Series 1 of this 2003 ShowTime sitcom is 14 episodes long and packaged on 4 disks, special features on disk 1, and is a creation of Bryan Fuller.
I found the premise for the show, apparently lifted from Piers Anthony’s novel “On A Pale Horse”, very appealing… I mean what can go wrong with a show about <Grim> Reapers, Gravelings and their interaction with their clients (or those of us soon to not be).
We follow the ‘Becoming of a Reaper’ of Georgia Lass (Ellen Muth). “George” is listless, shiftless and doesn’t care for a whole hell of a lot at the beginning. But she does evolve through the show into a much more interesting character. Someone, in fact, who inspires our pity and affection. The parallel storyline of how George’s death has affected her family is enacted very skillfully by Cynthia Stevenson (playing Joy Lass), Greg Kean (Clancy) and Britt McKillip as sister Reggie.
Basically this is how it works: everyone who dies needs to be touched by the reaper assigned to their case, preferably just prior to death or it gets a little messy. George’s boss Rube (excellently done by Mandy Patinkin) assigns out the ‘client’ names and ETD’s on yellow post-its. The gravelings look like dark gremlins that can vanish at will and serve to set the cogs in motion to precipitate the death. The reaper then brings the newly dead to some kind of ‘light show’-like passing which can happen right away or take some time depending on the person. Other members of the exceptional cast are Rebecca Grayheart (Betty), Laura Harris (Daisy), Callum Blue (Mason), Jasmine Guy (Roxy) and Christine Willes as the irrepressible Delores Herbig.
This is definitely an adult show with a lot of strong language (sometimes unnecessary… but I’m not dead so how would I know?) and some complex themes. But the humour is always there. It is supposed to be set in Seattle but it is obviously filmed in Vancouver. I have Season 2 on hold at the library and I can’t wait for that!
In the end (sorry!) what makes this odd series so poignant is the way all the undead characters try to make their second chance at life worth their while and how much they envy the living who surround them. I’m very much reminded of Our Town (1938) by Thornton Wilder who, through his dead characters as well, reminds the living audience that living each day as if its your last is not only very smart, it is the only way to really live.