Showtime's Dead Like Me is not one of those shows that broke my heart when it got canceled. But that's only because I started watching it long after it was canceled, on the SciFi Channel. I fell in love with it right off the bat. The show is based on a goofy premise. George Lass (Ellen Muth) is an eighteen year old girl who is killed by a toilet seat falling to earth with the remains of a Russian space station. But she doesn't pass on to the afterlife. She is enlisted in the ranks of the "grim reapers." These undead social workers show up when anyone is about to die. It's their job to touch the person just before she or he dies, in order to release the soul so it can go on to, well, "the lights."
There are all kinds of holes in this premise, but they are easily ignored. George wants her life back, and she doesn't want to participate in the death of others. Mandy Patinkin plays her boss, Rube. He gives George and her fellow reapers their assignments written on posted notes. Each note has a name, address, and estimated time of death. They meet each morning for breakfast at a Waffle House. George finds that she has her old body back (though it is now virtually indestructible), but she needs to find a place to live and get a regular job to pay rent and buy waffles. If all this sounds crazy, it is, but the assignments and the need to make a living serve to create the action, and George's refusal to let go of the family she left behind adds a poigniant dimension to the drama.
Dead Like Me is, probably unintentionally, a Buddhist morality tale. George is unengaged in life while she is still really alive, and fails to appreciate any of the gifts she has been given. That includes her little sister. She begins to live only after she has confronted the reality of death (in this case, by actually dying).
Ellen Muth is brilliant in the part. Patinkin is marvelous as you would expect. The two seasons have been released in a box seat, with new movie that includes most of the original cast. Buy the darned thing. You won't be sorry.