Dead Like Me Seasons 1 & 2 on DVD. Review by Violet Kane

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Television networks are increasingly adding SF&F&H programming to their lineups. New shows like Pushing Daisies combine the classic horror fascination with un-death and the magical dreaming of fantasy, but the quirky Showtime series, Dead Like Me preceded the trend, running for two seasons starting in 2003, giving viewers a dose of dark humor with speculative sensibilities.

When the show's heroine, George, meets an untimely death on the first day of her first soul-sapping 9-to-5 job out of high school, she finds herself headed, not to the afterlife, but off to work as a grim reaper. She is drafted into a local team of reapers—other dead folk who have also been just as involuntarily taken into reaper service throughout the ages—headed by Rube (Mandy Patinkin), a quirky and fatherly turn-of-the-century man who must collect and distribute their assignments and do his best to keep the team of sometimes unruly reapers in line. As George learns the art of reaping—which involves tracking down the soon-dead, releasing their souls (preferably right before death), and oftentimes convincing the newly disembodied of their change in state—she has to come to terms with her own death, a process that involves not only grieving for the life she left behind but also watching her dysfunctional family grieve for her. And if that weren't enough, on top of everything, George has to go back to the employment agency and get a job, as grim-reaping unfortunately does not come with a paycheck.

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This show had the misfortune of meeting its own untimely demise after two seasons, which is unfortunate because of its blend of black humor and irreverent heart. I find that I like very few shows nowadays that are constructed ostensibly as comedies, but Dead Like Me hits upon an excellent mix of gripping character conflict and dark wit. The acting is superb on all counts, but the stars of the show, Ellen Muth as George and Mandy Patinkin as Rube, are particularly amazing as they juggle believable character motivations with comic touch in two roles that are oftentimes more subtle than they look. This show also does an excellent job of making itself as much about life as it is about death, but in ways that viewers will find unexpected (i.e. not the typical 'death makes us appreciate life' sort of way). I would heartily recommend this show to anyone who appreciates dark humor and character-driven drama.


Violet "Violanthe" Kane is the Webmaster and Founder of ARWZ.com. She is an editor of ARWZ Literary Zine and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Medieval studies.