My friend Sarah introduced me to this series, showing me the pilot when I visited, and I put the first season on hold at the library and racked up a four-dollar fine so Kristi and I could watch all of the episodes.
Dead Like Me centers around a small unit of grim reapers who pluck the souls of those who suffer “accidental deaths.” Georgia Lass (Ellen Muth) is the newest addition to the team, having died at the age of eighteen after being taken out by space garbage.
A few of the dead are chosen for the task of grim reaper, “popping” souls out of bodies and then leading them to the great beyond, where they are not allowed to enter. The grim reapers have no idea how long they have to serve, and to make things harder, they are given earthly bodies and must find ways to provide for themselves during their term of service. Often, this means stealing from the still-warm bodies of the souls that they collect.
The leader of the group is Rube (Mandy Patinkin), a man fixated on food and described as a middle management reaper by Georgia. Many parallels are drawn between cubicle culture and the business of life and death. Each episode contains at least one scene of the team at a table in Der Waffle Haus, the breakfast joint they frequent, where assignments are given out on Post-it notes with names, addresses, and ETDs (Estimated Times of Death).
Georgia works part-time at a staffing agency to support herself, and I think my favorite episode has to be when Georgia takes the crew to her office after hours to update their filing/paperwork system with the modern wonders of the Excel spreadsheet. I heart this marriage of the mundane with the otherworldly.
I guess this series was canceled after only two seasons, but a movie is in the works. What I’m going to love seeing explained is why Georgia ages. The reapers are supposed to remain the exact age as when they died, and Ellen Muth cannot stay fresh faced forever, not to mention the rest of the crew in their various stages of life. Maybe that’s the reason the series was canceled–after setting up that rule, the writers weren’t able to find a way to dig themselves out.