Retro TV Review: Bryan Fuller 01 – Dead Like Me

Dead Like Me Bryan FullerIn the geek world there are levels.   There are the ones who get to be the gods, Roddenberry, Lucas, Whedon, Lee, etc.  They are the names we all that get known beyond the movie, TV of comic geek.  They are endlessly praised for creating genre media that extremely long after their time.  Just under them there are the demi-gods.  These are the ones who create the cult classics, the type of stuff that usually never goes beyond a very specific group of fans, sometimes relatively large sometimes small.   These are the movies or TV shows or books are kept alive because somehow these fans recycle and remain strong in their love for what the demi-gods create.  Bryan Fuller is on this level.   Don’t get me wrong, the man is nothing sort of brilliant.   He does not create the usual cookie cutter fair you get from a lot of lesser talents (see:  hacks).   Sure, he’s about to create another Star Trek but that doesn’t count as he’s began his career on Star Trek Deep Space Nine and Voyager, and as much as Trekies like to put those shows down they were probably two shows that tried to take the Star Trek universe into new places they frankly needed to go.    Bryan fuller’s career has lasted since the 1990’s but aside from Star Trek he is both lucky and unlucky.   He’s lucky in that he’s been able to create the shows he wants.   Networks take chances with his shows and the result is a collection of some of the most unique and brilliant pieces of art to every grace the small screen.  He’s unlucky because so far his show don’t seem to last past a second season.   I have no explanation for this.   If you watch any of his shows they are well acted, completely different, very diverse and simply some of the best stuff on TV.  However rating are rating and you can’t keep a show on if you don’t have enough viewers.   This is one of the things most geeks don’t seem to get nor accept, but that’s the reality of the entertainment business.

One of them was as show called Dead Like Me.  Let’s talk about it.

Death is a Dead End Job

Dead Like Me George and RubeHer name is George Lass, short for Georgia, played by Ellen Muth.   She is 18 years old, a college drop out and she died when a toilet seat from a Soviet Space station went the wrong direction and hit her during her lunch break.   As it turned out her death was not the end.   She was marked to become a reaper, a person who takes the souls out of people’s bodies just before they die.   Her department was External Forces – murders, suicides, accidents, disasters, that sort of thing.  Her boss is a man name Rube – played by Mandy Patinkin.   Her fellow reapers are a British sacker drug addict/alcoholic named Mason(Collum Blue) a tough as nails meter maid turn cop name Roxy – played by Jasmine Guy – and an actress name Daisy O’Dare played by Lauren Harris.   Mason died by drilling a hole in his head to chase the ultimate high.  Roxy was strangled by her room mate who wanted to steal a her product idea.  Daisy died in a fire on the set of Gone With the Wind.   Rube?   It’s not clear how Rube died, only that it was 80 years ago and had might have had something to do with a robbery.Dead Like Me Happy Time

George leaves behind her family.  Her mother Joy an OCD control freak housewife with a few phobias and a little lost at the death of her oldest daughter.  Georgia’s little sister, Reggie who worships the ground George walks on who takes her sister’s death the hardest.  Reggie thinks or suspects George is still alive or is haunting them in some way.   George’s father, Clancy an English Professor at the University of Washington who is having an affair with one of his students that started before George died.

Because being a Reaper pays nothing and she’s not technically dead George has to take a job at Happy Time Employment agency.  Her boss is Delores Herbig  (As in Her Big Brown Eyes) a perpetually positive woman with a sick cat and a “Keeping Busy With Delores” website where people watch her keep busy.   Delores takes George (who she knows as Millie)  under her wing and they become good friends.   The other main character from Happy Time is Crystal the scary receptionist with a lot of interesting habits.

The show revolves around George accepting her role as a reaper, Joy and Reggie’s relationship while dealing with George’s death, Rube trying to keep the reapers, especially George, in line and George and her fellow reapers living and surviving as undead reapers in the world of the living.

Death and Undeath

Dead Like Me CastThere are so many things that make this show great.   I liked George, except in the real world she would considered an asshole.  Bryan Fuller likes female characters who try to disconnect from the rest of the world with attitude and snark, and George, beautifully played by Ellen Muth, is chock full of that.   In the beginning George fights against her role as a reaper.  When she’s sent to reap the soul of a young girl George tries to save her.   She’d try this a couple of times before the main thing Rube tries to tell her sinks in:  Everyone dies, there’s really nothing you can do about it, don’t ask questions.  Reapers are undead, meaning they are dead but their bodies still function and the world does not see them as they looked with they are alive.   They also heal Wolverine fast so it’s extremely hard to kill a reaper.  They can still feel pain from their injuries.   They are supposed to stay in the shadows of society because they also don’t age, which become hard to explain if they get into any long term relationships.  They are also supposed to stay away from their families but sometimes that’s harder than it sounds.  In one episode George tries to tell her mother who she is but all her mother see is “Millie” and dismisses her as someone playing a sick joke.

Bryan Fuller is great with characters.  He creates a group of interesting people you come to know and really like even when they are not the best people.   He’s able to find the humanity in in main characters even with they are complete fuck-ups like Mason is.   His relationship with George is very fatherly even if neither of them will admit that.  The reason for this is revealed in one of the best episodes of the second season.  My biggest surprise is Jasmine Guy as Roxy, touch as nails, no nonsense meter maid then cop who could kick your ass and will do it in a heartbeat if you piss her off enough.   Before this show the last time I was Jasmine Guy was on a Different World where she played Whitley Gilbert, not one of favorite characters.  Her turn around a Dead Like Me Joy and ReggieRoxy reminded me of Anthony Michael Hall’s change when I came upon him again in Dead Zone.  She was a bit of your typical black stereotype, the whole angry black woman, but if you decide to check the show she might just be your favorite character on the show.

This show is about death.  Dying.  Dealing with death.  And the really messed up ways people die on the show.  Reapers are given a post-it with a name, date, the place and an ETD “Estimated Time of Death”  then it’s up to them to get to the person before it happens.  They have to touch the person so that when they die they will feel no pain and do are not end up with whatever bruises, scars or damage that happens.  If they miss their appointment then death will adjust.  That could mean another person dies or a whole lot of people will die.   Rube is given the list and Rube makes and hands out the post-its.   Reaper do not cause the explosions or the drop the large rocks or move the beat up electric wires into water puddles.  That’s done by these little creatures called grave-lings.   They are not always visible and if you screw up a reap they will torment the shit out of you.

Like every Bryan Singer show, this was one I was surprised got canceled.  It was fun a quirky and best of all different.  It’s worth a binge watch or owning on digital or disk.  It’s a show that should never have been canceled.

Dead Like Me:  The 5 Best Episodes

Season 1 Ep 01 – Pilot – This is, of course, the episode that introduces us to George, her family, Happy Time and the Reapers.   In any Bryan Fuller show you want to always see the pilot or first episode.   Bryan Fuller has the distinction of having very good pilots that sets up a shows tone and that tone is never lost throughout the shows run.

Season 1 Ep 04 – Repercussions – There are a few shows where George tries to save the life of the people she’s supposed to reap, but this one is both totally messed up and the best.  While on a reap with Roxy the person who was supposed to die does not show up and George thinks she’s found a loop-hole in the reaper business.  She proceeds to make sure her reap does not show up, in one of the best bits of TV comedy ever.  Unfortunately the George then learns what could happen when she tries something like in the hardest way possible.  Not to mention the Grave-lings are pissed at her for trying it and make her life a hell throughout the episode.  This one is high on the list of one of the better episodes as it marks the even that makes George finally being to accept what she is and what has to be done.

Season 1 Ep 09 – Sunday Mornings – This is about George relationship with her father in life and as the undead Millie.  While reaping at his college George makes a new friend who has a crush on the English professor.  George learns another side to her father she’s never seen before and has to deal with this new knowledge.  The best part of this episode is the meaning behind the title.  It’s a very good take on Father/Daughter relationships, how they change and how much can be lost as children grow up and start becoming adults.

Season 2 Ep 6 – In Escrow – George is given a new responsibility at Happy Time, to choose a temp for a very fussy client and has trouble deciding who she will choose.  Little does she know that whoever she chooses is about to get a post-it.   Meanwhile Joy has decided to sell the house and while it’s in escrow she meets a new man while Reggie finds herself alone in the house after being abandoned by her babysitter.   More than most episodes this one marked a real grown in the main characters.  The Lass family all have decisions to make and those decision are far more life changing then any of them suspect.

Season 2 Ep 14 – Always – this is one of the few Mason centric episodes.   After thinking that getting a purple post-it instead of a yellow on meant his time as a reaper was coming to an end Mason gave all his stuff away in an earlier episode.  The consequences of that come to bite him as he finds himself broke, homeless and desperate leading him to go too far and be band from Der Waffle House.   Meanwhile the living members of the Lass family have to deal with another death and regrets of prior bad decisions.  This episode actually gave more heart to Mason’s character as well as giving Reggie a hard life lesson in responsibility.

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Dafixer

I'm from Brooklyn New York and this is my opinion on everything.

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