DVD
Dead Like Me
Season One Box Set

Starring: Ellen Muth, Mandy Patinkin, Jasmine Guy, Callum Blue, Laura Harris and Rebecca Gayheart
MGM
RRP: 39.99
10006827
Certificate: 15
Available 20 June 2005


Georgia Lass is an 18-year old who is killed when a toilet seat from the Mir space station hurtles to Earth and hits her in the head. Lass is surprised to discover that an afterlife does exist, and that she's already been assigned a position with the Pacific Northwest chapter of grim reapers. She eventually comes to terms with the ghoulish duties with which she has been assigned. She must, however, reconcile certain unresolved issues which still linger from her life among the living before she is allowed to move on...

Dead Like Me is a series in the same league as Buffy and Angel. However, where this differs is in its more realistic portrayal of the world around us. Characters use four letter expletives and there are many ongoing themes that weave complex story lines throughout the episodes. George having to face the fact she must move on with her life and not revisit her old home is one theme that the writers keep going back to. Another is George's attempts to not let the living die. On more than one occasion she tries to change the future - and she's not the only reaper to do so.

The Gravelings, creatures that help to cause the death of humans, are a pretty neat idea - not original, but still very amusing. As the series progresses, we get to understand more about them. Anyone whose seen Twilight Zone: The Movie, or the original Twilight Zone episode staring William Shatner, Nightmare At 20,000 Feet, will see where the writers of Dead Like Me got their inspiration.

It's not long before the cast gets a shake up and Rebecca Gayheart's Betty Rhomer is replaced by Laura Harris's Daisy Adair. If you're trying to place Harris, by the way, she played Marie Warner in Season Two of 24. While Betty was a more likeable character, Daisy does add some much needed spice into the episodes. She's vain, self-obsessed and a total snob... but then she constantly contradicts this image with her wild stories of which famous actors of Hollywood's Golden Age she's performed folatio, and other sexual acts, on - she claims to have been an actress who died on the set of Gone With the Wind.

The regular character of Delores Herbig (played with just the right amount of subtlety by Christine Willes) really helps to inject some great humour into the episodes. Delores means well, but is a bit of a nightmare. She runs the office scrapbook circle and has a website, Getting Things Done with Delores, where people can watch her going around her house doing chores - very funny.

As the first season progresses, we get to see how each of the reapers (apart from Rube) died and whether or not they have any ties still to the living. Probably the saddest reaper, which makes you realise why her character is so hard faced, is Jasmine Guy's Roxy Harvey. Her back story is really sad, but the writers add a hint of reality. Guy was actually a regular dancer in Fame and her character, Roxy, was a dancer in the '80s - although her death was not an accident. It's 21 years on and still she's having trouble letting go.

This season has a clips show - which is really poor considering this is the show's first season. While the writers have really tried to make it not stick out like a clips show, it's still very obvious. Thankfully, it's not all that bad - the clips being kept down to a minimum and only in very brief snatches. In truth it doesn't really detract from the episode that much.

Eagle-eyed viewers will also spot Gary Jones, who plays the technician in Stargate: SG-1, in a cameo role. And I was most amused (the schoolboy that I am) that Callum Blue slipped in a rude British word that American's have no idea of the meaning of: "w*nk."

Extras include an audio commentary with the cast - a bit of a love-in more than anything really informative about the show - although I did learn that George's mother is called Joy for a very good reason - Joy Lass (Joyless); 30 minutes of deleted scenes - which are worth watching. One scene explains how George gets her new identity (driving license etc) and another scene shows George's mother at the wake swearing at the guy from Happy Time that got George the sack. It also explains why George is with the accidental death group of reapers; Behind the Scenes featurette (6:30) with interviews with the main cast; The Music of Dead Like Me featurette (4:00) which doesn't really look at the music in any depth; and Dead Like US Weekly which lists the top 10 deaths in season one as well as the most eligible single dead people in the show.

Sadly, this show only ran for two season. I say sadly, because this has some of the best writing of any show in its field. Funny, touching and great character developments make Season One of Dead Like Me a must own collection.

Pete Boomer

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£29.99 (Amazon.co.uk)
   
£31.99 (Blahdvd.com)
   
£39.99 (Moviemail-online.co.uk)

All prices correct at time of going to press.