I'm going to tell you a story. Not my story, that's later... This is just a story... ready?
Once upon a time, (or more specifically at the dawn of time), god—lower case "g"—was getting busy with creation, as the kids these days are saying. He gave Toad a clay jar and said,
"Be careful with this. It's got death inside."
Pleased as punch and oblivious to the fact that he was about to become god's fall guy on the whole death issue, Toad promised to guard the jar. Then one day Toad met Frog.
"Let me hold the jar of death, or whatever you call it," Frog begged. With a nod to Nancy Reagan's pearls of wisdom, Toad just said 'no'. But Frog was determined, and after much whining, Toad finally gave in.
"You can hold it, but only for a second," he said.
In his excitement, Frog began to hop around and juggle the death jar from one foot to the other.
Frog... was an asshole.
Dead Like Me was a Mundane FantasticBlack Comedy television series created by Bryan Fuller, with John Masius and Stephen Godchaux taking the creative reigns halfway through season one. It aired on Showtime from 2003 to 2004.Georgia ("George") Lass is an unmotivated eighteen-year-old slacker; a college dropout, she's returned to live with her unhappily-married parents (Joy and Clancy) and withdrawn younger sister (Reggie) in her family's Seattle home. To make her miserable existence even worse, her father is cheating on his wife with one of his students, and her mother is so uptight that she thinks the word 'moist' sounds pornographic. (Her mother later got over it.)On George's first day at the Happy Time Temp Agency, she loses an important file down an elevator shaft, unwittingly insults the boss, and to top it all off, is killed on her lunch break by a toilet seat that detached from the deorbiting space station Mir.Instead of going off to the afterlife, however, George is drafted to serve as a "grim reaper" (not the Grim Reaper, a Grim Reaper; it's a team effort, with a supervisor and assignments handed out via Post-It Notes), in the 'External Influences' division — which handles suicides, homicides and fatal accidents like George's own. A perfect job for a depressed teenage reaper.On her team:
Rube Sofer (d. 1926), was the boss who affectionately calls George 'Peanut' and is constantly trying to manage his very unorthodox employees.
Roxy Harvey (d. 1982), tough-as-nails meter maid (and, later, cop) strangled to death by a jealous roommate for inventing legwarmers
Mason (d. 1966) a 60s druggie who trepanated himself (ie, drilled a hole in his head) to try and reach the Ultimate High.
Betty Rhomer (d. 1926), a cheerful mostly-adjusted reaper who keeps photos of her reaps in shopping bags which she organizes by category. She died after diving off a cliff into a river for a thrill. Early in Season 1, she Ascended To A Higher Plane of Existence...maybe..
Daisy Adair (d. 1938), a Hollywood starlet who may (or may not) have slept with Clark Gable and nearly all of 1930s Hollywood. Died in a terrible fire on the set of Gone with the Wind. She replaced Betty.
In the other corner: Gravelings. Dark, mysterious, and (apparently) unwilling or unable to harm George for reasons never explained, they're responsible for causing the deaths that the reapers have to clean up.Oh, and did we mention that reaping is a 'public service', and reapers don't get paid? That's right, George pays the bills by holding down a 9-to-5 job, under a different name, at the Happy Time Temp Agency.It was canceled after the second season with much of the side-story and back-plot unresolved. (Due to Executive Meddling, at least according to Word of God.)A DVD movie came out in February of '09. It aired in Canada on January 1st.
Provides examples of:
Aborted Arc: According to Word of God, George's Dad was originally going to be gay, as evident in the Pilot, and this would have led to a storyline where George learned to appreciate her existence because she "wasn't meant to be". After Bryan Fuller departed the show the college student her father was said to be having an affair with was changed to a female.
Abusive Parents: Emotionally, Joy; reasonable adults don't look at their daughter struggling to cope with her sister's sudden, violent, untimely death and think that banning all forms of talking about it, throwing out all of George's belongings, calling her insane and generally belittling her at every turn is the best way to handle it. Around the turn of season 2 she started shifting into a better parent, learning to appreciate the family she has left.
Acting for Two: Crystal Dahl plays both Crystal and her boyfriend at Happy Time.
Aesop Amnesia: The first few episodes are about George trying to get out of being a Reaper, with increasingly horrible consequences. It's not until she gets a bunch more people killed that it sinks in that doing the job really is the best thing she can do. And later on, there are still times she rebels against it.
Anti-Hero: George, Type I. (The other regular Reapers fall into one category of Anti-Hero, too.)
Artistic License - Geography: For a series that takes place in Seattle, it rarely rains, and seems to be sunny and warm year-round. This is made even weirder by the show having been filmed in Vancouver, where it rains as much as or more so than Seattle. Numerous recognizable Vancouver landmarks, skylines and street names, as well as a Canadian flag, also show up in the background. However, the show's location has never really been an important factor other than an incidental fact, so that may have been why they let it slide.
Although the geography is never specific it is occasionally referred to as "the north west", and the name Seattle does appear once on a sign that a graffiti artist is painting over.
In another episode, an exhausted Roxy gives us this gem:
Roxy: The next Post-It that man gives me, I'm shoving it up his butt."
Attending Your Own Funeral: George does this after dying, but this is a privilege extended only to reapers. In a later episode, an old man wants to do this and has to be dissuaded by Mason and Rube.
Author Appeal: After Bryan Fuller left, the show was taken over by John Masius and Stephen Godchaux. What ironic is the show is sometimes called a dark sarcastic Touched by an Angel: John Masius was in fact the original creator of Touched By An Angel. However CBS threw out his original pilot because it was considered too dark: fueled by his anger at the time at God for having his two kids be disabled, it had the Angels be foulmouthed and argumentative and cynical. Sound familiar? The show was Retooled into a very preachy lighthearted Christian drama, but he profited from the royalties. A decade later, he ended up writing for essentially a very similar idea..... but he actually took up the task of lightening the tone of the show a little bit from Fuller's episodes, as his perspective on life and spirituality softened a bit in the years since, comparing Fuller to where he was 10 years prior.
Backstory: We learn how Mason, Betty, and Roxy died in the first season, with Rube's gradually being revealed over season two.
Banana Peel: "Pilot". During a bank reap, George suspects a banana peel on the floor will be the cause of death when two people start waving guns around and the entire second floor collapses. The death occurs when someone slips on the banana peel on their way out of the bank and gets their head lodged in the revolving door as the police and firemen start charging in.
Mason: Well, what do you know? It really was the banana peel!
Bait and Switch: Almost all of the deaths. Incredibly dangerous situations are set up only for the death to be caused by something almost completely random.
Happens so much, even the Reapers begin to notice. Some have even made a game of picking out just what's going to happen. And, since this is the norm, when everything happens as predicted (see the banana peel above) it actually ends up going full circle and becoming a surprise.
Broken Pedestal: Mason had to reap one of his favorite rock stars who had become a sad drug addict of a has-been.
But She Sounds Pretty: While Delores and George (as Milly) go over Georgia Lass' job interview files from a year before and see that they don't have a lot of positive things to say about her, George says that at least she was pretty. For Joy's sake, the two decide to alter them to sound more positive... with Delores deciding to base the new information off of "Milly".
The Reapers and mortals in general as far as the Gravelings are concerned.
California Doubling: Anyone in the northwest could tell you that Seattle is rarely that sunny and bright for more than a week per year, much less all year round. Reggie and her mom sleeping in casual spring clothes outside in the middle of fall would have more likely given them frostbite.
Averted however, as the show wasn't filmed in California at all; it was filmed in Vancouver.
Came Back Wrong: Ray died and came back as a graveling. It's unclear whether this is a result of his total Jerk Ass status or the specific nature of his death.
Celestial Bureaucracy: Implied to exist. Most of the reapers are on the bottom rung, Rube is one level up, and whoever supplies Rube with names and dates is a level above that. No one knows how many levels there are in total.
Deleted scenes in the pilot, which are also included in the Sci-Fi airings, show reapers standing in the DMV. The clerk providing George with new ID was another reaper, using earthbound facilities to help other reapers with the transition to unlife. He used his breaks to do his reaps in the hospital around the corner.
Clip Show: "Nighthawks", due to budgetary reasons and that episode's plot running short. On that note, it does get bonus points for having a plot, even if the clips are irrelevant.
Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Mason, quite often. According to him, college is a plot by bacteria to transmit themselves more effectively.
And then there was Ronnie, a clinical schizophrenic who could see the gravelings.
Cluster F-Bomb: Mason, who probably swears more than actually speaking.
Lampshaded by George in one episode.
Mason: Crazy fucking fuck.
George: I wish the words just rolled off my tongue like they do yours.
Everybody swears quite a bit.
Comedic Sociopathy: Indulged in frequently by Mason and sometimes by George (until she has a change of heart).
Conspicuous CG: Mostly averted with the gravelings and the lights, but a little too obvious on things like the train derailing in season one and other causes of death.
Cool Big Sis: Reggie looks up to George, despite the lack of affection she gave back.
Also, though non-biological, Betty assumes the role for George.
Cool Old Lady: "Grandma Phyl," Mother of Joy and George and Reggie's grandmother. Joy was always at odds with her, but the latter two liked her. Somewhat deconstructed in that Joy's uptight personality is a result of her mother's carefree/irresponsible parenting leaving her to act like the grown-up even when she was a kid. Phyl makes a much better grandmother than she did a mother.
Dark and Troubled Past: Ms. Herbig, the extremely Genki Girl boss of the temp agency who casually mentions things she did in her youth like participating in lesbian orgies, doing coke in a public restroom and picking up random homeless men for sex...
Rube. It's strongly implied that he was a criminal in life who robbed at least one bank.
Dawson Casting: George, initially unobtrusive since she's the only teen character we regularly see. Becomes inconvenient since undead characters are not supposed to age. Increasingly obvious makeup is Hand Waved as office-worker glam. Averted with Reggie, who gets to grow up on screen.
The Ditherer: George becomes this when she's called to interview three applicants to a job and choose one. She takes such a long time deciding, that it proved to be the final straw for the mentally unstable boss of the firm that was hiring; he snaps and murders several people in a shootout, including the person George selected.
Direct-to-Video: Life After Death, a much-delayed continuation finally released in 2009.
Don't Fear the Reaper: The first several episodes revolve around George learning that Reapers don't actually kill anybody; they make death easier for people to handle. They pop souls out of their bodies so they don't have to experience the moment itself, nor carry the scars and emotional trauma into the afterlife. Reapers also provide a comforting presence to help the recently deceased understand their fates and move on. Most early episodes include a key scene wherein Rube berates George for her well-intention efforts that ultimately make things harder for the dead.
Betty herself was tired of the image of the grim reaper being "black hooded skeleton with a scythe". So she wanted to help change the stereotype to being "fashionably dressed pretty lady holding a camera saying 'happy thoughts!' " instead.
Early-Installment Weirdness: Among other noticeable differences within the pilot episode, it stated that reapers have the ability to appear or disappear whenever they want, seemingly without anyone noticing. This is never mentioned or used afterwards, likely because it would make the job on the reapers too easy.
Face-Heel Turn: George's childhood friend Beth Anne Miller who pushed her into the public pool to gain the approval of the popular kids, an act George herself refused to do. It was at the bottom of the pool that George first saw gravelings.
Fanservice: Of all the characters, Mason is the one seen naked or in his underwear the most. Fans are now well aware that his favorite pair is his Union Jack briefs.
Fan Disservice: One episode has a shameless old man die wearing nothing but a towel. His ghost promptly frolics around naked, much to the displeasure of all Reapers present.
A Father to His Men: Rube. A brusque, eccentric father, but like a father nonetheless. (A critical revelation later in the show leads Rube to consciously abandon this role.)
Four Lines, All Waiting: The main gang usually split into two groups, each having its own plot. Besides, most episodes have a plot for Georgia's family, for Happy Time and for some flashback of Georgia's childhood.
French Jerk: Roxy reaped a French woman at the airport. She was crushed by her own luggage.
Frogs and Toads: Throughout the series, frogs are used as a recurring symbol for life, death, and change. George herself has a pet frog that belonged to her first reap that apparently followed her home, and a frog-shaped pendant given to her by her grandmother.
Fun with Acronyms: Thieves Harm Everyone's Fun Time, Report Identify Punish Ostracize Fire (slogans George learned at work) and Trans-National Airways.
At one point Delores tells George "GFY". George is nonplussed until Delores explains that she means Good For You.
Genre Deconstruction: of Urban Fantasy. The reapers aren't on some sacred mission, reaping is depressing and the only thing they have to look forward is when they finally reach their quota of souls which may take forever. Reaping is also nonprofit so either they need to have day jobs or live rough.
Genre-Busting: It was actually for the most part a sitcom, with Fantasy Dramatic arcs.
At one point in Der Waffle Haus, the manager is killed by the big neon sign falling down on him, while George is sitting at the counter. As she gets over that shock, she notices a two foot long piece of neon tube stuck in the side of her chest. Rube (who was there to reap the manager) pulls it out for her, and while the wound is bloody and temporarily painful she is otherwise unharmed - later that evening she coughs up a mounting bracket while lying in bed.
"That is not right."
On another occasion, George's middle finger gets sawed off in a paper shredder at work. She puts it back on, but needs a band-aid so no one will suspect anything and because it hasn't quite stuck yet.
When the condom full of heroin bursts while inside Mason's rectum, he has to experience a lethal overdose without actually dying from it. He later drinks from a glass of steaming liquid, not realizing it's a Halloween prop filled with dry ice solution. He promptly turns blue and vents steam from various facial orifices but soon recovers. In The Movie he gets shot several times.
Goggles Do Nothing: Literally: Mason's death. He fails safety forever. Of course, why he thought they would do any good when he was drilling a hole in his own head is anyone's guess. Presumably, they would keep blood and bits of bone out of his eyes.
Gory Discretion Shot: For particularly violent deaths. Sometimes knowing what's happening is enough.
Goth: A couple show up, presented in various degrees of accuracy. Reggie hangs out with a goth crowd and experimented with this style in one episode. Another famous goth musician goes by the ridiculous name of "Bandar" and looks nearly as silly as the name implies.
Gratuitous German: Der Waffle Haus. note The name in correct German would be "Das Waffelhaus".
Greasy Spoon: Der Waffle Haus, where the Reapers meet and eat. Famously re-used in Stargate SG-1as a higher plane of existence.
Then there's Joy. Seems like an ironic name at first, until we add Lass to the end of it.
Ned from a company called ''LunaTeca goes on a shooting spree.
Possible meaningful nickname (to the nicknamer, at least): "Georgy Girl," Mason's nickname for George, was the title of a hit film that was released in 1966 - the year of his death. It's a punny nickname as well: George Lass = Georgy Girl.
Medium Blending: The opening recap of the movie is done in a comic book form.
Misplaced Kindergarten Teacher: Ms. Herbig, of that particular variety that thinks children are happy little elf-things rather than real people with the capacity to actually think. And she tries to talk to her employees like they're children. You see where I'm going with this. It gets hard to tell if she's being passive-aggressive or if she really thinks offering up "her big brown eyes" as a mnemonic to remember her name is a perfectly acceptable way to address adults.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Early in the series, George attempted to prevent her mark from dying by making sure he wouldn't show up for his "appointment" on time. It worked, but had a domino effect that ended up getting even more people killed.
Nightmare Fetishist: Reggie's tastes are a little...macabre. At one point, she even expressed interest at the sight of a disembodied heart.
No Sympathy: None of the Reapers are all that inclined to show that much support for George after she dies.
Oh Crap: George's last (living) words (especially appropriate since she was killed by a falling toilet)
The Other Darrin: Daisy is played by Laura Harris in the series and Sarah Wynter in the movie.
Our Ghosts Are Different: Ghosts exist, but they're the result of a sloppy reaping where the soul is allowed to wander off instead of getting its lights, instead of emotional trauma or unfinished business or any of the other usual causes.
Our Zombies Are Different: Despite the fact that they are extremely human like, the reapers themselves are in a way zombies(Type O i suppose) based on the fact that they are technically reanimated dead people. The show even uses the term Undead to refer to their state of being
Out with a Bang: A newlywed husband cheats in an Airplane Bathroom, and has an allergic reaction to the peanuts the stewardess he was making out with had eaten.
Specifically, after drowning, suffocation, and shooting in the head all fail, Mason makes use of a chainsaw to slice him apart, and they proceed to throw his body into a fireplace. He may or may not have actually died from this, but just to make sure they cremate him, switch his ashes and that of Delores' cat, and launch them into space.
Really 700 Years Old: Reapers stay the age they were when they died, and all but George have been dead for at least a few decades.
Retcon: A few details were added in and taken out between the pilot and the second episode. And, for the most part, in the second season and in the movie, the detail of the Reapers looking different to living people seemed to be more or less dropped. (Though the last episode of Season 2 alluded to it.)
Rube Goldberg Hates Your Guts: All of the deaths involve this to some degree. Lampshaded and justified in that the Gravelings exist to ensure that the improbable coincidences occur resulting in the death of the right person at the proper time.
Running Gag: One of many is George making up bizarre excuses to escape certain situations, such as spending more time than she has to with Delores. In the pilot episode she says she can't talk with a man because she is praying, she avoids scrapbooking with Delores by saying she is having a "heavy flow day" and avoids going to a stationary store (that apparently has to be "seen to be believed") with Delores by saying she has been alcohol-free for a year and her AA sponsor is taking her to the park to fly kites.
Shaggy Dog Story: The story of the man who rode through a swamp to get back to the woman he loves whom with he had quarreled. He met a boy and asked him if the bottom was hard. As he sank, he told the boy that the swamp does not have a hard bottom. The boy replied, "It's bottom is hard, you just haven't reached it yet.
She's All Grown Up: Reggie, in the movie. Her hair let loose, her glasses gone, and wearing make up and pretty dresses causes her to become nigh unrecognizable to fans expecting her to still look the same five years later.
Ship Tease: Mason gives George a quick peck on the lips when he thinks his time as a reaper is over. It's not. He also says "I really love you, Georgie."
Soft Water: Averted by Betty's death, jumping off a cliff into water that was too far down.
Spontaneous Human Combustion: One episode sees an untalented stand-up comedian, literally, die on stage by inexplicably exploding after one of his bad jokes.
Also happened to an arm wrestler the night they met Ray.
Stealing from the Till: something that comes up both at Happy Time and amongst the reapers taking art, jewelry, houses, cars, drugs, etc. from those they just reaped. The morality of the stealing from the dead appears to be pretty gray, sometimes a character will be scolded and punished for stealing from bodies, others times they treat it like a normal thing. Then again, as it has been noted many times, the reaper job is completely unpaid.
But don't EVER steal from Der Waffle Haus.
Stepford Smiler: Daisy initially appears to be a ditzy starlet who is as promiscuous as it gets, who is selfish and full of it. But as George notes, she seems to simply be putting on an act. And her final thoughts when she died in a fire was Why has no one ever loved me?. Combined with her psychological problems with seeing women being attacked by men and she seems to be a pretty troubled character.
George's mother is this in a huge way. Absolutely everything in her life must be perfect, fitting every single stereotype of suburban life exactly. No variation allowed. This makes it hard for George's sister to actually come to terms with her sister's death.
Dolores Herbig. She puts on a happy, cheery demeanor, but it's strongly implied that she's a sad and desperately lonely individual with a Dark and Troubled Past.
Stupid Crooks: In the pilot episode one of George's first experiences with the reapers is with Mason at a bank, where we meet Bret, the hapless bank robber. Bret stumbles through a prepared announcement he wrote up before entering the bank and gets upstaged by one jealous wife of the bankers. However, he miraculously manages to get away with the bank's money.
Meanwhile, Mason is oftentimes the dumbest of the team of reapers and is the only one who looks to earn his money through theft and scrounging, while the others hold down jobs on the side (except for Rube, who seems to be independently wealthy). Usually, his stupidity and crimes don't affect the others, but one occasion stands out where, after previously giving away all of his possessions when he incorrectly assumed he was finally going to the afterlife, he was caught stealing tips left on tables at Der Waffle House, where the gang always meets and hangs out, and is immediately kicked out and barred from coming back to the diner by the group's usual waitress Kiffany.
Weirdness Censor: Der Waffle Haus, more specifically Kiffany the waitress, who has overheard and seen all kinds of weirdness from the Reapers. But the biggest example is when Roxy shot Mason (He's a Reaper, so he heals and it was in a nonvital area besides). Everyone turns to look, beat, and then goes back to their meal.
Wham Episode: Three in season 2. Two showed George could see gravelings when she was a kid and the third showed she can kill them.
What Happened to the Mouse?: What happened to Betty is purposely left up in the air. Interestingly, when a different character named Betty shows up later, George remarks "Who's Betty?" as if she wasn't familiar with anyone by that name.
Betty was supposed to return in season two. Bryan Fuller, the show's creator, left early in season one, which left the plot in the hands of studio execs. Since they hadn't wanted the actress who had played Betty to portray her in the first place, they wrote Betty out of season two.
Yank the Dog's Chain: In the thirteenth episode of the second season, we see that Reggie's dog J.D. has managed to run away from home because a previously visiting neighbour didn't close the gates. When Reggie is out looking for J.D., we spot Charlie, the animal reaper and also a car that has pulled over. George, who is visiting home once again, realizes that Charlie has been there to reap J.D.'s soul and panics, but then we suddenly see J.D. running happily towards Reggie who's looking at the car... just for him to run through her and up to Charlie. Cue many tears, especially for dog lovers.
In The Movie, we find that Delores's chronically health-challenged cat Murray has survived the past five years. And almost immediately afterwords we find that he's got a terminal kidney disease. Talk about Back for the Dead.
You Can't Go Home Again: George. That doesn't stop her from doing it anyway. Though over the course of the first season she painfully learns to let go of them, and most of the second season her interaction is mostly spying from a distance.