Variety reports that two German production companies are teaming up on Grim Inc. a “dark supernatural comedy series” that puts a corporate twist on a concept that’ll be familiar to Bryan Fuller fans: the idea that the Grim Reaper has some help doing his job.
It’s unclear if Grim Inc. will make it to the US, thought it wouldn’t be a surprise to see it turn up on Netflix. I’d watch it. But if we’re talking about shows involving employing people as reapers? Let’s talk about how we need more Dead Like Me, the first series Fuller created. Bring back George Lass!
The premise of Dead Like Me, which aired in 2003-2004, is simple enough: Sometimes, when you die, you wind up with a job. That job is being not the Grim Reaper, but a minion of sorts. When George Lass (the incomparable Ellen Muth) is killed by a falling toilet seat, she becomes a grim reaper, which is a job like any other—sometimes satisfying, sometimes mundane, sometimes awful—but reapers don’t get paid. So they need regular jobs, too, which means George has two wildly different bosses. Her reaper boss, Rube Sofer, is a perfectly brusque but good-hearted Mandy Patinkin. Her temp-job boss is Dolores Herbig (“as in her big brown eyes!”), played with exhaustingly loving gusto by Christine Willes.
The rest of the cast is just as good, particularly the perpetually underused Cynthia Stevenson as George’s put-upon mom, Joy, and Jasmine Guy as George’s acerbic colleague Roxy. Rube doles out assignments via post-it when the group meets for breakfast at Der Waffle House. It’s a weird job, especially given that George’s team mostly collects the souls of people who die in accidents and homicides, but someone’s gotta do it. And those someones develop complicated, tricky, fascinating relationships with each other–and with death.
Fuller created the series, but left after five episodes over creative differences. He said he had a good relationship with Showtime, who aired the series, but a terrible one with MGM, who produced it. “The experience with MGM-TV and their lack of professionalism and savvy made it really difficult,” he said in a 2005 interview. “They were constantly trying to strong arm me. It was the worst experience of my life.”
At the time, Fuller also said, “There are plenty of stories yet to tell in the reaper universe.” There was a direct-to-DVD movie made, Dead Like Me: Life After Death, but it did not involve Fuller and it was not great.
But the original show was early Fuller at his best: A dry, underachieving female lead, a brilliant support cast, a fascination with death that manifested not in Hannibal‘s artistic creations and buckets of blood, but in something almost whimsical even as it was unavoidable and painful. Of course, he went on to make another, more beloved death-obsessed show in Pushing Daisies (making a leading man out of Lee Pace, who was also excellent in Wonderfalls). But Fuller clearly never got to make the Dead Like Me he wanted—and that’s a show I really want to watch. Recast parts of it if you want, so long as Muth, Patinkin, Stevenson, and Guy are back. The important part is letting Fuller do it the way he wanted.
Dead Like Me‘s two seasons are streaming on Amazon Prime and Tubi. Go watch them, if you haven’t. Or if you have. It’s always good to hang out with old friends again—which you can also do by revisiting Leah Schnelbach’s perfect ranking of the greatest female characters Bryan Fuller has created.