DVD Review HTF Review: Dead Like Me - The Complete First Season

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  1. Jason Perez

    Jason Perez Second Unit

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    Dead Like Me – The Complete First Season

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    Studio: MGM

    Year: 2003

    Rated: Not Rated

    Program Length: 73 minutes (pilot) 45 minutes (other episodes)

    Aspect Ratio: 16x9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.78:1)

    Subtitles: None

    Audio: English – Dolby Digital 5.1









    Release Date:
    June 15th, 2004





    The hip, interesting series Dead Like Me chronicles the otherworldly adventures of a young girl named Georgia “George” Lass (Ellen Muth) who has been dealt a cruel hand by fate, and gets crushed by a toilet seat that has fallen from the Mir space station. After her death, she becomes assigned to a team of undead “grim reapers” that must pull souls from the living shortly before their scheduled death, and help guide them to their Final Destination in the afterlife. As each new episode of the series unfolds, we see how George copes with her new job – and her untimely demise.

    NOTE: Since I enjoyed this series and its premise so much, I burned the midnight oil over a few nights and watched every episode in its entirety! Boy am I getting too old for that!!! [​IMG]


    DISC ONE – PILOT EPISODE AND EXTRAS:

    In the pilot episode, we see George clumsily adjusting to her new role in the afterlife, and how much she dreads her first assignment - to collect the soul of a little girl. Somewhat of a lazybones while alive, it seems that George finds some of the rules that apply to her new “job” a bit challenging. Among the more important rules she (and the other reapers) must follow are:

    ** Fate must not be interfered with, especially by helping those who are scheduled to die cheat death.
    ** The identity of a particular soul must be verified before extraction, as Rube only provides the first initial, last name, and estimated time of death (ETD) on his Post-It-Notes (Post-Its! What a great touch!!!).
    ** Reapers must lead souls to their Final Destination, but can never follow further than that.
    ** Though this is not a rule, it is interesting: The living can see and interact with the dead, but the dead appear different than they did while they were alive.

    Interestingly, despite the demanding nature of the job, pay and housing are not provided, so most of the reapers also have to hold down "normal jobs"! This will become an important part of later episodes, especially where George is concerned.

    NOTE: The set’s bonus materials, which are housed on this disc, will be described in detail below.


    DISC TWO:


    --- Episode 2 – “Dead Girl Walking”
    After serving a brief period of time on the job as a reaper, George decides that the job is not for her, so she elects to leave the soul of her most recent mark inside of his body after his demise. When she witnesses the nasty consequences of her actions, however, George finally begins to accept the fact that her new existence serves a very important purpose indeed. And since she needs to earn a “living”, George also applies for a job with the Happy Time Temp Agency (where she worked in life – if only for a day).

    --- Episode 3 – “Curious George”
    George misses her family, so she decides to check on them and see how they are doing. But when boss Rube (Mandy Patinkin) hears of George’s sentimental journey, he makes it clear that she must not visit them again. However, despite the stern warning she receives from Rube, George just can’t stop herself from going home – at least until she discovers the steep price the dead must pay for refusing to let go of their past.

    --- Episode 4 – “Reapercussions”
    After discovering a loophole in the “reaper rules”, George decides to test fate by helping a man miss his appointment with destiny. Soon, however, George she sees the devastating ripple effect caused by her decision, not to mention receiving a terrible punishment. Ultimately, the incident event teaches George a lesson about fate that she will carry with her for the rest of her afterlife. In the meantime, Mason and Rube have a run-in with the airport authorities and George’s mom, Joy (Cynthia Stevenson), tries to mend her relationship with Reggie (Britt McKillip), George’s sister.

    --- Episode 5 – “Reaping Havoc”
    In the short time since her assignment as a grim reaper began, George has realized that even in the afterlife, she has no friends. Finally, however, George becomes chummy with a co-reaper named Betty Rhomer (Rebecca Gayheart). But when Betty becomes too curious about the “final destination” that the dead go to, George learns yet another difficult lesson - friends can be hard to keep, even in the afterlife.

    --- Episode 6 – “My Room”
    When Daisy Adair (Laura Harris), a gorgeous but pushy actress, joins the group of reapers, Rube has her bunk up with George. Almost immediately, Daisy takes control of the relationship, invading George’s privacy and testing her patience. As a result, the normally timid George must summon up the courage to stand up to Daisy. In the meantime, George learns that she has earned a spot on the Happy Time bowling team!


    DISC THREE:

    --- Episode 7 – “Reaper Madness”
    George becomes romantically involved with a schizophrenic man whose mental illness seems to allow him to see her as she was. When Rube grows concerned George might be revealing too much to the young man, he bars her from seeing him. Unfortunately, despite the disastrous consequences of her previous attempts to test fate, George persists.

    --- Episode 8 – “A Cook”
    When George elects to take care for a dog left behind by her latest victim, and Rube fills in as a cook at Der Waffle Haus to replace the gentleman whose soul he recently took, both find their afterlives becoming considerably more complicated.

    --- Episode 9 – “Sunday Morning”
    In this episode, an assignment leads George to a college campus, where she befriends a young coed with a fancy for a professor - who just happens to be George’s grieving father! As she gets closer to her new friend, George learns more about her dad – and herself – than she ever did while she was alive.

    --- Episode 10 – “Business Unfinished”
    In this episode, Daisy talks George and Mason (Callum Blue) into scamming one of her wealthy mark’s sons out of a bundle of cash, and Roxy (Jasmine Guy) mourns the anniversary of her own demise, Rube is forced to keep a more watchful eye over his team of reapers.


    DISC FOUR:

    --- Episode 11 – “The Bicycle Thief”
    Since George can’t afford the slick new bicycle she has her eye on, she resolves to leave the Happy Time Temp Agency for a more lucrative job. Immediately, her co-workers at Happy Time begin planning a farewell party, which consumes most of this episode’s running time. In the meantime, her co-reaper Mason mingles with a gay couple, and Daisy is stalked by the soul of an artist.

    --- Episode 12 – “Nighthawks”
    Taking souls is beginning to take a heavy toll on young George. Unable to sleep (even the dead need their rest [​IMG] ), she wanders to the diner, where she’s becomes surprised to find that she was not invited to take the self-examination the other reapers are currently occupied with. Soon, however, the exam is the last thing on George’s mind, as she learns that Rube has been tasked with taking a soul at her family’s house that night!

    --- Episode 13 – “Vacation”
    After the reapers receive their annual performance evaluations, Death takes a day to rest, so Rube recruits the reapers to help him handle some clerical work. As the reapers file away their victims’ last thoughts before they died, they each begin to realize what truly mattered the most to them in life. In George’s case, she fondly remembers lakeside summer vacations spent with her family.

    --- Episode 14 – “Rest In Peace”
    On the first anniversary of her death, Rube grants George the day off. Motivated to get her afterlife back in order, she returns to Happy Time to ask for her job back. After being flatly rejected, George pouts – until the powers-that-be intervene.





    SO, HOW DOES IT LOOK?
    Universal offers the first season of Dead Like Me in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1), and for a TV show, the episodes included in this set look outstanding. Colors are rendered in fine fashion, without smearing or banding, and flesh tones have a pleasant, natural appearance. Blacks are also deep and well defined, leading to excellent shadow delineation and plenty of detail in dim interiors and during sequences filmed out of doors at night.

    Not surprisingly, each episode is also squeaky clean, and exhibits a great deal of detail, especially in close ups. Finally, I did not notice any instances of compression artifacts, aliasing, or edge enhancement. All in all, I must say that this dark comedy series about death looks pretty lively!




    WHAT IS THAT NOISE?
    Dead Like Me is presented in 5.1 channel surround, and all six channels are put to good use. Dialogue is reproduced in a clear and precise manner, from Jasmine Guy’s Southern drawl to Ellen Muth’s rich, throaty voice, so it is never difficult to figure out what is being said. Stewart Copeland’s eclectic score is also dispersed evenly across the spacious soundstage, with natural sounding timbres and tangible instrument separation.

    Whenever the “gravelings” are up to their mischief, the rear channels also become involved, creating an engaging sonic experience. Further, as is par for the course, the rear channels also enrich the aforementioned Mr. Copeland’s score by filling out the soundstage quite nicely. In many instances, particularly when someone is about to be dispatched, there is also a good deal of LFE support, which helps the listener “feel” things like a train wreck, or the incident where George leaves life for the afterlife.

    Although this is not quite the most dynamic 5.1 channel sound I have ever heard, as television product goes, the episodes in this set are surprisingly active and atmospheric. Perhaps the best compliment I can pay is that not only do these audio tracks help get the listener/viewer involved in the show, but it succeeds in keeping one’s interest. Good job MGM!!!

    NOTE: One thing which may disappoint some people is that there are no subtitles available, in any language. A real shame, if you ask me, as those with hearing impairments will not be able to enjoy this fine show! [​IMG]



    EXTRAS, EXTRAS!!!


    The extras, included on Disc One, are as follows:

    Audio Commentary
    For the pilot episode, actors Ellen Muth, Mandy Patinkin, Jasmine Guy, Cynthia Stevenson, and Callum Blue provide a lively and humorous audio commentary. Unfortunately, however, although the participants seem to get on well together, their comments are usually screen-specific, and towards the beginning of the show, a few are quite inane. Take, for instance, a crude discussion about the meaning of frogs/toads in the show, and a pointless chat about how Jasmine Guy records television shows, both of which occur early on. How does this latter topic even relate in any way to Dead Like Me, and why should we even care? Sorry, I’ll stop ranting now…

    Anyway, after a rocky beginning, things do settle down a bit, and the cast gets talking about the show’s main character, George; the frayed relationship she had with her family members; and how her life really begins the moment she passes on. They also cover their appreciation of the show’s dark, quirky brand of humor, which appears to be what drew a lot of them to the series. Finally, towards the end of the commentary, Ellen Muth offers an interesting theory on why George has certain abilities that the other reapers do not.

    On the whole, this commentary is not terribly insightful, but there are a few moments of inspired and interesting discussion, and it was certainly not an unpleasant listen.


    Deleted Scenes
    There are a total of 32 deleted scenes, running approximately 30-minutes, included. These scenes, which can be viewed either individually or as one continuous reel, are entitled:

    --- Sunny Disposition
    --- The Writing Is On The Wall
    --- Code?
    --- This Sucks
    --- I Was All A Quiver
    --- Struck Down
    --- Stay Indoors
    --- Way to Go
    --- Who’s Mildred?
    --- The New Girl
    --- Match Game Rules
    --- Stay Dead
    --- Whatever
    --- Any Takers?
    --- Geriatric Porn
    --- Monkey See, Monkey Do
    --- Grieving
    --- Schoolyard
    --- Product Liability
    --- I Miss Chuck
    --- Dust Bunny
    --- In The Tub
    --- I’m Gonna Bowl Down There
    --- If You Say So
    --- Training
    --- She Hates Me
    --- What Have You Done That Matters?
    --- Packing
    --- Bigger Is Better
    --- Why Didn’t You Go?
    --- June 27
    --- Good Day To Be A Reaper

    I do not want to spoil the experience of watching these deleted scenes for you, so I will purposely withhold details on their content, but I will say this: Honestly, although there are a handful of lengthy or interesting scenes, most of what was cut was just a line of dialogue or two from a particular sequence. As such, the majority of these deletions are really not all that worthwhile. Nevertheless, they can be breezed through in a half –hour, so fans should check them out.


    Dead Like Me: Behind-the-Scenes
    Basically, this featurette consists of interviews with the principal cast (Ellen Muth, Mandy Patinkin, Jasmine Guy, and Callum Blue, among others) and executive producer John Masius, as well as a nominal amount of behind-the-scenes footage. In addition to offering their thoughts on what makes the series special, these individuals discuss how George’s life really begins the moment she dies, and offer a bit of insight into each of the main characters’ personas.

    In all honesty though, this featurette is simply too brief to be in-depth or informative enough, and likely contains very little that fans of the show do not already know, or that would not be obvious from just watching the series’ episodes.


    The Music of Dead Like Me
    This short featurette picks up where the behind-the-scenes featurette left off, with executive producer John Masius and composer Stewart Copeland (of The Police) talking about the series, and the journey it takes viewers on. Subsequently, they discuss the role that music plays in the series, and the process of composing it. Wait a minute…that never happens (unless you count a brief rant by Copeland about his inspiration for the show’s score)! WTF – this featurette was supposed to be about the series’ music! [​IMG]

    I suppose both Masius and Copeland make some nice comments about the series, but this featurette’s title is completely misleading, and there is not much in the way of real insight provided. As such, there is not much reason to watch this almost pointless featurette!


    Dead Like Us Weekly
    This menu-based feature allows viewers to peruse quirky obituaries about the characters who journeyed into the Great Beyond during the show’s first season. If you do not like spoilers, you might want to steer clear of this until you watch all of the episodes!!!


    Photo Gallery
    29 color production/behind-the-scenes photographs are included in the Dead Like Me photo gallery.


    Season Two Preview
    As its title implies, this is a very brief promotional piece that encourages viewers to subscribe to Showtime so they will not miss out on the upcoming second season of Dead Like Me.


    Promotional Materials[/i]
    In the “Other MGM Releases” section, viewers can select from:

    --- An “MGM Means Great Movies” promotional piece
    --- The trailer for the Fargo Special Edition DVD
    --- The trailer for the Jeremiah Season One DVD set



    SCORE CARD

    (on a five-point scale)
    Episodes: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Video: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Audio: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Extras: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Overall: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]



    THE LAST WORD
    Dead Like Me is a fresh, interesting, and funny series, which is remarkable considering death is usually such a somber and humorless subject. The writing and editing are crisp, the acting is quite good across the board, and it is evident that a lot of work goes into making the show look and sound good.

    In terms of presentation, MGM has another winner on its hands. The episodes of Dead Like Me exhibit excellent visual quality and engaging audio tracks, and a commentary track, deleted scenes, and other bonuses are thrown in for good measure, even though they are not very insightful. All in all though, the first series’ episodes are given good treatment, so if you enjoy this show, this set is worth the coin. Just watch out for “gravelings” on the way down to your local DVD outlet. [​IMG] Recommended!!!


    Stay tuned…
     
  2. Chris

    Chris Lead Actor

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    Since I loved the show, this will definitely be on my pick-up list. [​IMG]
     
  3. LarryDavenport

    LarryDavenport Cinematographer

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    I don't suppose the commentary says why Rebecca Gayeheart left the show.
     
  4. Craig S

    Craig S Producer
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    Nice review, Jason. Looks like another TV DVD I have to pick up.
     
  5. David_Blackwell

    David_Blackwell Screenwriter

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    I watched the DVD screener of the pilot episode, but I had mixed feelings. Are the following episodes better than the pilot?
     
  6. Dillon*G

    Dillon*G Second Unit

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    I've seen the first couple episodes of this and I liked it so I will be picking this up.Good Review.
     
  7. Sven Lorenz

    Sven Lorenz Supporting Actor

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    It's safe to say that if you didn't like the pilot you won't like the rest of the series.

    The show keeps both the tone and the kind of humour that's established in the pilot through the entire first season and apart from one castmember leaving and a new castmember joining the show it doesn't really change.
     
  8. Jason Perez

    Jason Perez Second Unit

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    Hey Sven!

    I agree with you completely. The show is pretty consistent, so in the case of someone like David, who was not turned on by the pilot, this may not be the show for them. On the other hand, the pilot had me hooked!

    Larry Davenport,

    I do not recall the participants mentioning why Rebecca Gayheart left the show, but that doesn't mean I did not miss it! Since I listened to the commentary after watching the pilot, but before watching the other episodes, I did not know she was gone, so I was not listening too intently for a reason for her departure.

    Regards,

    Jason
     
  9. Sven Lorenz

    Sven Lorenz Supporting Actor

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    About Rebecca Gayheart - I've read somewhere that she got cast in something else between the shooting of the pilot and the beginning of the show. She was able to do a few shows but then she had to leave.

    Or maybe she killed a few more kids.

    (I know, that joke was in very bad taste. :b)
     
  10. Chris

    Chris Lead Actor

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    Nope, you got it right. The time between the pilot and the show was long and she was cast in something else in between.
     
  11. Pete Battista

    Pete Battista Cinematographer

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    This is a definite buy for me... I loved the series from the pilot... and will be thrilled to be able to add it to my collection!
     
  12. Robert Ringwald

    Robert Ringwald Cinematographer

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    It sucks though. She's a great actress that I think added a lot to the show.

    I think the series has a lot of good points, and I'd like to give it another shot if I get a chance. I know if I could get it cheap I'd give it a pick-up.
     
  13. Bradley-E

    Bradley-E Screenwriter

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    It is a great show. How come the SHOWTIME series get no attention and the overrated HBO shows do?
     
  14. Robert Ringwald

    Robert Ringwald Cinematographer

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    Well, I'd say QAF is about as deep as a puddle. It's got the formula of an HBO show (sex + violence) but loses the heart and sweetness, and is wayyyyy too formulaic. It's like watching a soap opera, with too many bad plots...

    I'm a SFU fan, not The Sopranos, so I can't speak for that show, but SFU is in no way OVERRATED. In fact, I think it's severely underrated.

    Other than that, I'd pretty much say that Dead Like Me is getting pretty good praise, and I believe Soul Food always did. The L Word is pretty big.

    I wouldn't say either is bigger than another.
     
  15. Alex Spindler

    Alex Spindler Producer

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    Huge fan of the show, so this is a natural purchase for me. But I hooked some friends on the first six episodes, so they're chomping at the bit to see the season set more than I am. [​IMG]

    Excellent and in depth review. Thanks!
     
  16. johnbr

    johnbr Stunt Coordinator

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    Great show and I also cant wait for to come out.
     
  17. RobBenton

    RobBenton Stunt Coordinator

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    Man but its over a month away from its release! I want it now! How did you get it so early?
     

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