Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Dead Like Me: Life After Death


If you aren’t familiar with the series: When we die, a certain percentage of us are tapped—apparently at random—to be Grim Reapers. Reapers are dead, but don’t seem so, and other than the fact they can’t be killed, are just like you and me. Their job is to remove the souls of people who are about to die. They gather every morning in a Waffle House where their boss, Rube (Mandy Patinkin), gives them yellow post-its with a name, a time, and a location, and they must get there before the death or the results can be dire. (The deaths are usually gruesomely funny.)

We loved the series to distraction. We have all of the episodes on DVD. The series had many other rabid fans, but since it appeared on Showtime—the poor-man’s HBO—it ran only two seasons, even though it was quite popular. Ever since, people have been clamoring for it to be revived, perhaps on another cable channel. There have been rumors of a Dead Movie … and here it is. It was quite obviously intended to be a pilot, and as such went straight to video, where I stumbled on it a few days ago.

I’m sorry to day that this pilot is not likely to set the world on fire. It has a new director and screenwriter, who made almost all the wrong choices.

The one thing it did right was retain the star of the show, Ellen Muth as George Lass, who was killed when she was 18, struck by a re-entering toilet seat from the Russian space station Mir. (See what I mean about funny and gruesome?) George is understandably pissed that her life has ended before it really began, and has plenty of time to regret things she did and didn’t do while she was alive. She is cynical and funny as she learns the reaper trade and offers her comments on it, and life and death in general.

But the new crew has softened everything, made it all gooey and mushy, losing a lot of the hard edge that made it both funny and thought-provoking. It suffers mostly from the lack of Mandy, who had other commitments. Without him, the story is robbed of its best wry, sad, and wise voice. It’s too bad, but I have a feeling we won’t be seeing any more new episodes. I’ll just have to make do with watching the old ones over again every few years.