myspace layouts, myspace codes, glitter graphics Totally Biased Book and Movie Review: Dead Like Me Original Series Review

Friday, July 21, 2006

Dead Like Me Original Series Review

Dead Like Me
Showtime original series, seasons 1 and 2
starring: Ellen Muth, Mandy Patinkin, Laura Harris, Callum Blue, Jasmine Guy, Cynthia Stevenson, Britt McKillip
available at Netflix

So it’s true that this is not exactly a movie, book, or blog. It’s technically a TV show, unbearably short-lived and aired on Showtime, for its glorious two seasons. However, I get it from Netflix, and like many series that I have watched, one DVD at a time, from there (The Sopranos, Oz, Six Feet Under), Dead Like Me stands out as more than a TV show. It's called an "Original series" and the casting, the acting, the storylines, are so beyond plain ol' TV that they really need to come up with a whole new name for this genre. Ok, well, maybe Original series is a name for it. I'm tired, gimme a break, I've only slurped one cuppa this morning.
So... last night, I watched the final installment of DLM,Dead Like Me”, and my upset when I realized that this was, indeed, the last episode, was great. And and mighty. I surfed around, looking for answers
and I believe I found out the reason it was cancelled... here, if you're interested. DANG that stupid MGM and their story-chopping and control issues! It is a terrible shame that there are only two seasons of DLM, because to use some slightly out-of-date vernacular that will be even more out-of-date in two minutes, this show was Da Bomb! Da Shit! Da Shizzle! In other words, it's really really, really good, and I am sad not to see it any more.
The basic storyline centers around Georgia Lass (aka George), an eighteen year old college drop-out, cynical beyond her years, who lacks ambition, politeness, or any discernable charm, and who is killed by a toilet seat. Yep, that's correct. A toilet seat flies down from the Soviet space station and makes Georgia-soup out of our sour little heroine. Unlike most folks, however, George has a different destiny than the simple ol' afterlife. She's been chosen to Reap.
As in, Grim Reaper. Although they drop the "grim" part and just call themselves reapers, that's still what they do, though not in a grim sense, not usually, come to think of it. It's George's job to take the souls of people who are scheduled to die. She needs to get them before their actual death, so they aren't stuck with injuries from whatever kills them. She does this by rubbing her hand down their arm, an odd gesture, made odder by the fact that no one seems to object or pull away from this creepy caress from a stranger. I was imagining that if a reaper was trying to suck my soul, they might have a little difficulty, 'cause I don't just stand there and let people rub my arms. Hehe. But that, really, is my only complaint with this show. Georgia's merry band of reapers include an assortment just as mixed as a Whitman's sampler box, each of them delightful and unique.
Introducing Rube, who is, as George says in one episode, the "Dad" one. He is played by Mandy Patinkin, who may be recognized as a much-older Inigo Montoya, from The Princess Bride. He is basically the Big Boss, the mentor of the rest of them, and it is his job to keep the reapers in line, and pass out their "reaps" every morning. These are given to them as a first initial and last name, a place, and an "ETD", Estimated Time of Death, on a yellow post-it. Yesir, a yellow post-it note. Somehow, you'd think death would be a little more complicated, huh? Rube is full of wisdom, advice and gruff good-humor. He guides George down her reaping path with just the right amount of firmness and sympathy, his matter-of-fact attitude clashing at times with his usually-hidden senstivity.
Fellow reapers are Daisy Adaire (Laura Harris) an actress who died in a fire on the set of "Gone With The Wind", whose shallow charm is replaced by...well, something deeper, as the season grows older. There is the ever-screwing-up Mason (Cullum Blue), who died in the 60's while searching for the ultimate high, who hasn't stopped looking, and can find more ways to get in trouble than your average Dennis the Menace. Roxy (Jasmine Guy) is the tough, no-nonsense butt-kicking reaper who takes no shit from no one. She was murdered in the 80's for an idea she had come up with that stood to make boo-kooo bucks (the legwarmer). Each character gradually grows on you, and you find yourself, by the end of Season Two, really involved with them and their un-lives, even though I guarantee that Mason will drive you NUTS with his stupidity that keeps on going...and going.... and going.
George needs to deal with her previous life, as she finds it hard to say goodbye to her family, consisting of a mom, a dad, and a younger sister, each of whom is having more than a little trouble adjusting to George's death. She also discovers that reapers don't get paid, but they still have to eat, and finds herself employed at Happy Time, an office that could be either your dream, or your nightmare, depending on who you are. Her boss there, Delores Herbig (" in her big brown eyes!) is a hoot and a half, and I'd work for her any day. Each day, the reapers meet with Rube at their hang-out, Der Waffle House, where they are waited on by the long-suffering Kiffany, a waitress who serves sweetness and gentle advice along with their breakfast platters. Each day, George must reap someone new, and the first few episodes are about her understandable reluctance to do her job. That gets resolved in a hurry, let me tell you, when she discovers the consequences of her lack of action.
The show was apparently cancelled due to a lack of good storylines, to my disgust, because I found those stories better than what else is on TV right now, and a battle over creative issue, which just...well, sucks, let me say. However, the Two seasons are so worth renting, and in fact, i believe I saw a commercial for them to start airing on some cable channel... I don't remember which, however, and because I'm too lazy to go looking right now, you'll have to get it on Netflix, or do the detecting yourself. Dead Like Me is what the term "Dark comedy" was coined for. It is dark, it is funny, it is so worth watching that if you don't watch it, you might regret it afer you die.
I give it 5 out of 5 &'s.

& the writing is funny
& the acting is good
& the storylines are engrossing
& the concept is arresting
& there are quite a few episodes for only two seasons


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