures of the Grim Reaper known as Toilet Girl
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 09/13/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am sure the people at Showtime knew what they were doing when they scheduled "Dead Like Me" to start when HBO's "Six Feet Under" was over, because the two shows are certainly complementary. However, while the deaths that begin each episode of "Six Feet Under" have their moments in terms of being rather weird (my favorite was the woman convinced it was the Rapture when she saw the a bunch of helium filled inflatable dolls floating away), they do not have the Rube Goldberg quality of what the gravelings can set in motion in "Dead Like Me."
The idea of the afterlife created by Bryan Fuller, who also created the similarly quirky Wonderfalls," is that right before you die you soul is taken from your body by a Grim Reaper. Although they are replete in the opening title sequence these are not Grim Reapers as in figures in black hood carrying scythes. In fact, they look like regular folk, although not the regular folk they were when they were alive now that they are a peculiar variety of undead. We learn the rules of the game along with young Georgia Lass (Ellen Muth), an 18-year-old sourpuss called George. Having decided to forego the college experience George has been sent out into the world to find a job and during lunch she is passed on the street by a strange man who touches her. We see a light passing from her to him and within seconds a toilet seat from a disintegrating Russian space station strikes her dead.
George is surprised to see herself looking at the big hole in the ground where she had been standing a moment ago and even more surprised to be informed that she is now a Grim Reaper. This task is done by Rube (Mandy Patinkin), who is in charge of a cadre of Reapers in this particular town. This includes Mason (Callum Blue), an English bloke who has figured out that you cannot overdose when you are already dead so indulge in drugs to your heart's contextt; Roxy (Jasmine Guy), a meter maid for the police department with ample attitude to spare; and, at first, Betty Rhomer (Rebecca Gayheart), a former beauty queen who is ready to move on to the next level. We are not quite sure what that is, because while Grim Reapers get to release souls and head them in the right direction (bright lights that assume various pleasing shapes), they really do not know what the final destination is really like for the dead.
Of course, in the early episodes of the series George is not happy with being dead and not exactly thrilled with a job when she is given a post-it note with a name, address and E.T.D. (estimated time of death) so she can go reap a soul. The latter is taken care of when she gets a couple of hard lessons about what happens when she does not (your form in the afterlife is not how you look at the moment of death, but at the moment that your soul is reaped, so it is something you would want to have done before the autopsy). The former is more difficult, because trying to reconnect with her life from beyond the grave is hampered by the fact that she looks different (to everyone else) and she cannot say anything that would convince anyone who knew her before that she was still around.
One of the strengths of this quirky series is that we do not ignore the family that Georgia has left behind as her mother (Cynthia Stevenson), little sister (Britt McKillip), and father (Greg Kean) try to deal with moving on after her death. Watching the Lass family disintegrate is almost a show within the show, capable of standing on its own, because their interaction with Georgia the Grim Reaper is infrequent and usually something indirect. We are as interested in what is going to happen to Joy and Reggie (and J.D. rather than Clancy) as we are to Georgia and her friends.
Another thing that makes "Dead Like Me" work is the actual friendship that springs up between George and Dolores Herbig (Christine Willes). Now known as Millie, George ends up going back to work at Happy Time, the employment agency that she was taking a lunch break from when the sky fell on her head (even when you are undead a girl has to eat). Dolores is extremely annoying, but "Millie" pretends to play along so long that she actually starts playing along with Dolores' weltanschauung.
The cherry on top with this show is Mandy Patinkin as Rube, who finally has a role in which he can say pretty much anything he wants, especially when it comes to what he is having for breakfast and how it is cooked. I like the way he calls George "Peanut" all the time as he imparts to her the facts of being undead. I also like the way Roxy gets mad at people who tear up their tickets, the moments of conscious that Mason has when doing his job, and the way Reggie honors the memory of her sister. But then it is a well- established fact that I like quirky.
Joining the cast during this first season is another Grim Reaper, Daisy Adair (Laura Harris), an actress who had a role in "Gone With the Wind" and makes no bones about how she got the gig before she died. She and George become roommates just to cause further trouble for our heroine (and her frog) and is most definitely the character who rubs me the wrong way. But in the end I have to say that the only thing about "Dead Like Me" that really bothers me is that the post-it notes only have the first initial of the person who is destined to die. You cannot tell a person's gender from just an initial.
Best show ever.
Michael J. Murphy | 05/21/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Really. It's one of the only shows I can watch over and over again; it never gets boring and never gets annoying. Each episode carries you from laughter to tears to contemplation, and I have never seen such fantastic acting. Even the minor characters give flawless performances, and the regular characters are nothing short of brilliant -- every single line is delivered just so, and you can't imagine anyone saying it better. All of the characters are given real personalities; their pasts, their lives and their dialogues are carefully-crafted. The characters (especially those who are dead) seem more real and more life-like than real people, and each show makes you think about life and death just a little bit differently than you did before. The direction and production are spotless -- colors are vibrant and intense, timing is perfect, and the picture quality and effects are always perfect for each scene. And, since each show is approximately 40 minutes, it's just enough to fit into your day, but you keep wanting more! Okay, so I'm raving, but this is genuinely my favorite show ever and I come away from every episode with the same "life, but intensified" feeling I get after watching My So-Called Life, or Almost Famous -- there are sad patches, and funny parts, but most of all you really think about life (the good parts and the bad), and it makes you want to live yours better."
Mysterious and Reassuring
Michael Burton | Columbus, OH USA | 11/22/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A friend once told me that he was creeped out whenever an episode of "The Twilight Zone" featured a ventriloquist's dummy. Those episodes never impressed me, but recently I got chills watching an old episode about a toy telephone.
You can never tell what's going to strike a chord and resonate with a particular person. "Dead Like Me" is not for everyone. Some people will hate it. Others just won't "get" it. It's too bad, really, because they're missing out on something truly wonderful.
18-year-old Georgia (George) Lass, deceased, has a new job: collector of souls of the newly departed--a grim reaper, if you prefer. She doesn't want to be a reaper. She doesn't know how to be a reaper. She gets on-the-job training. What she learns about, mostly, is life.
In life, George was too cool to care about anything. In death, she learns to care, in ways that are funny and sad together. The result is the most consistently moving television show I've ever seen. At the end of each episode, when the credits appear, I find myself shaking my head and muttering, "What a GREAT show!"
The language and some visuals are too harsh for young children. The show contains a lot of adult subject matter--no, not like cable porn--rather, like parents struggling over how to cope with an emotionally troubled 11-year-old daughter. Material for genuinely mature audiences. Very rare, that.
Not for everyone, but I couldn't recommend it more highly. What a GREAT show."