Sun, 24 Aug 2003

Dead Like Me, Insomniac

I don't write about television much here, because, generally, it's only marginally more interesting than the most boring blog topic -- blogging about blogging (shudder.) I'm going to break one of my self-imposed rules and talk about a couple of TV programs that I really enjoy.

The first is a program that's relatively new. It started airing on Showtime earlier this summer. It's called Dead Like Me (site), and follows the adventures of a recently undead young adult as she pursues her afterlife career, as a Grim Reaper. I've watched almost all of the episodes, despite my not being a Showtime subscriber (hint: the Darknet is your friend), and I've really become a big fan.

The genius of Dead Like Me is how mundane they've made the day-to-day business of collecting souls. The protagonist, young George (Georgia) Lass, isn't some sort of undead superhero bristling with eldritch powers and mystical knowledge. Instead, she's a low-level, socially awkward entry worker who's been given the bare minimum amount of information she needs to get her job done. Grim Reaping doesn't even provide a salary, so she and her fellow reapers work part-time jobs and run scams to provide for their un-living expenses. The writers have gone in quite an unexpected direction as far as setting up the world these Reapers function in. Where they might have been expected to build up an elaborate mythology (as with Buffy or the X-Files), they've deliberately kept the backstory minimal. Like George, the viewers are given only the barest information about how the business of the dead and their souls works. The Reapers receive their daily assignments on ordinary Post-It notes in the morning, while eating breakfast at a very thinly disguised Pannekoeken Huis, then go on about their business. For George, this means working at Happy Time Temporary Services, for others it means working as meter maids or as petty thieves.

Another favorite of mine is Insomniac, on Comedy Central. It's a really minimal show (do you sense a theme here?) It essentially just consists of the host, Dave Attell, staying up all night in various cities, crawing from pub to pub, stopping in at oddball all-night businesses, and chatting with the locals. It must cost all of 50 cents to make, but theres an amiable, goofy charm to the whole affair. Host Attell is a very funny guy, quick with a quip, but never meanspirited. It's amazing to me how much more interesting I find this show than all of the tiresomely over-conceptualized "reality" programming that overwhelms the airwaves every summer.

:: 17:57
:: /entertainment/tv | [+]
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