It is too simplification to say that the pandemic is the sole cause of the recent phenomenon like the Great Resignation: workers leaving their jobs en masse, leaving behind a critical labor shortage. As bad as the past few years were, the decade that preceded them wasn’t all that great either. In the wake of the 2007-2008 financial crash, there was a pervasive sense that you were lucky to have a job, each job, and you better not complain about the pay or the conditions, because everyone is replaceable.
But as George Lass can attest, nothing shakes you out of an apathetic coma like a brush (or head-on collision) with mortality. The massive upheaval of the status quo by the pandemic has undoubtedly made a generation of workers question what exactly they get out of their jobs, and dare to ask if they could do better. That’s the conflict at the heart of “Dead Like Me” (which was created by frequent TV, Interrupted guest star Bryan Fuller). The series only ran on Showtime for two seasons in 2003-2004, but now feels more relevant than ever.
George’s youthful defiance and her burning need to always ask “why?” are annoying to her apathetic colleagues and her irascible boss, but with death behind her, she now has very little to fear from trying to find meaning in life. George pushes and prods at the system she finds herself in – trying to use her newfound “power” to spare a little girl’s life, or to change the fate of a CEO, or even to complete her grim duties completely. ignore. And each attempt ends with an annoyed Rube showing her the damage she’s done, telling her to stop thinking so much and just do what he tells her to do.
“Dead Like Me” strikes a delicate balance between never making it quite clear who is right and who is wrong. Is George grumpy and immature for wanting to rock the boat, or is her desire to do so proof that she’s still (a little) alive? Is Rube a rube for following the rules obediently, or does he have some secret wisdom that George doesn’t know about?
Through George’s coworkers (in one episode she comes to the depressing realization that she has no friends, only coworkers), “Dead Like Me” explores other ways to deal with the relentless grind of the 9-to-5. Designated “f***-up” Mason (Callum Blue) opts for hedonism and anarchy – doing the bare minimum necessary to keep his job, freely looting the corpses of his clients and spending his ill-gotten gains on drugs and drink. Tough, rock-faced Roxy (Jasmine Guy) takes her cues from Rube, focusing on her two jobs (she’s also a godmother because, again, harvesting doesn’t pay the bills) to the best of her ability, and playing by the rules. .. mostly. The daring Betty (Rebecca Gayheart) takes a leap of faith and leaves George eagerly looking after her. And Betty’s replacement, Daisy (Laura Harris), is a former actress who still wears a theatrical mask in her new life as a reaper.