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Series / Dead Like Me

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George: So what's next? Onward and upward?
Rube: Onward, not upward. No pearly gates for you, no choirs of angels neither.
George: You dick! You're sending me to Hell?
Rube: Don't flatter yourself. You're not that interesting.

Dead Like Me was a Mundane Fantastic Black Comedy television series created by Bryan Fuller, with John Masius and Stephen Godchaux taking the creative reins 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slacker; a college dropout, she's returned to live with her unhappily-married parents (Joy and Clancy) and withdrawn younger sister (Reggie) in her family's Seattle home.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.

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 trepanned himself (i.e., 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...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 in Marietta, Georgia (though she claims it to have been 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, after much fan outcry for a revival and reignited interest thanks to the show frequently getting reruns marathoned on the Syfy channel. It aired in Canada on January 1st. Most of the original cast returned, although it was not too warmly received by critics or fans.

Provides examples of:

  • Aborted Arc:
    • 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.
    • Betty was supposed to return in season 2. Word of God says that her attempt to short-circuit the system would have had severe ramifications the reapers would have had to deal with.
    • Whatever developing connection growing between Mason and Daisy by the end of season 2 was completely ignored in the direct to DVD movie. Similarly no attempt was made to explore whatever season 2 was starting to imply about George's bond with gravelings.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Age-Appropriate Angst: George died at just 18, after all.
  • Aloof Big Sister: Generally, what George was to Reggie in life. Only after her death does she actually seem to really notice Reggie's existence for the first time.
  • And I Must Scream: Not getting reaped before you die will trap the soul in their corpse conscious but completely helpless.
  • Angry Chef: Angus Cook was the line cook at Der Waffle Haus who fell into tough times involving a pyramid scheme where he lost everything and leaving him a very unhappy man. He refused to bend over backwards to customer complaints about the food he prepared and passed this philosophy along to Rube who reaped him and subsequently took over in the kitchen. Incidentally, Angus stuck around to coach Rube in the kitchen passing on his philosophy that the cook shouldn't bow to the demands of the customer. When Rube caught on, only then did Angus pass on.
  • Animal Motifs: Throughout the series, toads are used as a recurring symbol for life, death, and change. George herself has a pet toad that belonged to her first reap that apparently followed her home, and a frog-shaped pendant given to her by her grandmother.
  • Annoying Background Event: Team Dad Rube and Team Cloudcuckoolander Mason are stuck in an airport with a crying baby in the background. It's complicated by Mason smuggling a (leaky) package of cocaine up his rear end and Rube attracting attention from security when he cracks a bit and mutters that he wants to "kill that fuckin' baby."
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Reggie, in George's eyes. George later regrets not spending more time with her.
  • Anti-Hero: George is cynical, snarky, constantly complains, and tries to shirk her duties at first; she's not a typical hero. That said, she gets better over time.
  • 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.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Roxy describes Ray's crimes as fraud, assault, and bad haircut.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence:
    • The "Lights" spirits go into.
    • Also happens to reapers when they reach their quota of souls.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...:
    Ed Barphin: Can I ask you a question?
    George: That is a question. Would you like to ask me another one?
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: The waffle house where the characters usually meet is called "Der Waffle Haus". It's supposed to be Das Waffel Haus.
  • Ass Shove:
    • Mason once tried to smuggle drugs in a condom stuck up his ass. Hilarity Ensues.
      Mason: I've got illegals in my bottom.
      Roxy: Why do you do this to yourself?
      Mason: [whimpering] I don't know.
    • 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. Back-stories tend to play a role in how Reapers are assigned to their division: External Influences (such as George and the toilet seat) are generally killed by accidents or suicides; the Plague Division, as the name would imply, died as a result of Pandemics, and, for the most part are out of work during the course of the series.
  • 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.
  • Banana Peel: "Pilot". During a bank reap, George suggests a banana peel lying on the ground might be the cause of death. Mason insists it isn't, but when George calls his bluff by moving to throw it away, he admits that they have to allow for the possibility. When things start happening, they happen. A Stupid Crook tries to rob the bank, the manager's wife comes in holding a baby and a gun and stumbles on the knowledge that he's been cheating on her for over two years, her anguished gunshot ricochets around like a pinball until it hits a gas tank and the entire second floor collapses — but somehow nobody dies. Only after all this mayhem does their reap even arrive — intending to cash his paycheck, but turned away due to the state of the bank, he slips on the banana peel and lands in just the wrong spot for the firefighter rushing in to break his neck with the revolving door.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Episode 3 features a bear in a cage. Being contained doesn't stop it from being dangerous.
  • Been There, Shaped History: Daisy...although her variant's more like "Been There, Schtupped History."
    • There's also a more subtle and ambiguous example. Daisy bears some similarity to the woman in Edward Hopper's New York Movie painting, which he started painting the year of Daisy's death.
  • Big Eater: Rube appreciates his food. There's even a montage in one of the episodes showing all the food he'd eaten up to that point.
  • Black Comedy: It's a show about grim reapers. What did you expect?
  • Bloody Hilarious: Most of the deaths and George's antics with her own severed finger, which gets cuts off at one point. (With her Reaper powers, that merely inconveniences her.)
  • Body Horror: If you don't get the soul out before the death occurs, the soul will retain whatever injuries happen to the body during the process. As you can imagine, this can get unpleasant. One poor guy got impaled on a tree branch and his body was stuck in a tree, leaving George physically unable to get to it.note  When she finally manages to knock the body out of the tree and get the soul out, the guy's ghost still had the branch sticking through his chest.
  • Book Ends: Season 1 began and ended with a shot of Earth from space.
  • Bowdlerization: The Sci Fi Channel took out the curses. That alone cut out so much time from the episodes that they actually had to re-include some deleted scenes to even it out.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs:
    • Daisy describing George to George's (Millie's) co-workers:
    Daisy: I'm looking for a girl. She's about yea big, brown eyes, pretty... angry... pretty angry, actual—Oh! That's her.
    • George asking Mason what he's looking for.
    George: Drugs? Booze? Drugs and booze?
  • Break the Cutie: Daisy and Reggie both suffer from this.
  • Broken Pedestal: Mason had to reap one of his favorite rock stars who had become a sad drug addict of a has-been.
  • …But He Sounds Handsome: While Delores and George (as Millie) 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 "Millie".
  • Butt-Monkey: Mason. He even gets referred to as "the fuck-up" by the others from time to time.
    • George, as well.
    • The Reapers and mortals in general as far as the Gravelings are concerned.
  • Came Back Wrong: Ray died and came back as a graveling. It's unclear whether this is a result of his total Jerkass status or the specific nature of his death.
  • Caught Up in a Robbery: In the pilot episode, one of George's first experiences with the reapers is shadowing Mason at a bank, which gets held up by a hapless bank robber. Since George and Mason are only there to collect a soul, they let everything play out on its own. Their target, a B.M. Moore, arrives at the bank after the robbery is over, when the jealous wife of one of the bankers shows up and creates havoc with her own gun, creating enough confusion for the ineffective bank robber to actually get away with the bank's money.
  • Catchphrase: "Delores Herbig, as in, her big brown eyes."
  • 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.
  • Character Development: Plenty, especially George, Daisy and (surprisingly enough) Rube. In a behind-the-scenes DVD interview, Callum Blue (Mason) revealed that he demanded that his character never be allowed to develop because it was funnier to let him remain a lovable idiot.
  • The Chosen One: Implied. George seemed to be picked by the gravelings to be important somehow, revealed in a flashback to an early near-death experience in a swimming pool. In another flashback (second season's finale), she seems to be able to see the gravelings in the house of her neighbor, at least on Halloween, and the next to last episode showed she can reap them. The last scene in the DVD movie, she is showered with Post-It notes from the sky in slow-mo, and her final line is, "I am so fucked..." implying "Upper Management" has chosen her to be the new leader of the team.
  • Chronic Pet Killer: George and Reggie.
  • 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:
  • 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.
    • Rube starts to light his pipe in the closed Happy Time office.
      George: You can't smoke in here.
      Rube: Ah, fuck that bullshit, they can blow me.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: Indulged in frequently by Mason and sometimes by George (until she has a change of heart).
  • Cool Big Sis:
    • Reggie looks up to George, despite the lack of affection she gave back.
    • 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.
  • Creepy Child:
    • Reggie's way of coping with her sister's death was a bit disturbing. There was her theft of a couple dozen toilet seats, and when she finds a bunch of her schoolmates crowded around a dead bird, she picks it up and puts it in her backpack without the slightest change in expression. Both pretty fucking gross.
    • Charlie, the animal reaper.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: George's own death in the pilot sets the tone — obliterated by a flaming toilet seat from outer space. She then gets assigned to a Reaper unit handling "External Influences" — murders, suicides, and accidents. Naturally, her reaps aren't much better off than George herself was.
  • Curse Cut Short: "Aw, shi....", but only in the broadcast edit.
  • 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.
  • Deadpan Snarker: George and boy does she deliver some gems.
    George: licks finger and holds it up You feel that? That's the IQ falling.
  • Death by Falling Over: Many of the deaths on the show seem like something most people would walk away from.
  • Death by Irony:
    • The Victim of the Week bites it this way more often than not, meaning there's one almost Once an Episode.
    • The name of the space station Mir means "peace" in many Slavic languages, including Russian. Rest in PEACE, anyone?
  • Death by Looking Up: George, who looked up and stared at the falling toilet seat until it hit her. She wishes afterward that she hadn't just stood there.
  • Death by Origin Story: George and all the other Reapers, of course.
  • Death Is a Loser: Reapers are recruited from the recently dead, have to blend into mortal society, and have no powers other than immortality and a Lie to the Beholder disguise. George ends up with the same low-level office job she held in life, albeit with a much worse apartment since her new identity doesn't have any assets. More senior Reapers are a bit better put-together. Mostly.
  • Death Is a Sad Thing: No one in George's family knows how to deal with her death. Joy is devastated over the fact that the last thing she said to George was, "It will be your funeral if you don't get out of bed." Clancy seeks solace in his grad students, and Reggie starts developing a phobia of their family bathroom, stealing toilet seats from the school, and trying to talk to George using an Ouija board. She only gets better when Joy takes Reggie to therapy, and said therapist is very sympathetic to a little girl who lost her big sister.
  • Death Takes a Holiday: Literally, in one episode. The gravelings take a day off and just make a nuisance of themselves.
  • Death's Hourglass: A central theme to the series.
  • Death of a Child: Charlie, the Pet Reaper, is a ten or eleven-year-old who was killed by a drunk driver. George's first reap is also a little girl, which makes it very hard for her to do.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Ray physically threatens Daisy, so Mason picks up a large platter and beats him with it until he's dead.
  • 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.
  • 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-intentioned 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.
  • Dysfunctional Family: The Lasses. Before George's death, she and her mother were always at odds, and she wasn't particularly close to her father or her sister either. Afterward, they have trouble coping with her death, especially Reggie, and her father has an affair with one of his students, which leads to them getting divorced and Reggie being caught in the middle.
  • 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 their work too easy.
    • One noticeable difference is George stating in the pilot that her dad is having an affair with a student... only to seemingly retcon this away so that George can unwittingly help initiate the affair after she died by introducing them to each other.
    • Regarding the affair, the first episode implied that George's dad was, in fact, fucking a man.
    • The first season shows early on that Reapers look different in the eyes of the living, and George had a "real George" stand-in actress whenever she is shown from the point of view of someone else. However this is largely ignored and never shown at all once the 2nd season starts, only being referenced once on Halloween.
  • Elephant in the Living Room: George's death can be this for the Lasses on occasion.
  • Empty Fridge, Empty Life: George's dad more or less only keeps leftover takeout in his fridge after his girlfriend dumps him post-divorce.
  • Endearingly Dorky: Mason. To the majority of characters his hopeless stupidity managed to be endearing in their eyes at times.
  • Episode on a Plane: Where Mason and Roxy were about to go to Mexico but the deaths of the two they reaped cancelled the flight.
  • 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.
  • Fan Disservice: One episode has a shameless old man die wearing nothing but a Modesty Towel. His ghost promptly frolics around naked, much to the displeasure of all Reapers present.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Fauxlosophic Narration: George's narration can sometimes become this if she's feeling angsty enough.
  • First-Episode Resurrection: George, who dies and becomes a reaper in the pilot.
  • First Person Snarker: George, in her narration, makes many sarcastic remarks.
  • Five Stages of Grief: Everyone, at some point or another, but primarily George and her family. Played for Laughs right after George dies in the pilot.
  • Four Lines, All Waiting: The main gang usually splits into two groups, each having its own plot. In addition, most episodes have a plot for Georgia's family, for Happy Time, and for some flashback of Georgia's childhood.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Roxy (choleric), Rube (choleric/melancholic), George (melancholic), Daisy (phlegmatic), Betty (sanguine/phlegmatic), and Mason (sanguine).
  • French Jerk: Roxy reaped a French woman at the airport that was doing nothing but complaining. She was crushed by her own luggage when she was too impatient to wait for it.
  • Freudian Slip: When Mason gives Daisy a "bracelet":
    Daisy: I love it.
    Mason: I love you...loving it... love.
  • 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.
  • Garage Sale: Joy holds one after George dies, much to George's horror as a good chunk of the stuff for sale is George's. Mason also holds one (on somebody else's lawn) when he thinks he's about to ascend; pretty much all the items present are things he picked up in previous episodes.
  • Genre-Busting: It was actually for the most part a sitcom, with Fantasy Dramatic arcs.
  • Go into the Light: The souls all see glowing visions (usually tinted blue), called lights, which they walk into to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence.
  • God Guise: Three times (Roxy, Mason and Daisy) were mistaken for God.
  • 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.
  • Good Thing You Can Heal: Most of the reapers.
    • 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.
      George: 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.
    • In the movie they have a problem with permanently getting rid of The Big Bad since he is also a reaper. They try to beat him, shoot him, and drown him, before ultimately resorting to chainsawing him into pieces, burning the pieces into ashes, and launching the ashes into space mixed with the ashes of Delores Herbig's cat in the cat's "burial-at-space" (which, apparently, is something you can really do.)
  • 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. Yet another goth girl is a literal Nightmare Fetishist and beds Mason after snagging one of his next reaps' Post-Its from him and coaxing it out of him that he is a grim reaper. 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 
  • Greasy Spoon: Der Waffle Haus, where the Reapers meet and eat. Famously re-used in Stargate SG-1as a higher plane of existence.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Mason gets jealous when he sees Daisy with other men.
  • Grief-Induced Split: George's home life with her parents and sister is already rocky, but her accidental death in the pilot episode deteriorates it further, and her parents formally divorce in Season 2.
  • The Grim Reapers: The main characters are all Reapers, people who send the dead onto their final resting place.
  • Halloween Episode: The final one.
  • Hands-On Approach: The apartment guy helping Joy fly a kite.
  • Healing Factor: One of the perks of being a Reaper.
  • Historical In-Joke:
  • Homage: to Hill Street Blues, down to use of theme music when the meter maids roll out onto the streets.
  • I See Dead People:
    • The schizophrenic boy who can see the Gravelings, and the Reapers as they really look.
    • On Halloween night there's a Phlebotinum Breakdown that reveals the Reapers' true forms to everybody. It's the origin of the myth that the dead return on that night. Also implied to be responsible for the Mexican Day of the Dead. In the final shot of the show's final episode, Reggie catches a clear look at George as her true self. This sets up her subplot in the movie.
  • I Was Told There Would Be Cake: Reggie says this to her psychiatrist.
  • Imagine Spot: Every now and then.
  • Immortal Immaturity:
    • Mason. Oh, Mason...
    • Charlie, who's been—ten? eleven?—since 1993, also qualifies.
  • Inner Monologue: George and her narration of the episodes.
  • Irony:
    • George tries to avoid socializing with people at Happy Time. When she finally gets a new job, she quits on the first day. The reason? It's too impersonal.
    • On a similar note, George spends most of the series both trying to shirk her duties as a reaper and spying on her family against Rube's warnings. In the movie, new team leader Cameron tells the team that they can break the rules however much they want and most of them do. The one who doesn't? George, who insists on completing her reaper duties, in spite of the fact that her reap is her sister's boyfriend. She also finally lets go of her family and convinces her sister to leave town with their mother, directly contradicting her season one wishes to reunite with her family. Her insistence on following the rules and not shirk her responsibilities gets her selected as new team leader.
  • Jacob Marley Apparel: Only for regular ol' dead folk; Reapers can (and do, and should) change their clothes.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: "Oh Shi...." again. Also, only in the broadcast edit.
  • Last Day to Live: Mason gets a purple post-it and becomes convinced his time as a reaper is up, but it then turns out they were just out of yellow ones..
  • Last Words: As mentioned several times on this page, George's were "Oh, shit."
  • Life Will Kill You: Common in this series.
  • Likes Older Women: Deleted scenes indicate that the guy whose apartment George takes was very much this, if his octogenarian Porn Stash and appearance of an older girlfriend were anything to go by.
  • Local Hangout: The main cast regularly meet at Der Waffle Haus to catch up and receive their assignments. Although it's a Greasy Spoon, they all come to care for it and their regular waitress Kiffany. Kiffany's own word on the Waffle Haus is that "it's a clean, well-lighted place, and I feel safe."
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Rube was named for Rube Goldberg. The many deaths in the series tend towards Rube Goldberg Hates Your Guts.
    • 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 nick, 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.
    • Yet another is Rube's wife, Lucy, who takes his surname. She then becomes Lucy Sofer (Or Lucifer), which is interesting given Rube's future career as a Reaper...
  • Medium Blending: The opening recap of the movie is done in a comic book form.
  • Mood Whiplash: The show regularly shifts between black comedy, drama, office comedy and Urban Fantasy. It does it well though.
  • Mundane Afterlife: At least for Reapers, life after death continues on more or less as normal.
  • Necro Non Sequitur: Very, very often.
  • Never Got to Say Goodbye: George. Subverted with Rube, who does eventually.
  • Never My Fault: George flat out refuses to show up for a reaping, thinking maybe the victim just wouldn't die then. Never mind one of the first things she was told was that grim reapers don't kill people, they just take souls out of people who are dead or about to die, and if the soul is left in the body, it rots. The guy died anyway, and he was awake and aware for his autopsy (he couldn't physically feel it, but imagine the psychological scars). George just insists it's not her fault.
  • 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.
  • Not That There's Anything Wrong with That: Mason trips over himself during the reap of a gay couple.
    Mason: So... which one of you is the woman?
    Josh: (rolling his eyes) Neither of us. We're two gay men.
  • Oh, Crap!: George's last (living) words were "Ah, shit." (especially appropriate since she was killed by a falling toilet seat)
  • 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 Souls Are Different: If a person's soul isn't reaped and they continue living it eventually goes rotten.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Despite the fact that they are extremely human-like, the reapers themselves are in a way zombies 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.
  • Overly Long Hug: In the pilot, George — newly dead and enlisted as a Psychopomp — is put in the awkward position of watching her (married) father give a long hug to a strange man at her own wake. She remarks on it, to a noncommittal shrug from Rube. The scene is a remnant of an Aborted Arc where the father would have been revealed to be gay, but nothing comes of the incident in canon.
  • Parents as People: Reggie sees a different side of her parents after the divorce.
  • Parting-Words Regret: Joy's last words to George before her daugher's death are (in response to George's comment about "those are funeral clothes"): "There's going to be a funeral if you don't get your ass out of bed! Now move it!" George even remarks in the narration, "Boy, is she going to be sorry." Joy does regret it later.
  • Porn Stash: The previous owner of George's apartment in the first few episodes had a collection of octogenarian porn.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner:
    Mason: *hefting a fire extinguisher* I just remembered what I hit my teacher with.
  • Precision Crash: The series kicks off with George being killed by a toilet that had detached from the Mir space station.
  • The Problem with Fighting Death: Or rather, the problem with trying to holiday, use your powers irresponsibly or for self gain, kill people who aren't supposed to die, not allow people who are supposed to die to die, and in the movie, trying to kill a Reaper.
  • Profane Last Words: George gets out a last "Oh Shit" before being vaporized from a space toilet that didn't quite get the memo on where and when to re-enter the atmosphere.
  • Psychopomp: The premise of the show.
  • Pulling Themselves Together: George reattaches her finger after an accident with a shredder.
  • Puppy-Dog Eyes: Mason is the master of this, since he somehow manages to look like he's on the verge of tears at a moment's notice. But it rarely works.
  • Quick Nip: Mason, when he's Off the Wagon.
  • Quit Your Whining: Rube has this attitude towards George. And Mason. And Daisy.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Again, the External Influence Division.
  • Rasputinian Death: Cameron in The Movie. 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 Gets Around: Misty, one of George's co-workers at happy time, spends 34 hours of her work week thinking about sex and the remaining hour having it.
  • 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.
  • Red Pill, Blue Pill: Played with for Reggie. During the run of the series she takes the red pill option, choosing to believe that George is still present after death and seeking her out. By the conclusion of the movie, though, both she and George realize she has to take the blue pill and move on with her life, allowing George to be dead.
  • 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. They seemed to go all over the place but eventually seemed to settle on "looks different to people who knew them while alive")
  • 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 stationery 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.
  • Scotireland: in "Reaping Havoc", an Irish-American saw Ireland's Cliffs of Dover waiting for him in the afterlife... while the soundtrack played "Scotland the Brave". Even worse, the Cliffs of Dover aren't in Ireland at all, but in England. Furthermore, the actual image they showed was of the Cliffs of Moher, which are in Ireland. Which means someone in post-production caught this and didn't bother to tell anyone.
  • "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, "Its 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."
  • Shout-Out:
    • At one point Rube mentions that he doesn't like salmon because he had a bad can of salmon mousse once. If you've ever seen Monty Python's The Meaning of Life...
    • The season 1 episode Nighthawks is, appropriately enough, chock full of Nighthawks Shots.
  • Shrine to the Fallen: Reggie makes one out of toilet seats for George.
  • Skewed Priorities: In "Curious George", Betty accompanies George on a reap of a man whose body is stuck in a tree. Unable to get up the tree by herself, George asks Betty to boost her up. Betty refuses on the grounds that she just had a manicure. Since souls are known to suffer from remaining in the body after death, this means that Betty is prioritizing her manicure over alleviating the suffering of the man they're there to reap. They do manage to find another way to get him down, but still.
  • 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.
    • Happens 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, but there's a line; taking things from someone who can no longer use them is acceptable, capitalizing on a reap for personal gain is seen as distasteful at best and morally wrong at worst, and exploiting the grieving survivors of a reaped soul is as close to unforgivable as it gets, considering that a Reaper can't be fired, imprisoned, or executed. In Daisy's case, it got her exiled from New York.
  • 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?". Combine with her psychological problems with seeing women being attacked by men, and she seems to be a pretty troubled character.
    • Joy 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 Reggie to actually come to terms with George'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.
    • 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.
  • Sympathetic Adulterer: George doesn't want to like Charlotte because the lady is helping Clancy Lass cheat on his wife. Thing is that Charlotte is so sweet and willing to reach out to those who need her.
  • Talking to the Dead: Part of the premise.
  • Team Dad: Rube. George even identifies him as this.
  • Team Mom: Roxy. Kiffany, a waitress at Der Waffle Haus, identifies her role as this in the Reapers' group.
  • Theme Naming:
    • The women of the protagonist's family all have masculine nicknames: George, Reggie, and Phyl for Georgia, Regina, and Phyllis respectively, with her mother Joy being the exception. Apply her married name "Lass" (which by itself means "girl"), though, and you get Joy Lass, or joyless, which is much more accurate to her character. It might also highlight Joy's perpetual struggle not just with grief, but of her womanhood in general, since a lot of her problems come from wanting to keep everything in her life rigidly structured around her role as wife and mother even when she's not equipped to nurture as much as she's equipped to control.
    • Clancy, whose surname has been "Lass" from birth, was originally written to be closetedly gay — possibility hinting at his sexual nonconformity.
  • The Tell: Joy makes blueberry pancakes when she feels guilty.
  • Third-Person Person: Ted from Happy Time (usually).
  • This Is Gonna Suck:
    • George's last words in life ("Aw, shit.") evoke this as she sees the toilet seat flying towards her.
    • Shows up again as the last words in the movie, where George says "I am so fucked..."
  • Title Drop: Done in the last episode of both seasons -
    "Here's to all of those that are dead like me."
    "I guess it's not so bad, being dead like me."
  • Tomboyish Name: Georgia "George" Lass (and her little sister Regina "Reggie" Lass). Creator Bryan Fuller seems to like this trope; two of his other series (Wonderfalls and Pushing Daisies) also have female leads with "boy" nicknames.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Roxy and Daisy, respectively. Lampshaded in the last episode of season 2 where they dress up as a princess and a cop, respectively.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: The little girl George reaped in the pilot.
  • True Companions: The External Influence division (the main cast).
  • Undead Tax Exemption: George continues on at Happy Time as Mildred "Millie" Hagen. Roxy has become a meter maid, and later a cop; Penny from the Natural Causes division works at a nursing home. Daisy and Mason may also have fake identities, considering that they share a house with George and may be listed on the lease and/or deed.
  • Undeath Always Ends: Reapers are allowed to go on to their own lights after they've reaped a number of souls that they are not told.
  • Under Strange Management: In the episode "A Cook", after the regular cook at the reapers' hangout, Der Waffle Haus, dies, Rube, who has a passion for cooking at his home apartment (and, more importantly, reaped the cook's soul), figures he'd try to put in a shift and take over their kitchen. Rube quickly finds out how much more difficult cooking for paying customers can be, compared to what he's used to fixing for himself. On top of that, the cook's soul hangs around. Initially the cook's soul is critical of Rube's failures, but, gradually, he starts to coach Rube in the kitchen and imparts his personal philosophy that the cook shouldn't bow to the demands of the customer. After Rube caught on and stood up to a particularly rude customer, the cook's soul finally passed on to the other side.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight:
    • At one point, Roxy shoots Mason right inside Der Waffle Haus. Nobody in the restaurant seems to notice or care.
    • Subverted the time Rube substitutes for Angus the recently deceased fry cook of Der Waffle Haus. One of the waitresses sees them talking but to her it looks like Rube's talking to himself.
    • Anytime someone dies, it's this for the reapers, which makes one wonder why no one's looking askance at the person who's completely nonchalant about the fact that the person they were just talking to died in a freak accident.
  • Visit by Divorced Dad: Clancy, to Reggie on occasion.
  • Waking Up at the Morgue: Somewhat. George tries to avoid a reap but the person dies anyway, and the man had to experience his autopsy before she reaps him at the Morgue.
  • 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. That said, the episode in which Betty "crosses over" pretty clearly indicates that it's a one-way trip.
  • What You Are in the Dark: In Life After Death, Cameron takes over from Rube and tells the reapers they can do what they want, no consequences. Roxy, Mason and Daisy take to this happily. But who doesn't? George. She still tries to complete her reap on a comatose boy, revealed to be Reggie's secret boyfriend, because she doesn't want his soul trapped in the dying flesh or to rot over time. What's more, the rules bend so that George can stop Reggie from killing herself, and reveals who she is. George also tells Reggie that, while she wants a relationship with her, that she's a reaper and Reggie is better off with the living people who love her, like Joy. Reggie eventually takes this advice to heart and moves away with her mother, as George grieves but knows it was the right thing to do. This eventually results in Cameron getting unceremoniously executed and George promoted to head reaper, because she was the only one who didn't give into temptation.
  • Yandere: In one episode, George severs her own middle finger in Happy Time's paper shredder, in a last-ditch effort to win her love interest's attention from a rival. Of course, she flips said finger at her bested opponent behind the interest's back, as he carries her off to treat the wound.
  • 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.