By Karen Linsley
[Written in December 2003.]
It would really be the pits to spend the afterlife being referred to as "Toilet Seat Girl." But that is the fate that meets Dead Like Me's George (Georgia) Lass, when she is killed by the falling remnants of a crashing Russian space station's lavatory equipment. George's cause of death is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the dark humour of the series, which is currently running in Canada on The Movie Network (TMN).
Following her demise, George does not find herself moving toward the light or standing in the clouds plucking a harp. Instead, she finds herself drafted into the ranks of the Grim Reapers. Reapers are responsible for removing the souls from the bodies of people who are about to die. They appear human to any onlooker; however, their features are altered to avoid being recognized by family or friends.
Appearances are not the only aspects of being human that follow a new Grim Reaper into the afterlife. Reapers still need to eat, find a place to "live" (usually the former abode of one of the recently departed), and find a way to pay for it. Some, like George, have to find day jobs, just like the rest of us. Some, like fellow Reaper Mason, find less respectable methods, such as rolling the dead for their money.
While both life and death are usually treated in a wickedly humorous manner, Dead Like Me does not simply sweep the impact of death aside. There is a poignant undercurrent running through the series, which does explore the deeper issues. This is done primarily through George's family and the effect her death has on her younger sister. We also see the relationship of her parents unravel.
But perhaps the most striking and memorable incident occurs in the double episode that kicks off the series. When George is sent to take her first soul, she discovers that her first "client" is a four-year-old. Like any of us, she cannot help asking the question: Why? And like the rest of us, the answer to that question is denied her. George must come to terms with that fact that no answer is forthcoming, and do what must be done. The evocatively dissonant rendition of "Que Sera Sera," which runs through the final scene, gently broke my heart.
Amid the stench of regurgitated drivel that has been coming from TV Land lately, Dead Like Me is a welcome breath of fresh air. While I caution viewers to expect strong language and mature content, I highly recommend this show to anyone who, like me, craves quality TV that is a little different.
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