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Dead Like Me: The Complete Second Season
(July 9/05)

Though Dead Like Me was never quite able to live up to the promise of its first few episodes, the series nevertheless managed to create a convincing and engrossing little world - anchored by a sour yet engaging central character. The formula established by the series' first season - continuing storylines are augmented by stand-alone "reaps" - remains the same here, ensuring that fans of the show will find plenty here worth embracing.

The show revolves around a group of reapers - former humans responsible for ensuring the souls of the dead successfully make the transition into the next world - led by the charismatic but mysterious Rube (Mandy Patinkin). While characters such as Roxy (Jasmine Guy), Mason (Callum Blue), and Daisy (Laura Harris) receive a fair amount of screentime, it's George (Ellen Muth) who is essentially the show's star. George died in the first episode of the series, and her journey from clueless newbie to world-weary reaper formed the basis of much of Dead Like Me's first season.

Much of season two is devoted to George's attempt to fashion some kind of personal life for herself, a problem that's exacerbated by her two jobs (in addition to being a reaper, George works as a pencil-pusher at a human resources firm called Happy Time). Additionally, there's the family that George left behind - mother Joy (Cynthia Stevenson), father Clancy (Greg Kean), and sister Reggie (Britt McKillip) - and the various issues that they must overcome (ie Reggie's rebellious streak causes no end of consternation for Joy, who is in the process of divorcing Clancy).

Though the show deals extensively with death, Dead Like Me sports a playful tone that's pretty consistent; most episodes feature one or two semi-dramatic moments, but on the whole, the series is content to operate as a light-hearted comedy. However, there's a multi-episode arc midway through season two involving a sleazy promoter named Ray (played by Eric McCormack) who meets a grisly end at the hands of one of the reapers. The episodes revolving around the subplot are probably the most intriguing of the season, as are those dealing with George's tentative relationship with rich kid Thomas Hesberg III (Robin Dunne).

And while it's difficult not to wish that the show had ended on a more conclusive note (the door's been left open for another season, despite the fact no new episodes are forthcoming), the superb performances (particularly by Muth and Patinkin) and quirky storylines cement Dead Like Me's status as a woefully underrated little program.

 

About the DVD: MGM Home Entertainment presents each of these 15 episodes with flawless letterboxed transfers, along with a few interesting bonus features (a pair of making-of featurettes, 10 minutes of deleted scenes, and a photo gallery).
© David Nusair