Not Dead Yet premiered in early February starring veteran sitcom lead, Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin) as Nell Serrano whose messy life has landed her a job writing obituaries. Unlike most on the obit beat, the ghosts of the deceased she is assigned to write about visit her to tell her about their lives until she submits her article.
While the premise is fun and Rodriguez has already carried a successful sitcom, it’s still unclear if Not Dead Yet has enough to stay alive. The Conservative Critic asks: Is it entertaining? Does it have artistic/intellectual value? And is it liberal propaganda?
The Conservative Critic Meter Check: Not Dead Yet
Overall Rating: Fine
Not Dead Yet has some potential and charm. The concept that the ghosts of the obituaries visit their writer to help craft the perfect farwell is a fun one that has a lot of opportunity for interesting scenarios that could be funny or heartfelt or both.
However, Not Dead Yet does not capitalize on its premise and delivers fairly shallow regurgitated storylines and themes which make absolutely no attempt at originality or even enthusiasm. If not for the very talented supporting cast, Not Dead Yet might be a complete disaster. Because the talent is strong and easy to root for, the show remains just fine and definitely has the opportunity to improve with some stronger writing.
Is it entertaining?
Rating: Not bad
The characters are fun and colorful and there is enough interpersonal activity and story to keep viewers watching an episode. However, the plot lines are very predictable. So when the show thinks it’s delivering some big twist, it isn’t one because the plot was so deeply derivative of some sitcom or romcom past that viewers can easily see it all coming.
It isn’t boring. But it isn’t that interesting.
Does it have artistic/intellectual value?
Shows about ghosts are a dime a dozen at this point. The idea that someone is seeing ghosts and interacting in their lives isn’t new and is currently represented in multiple shows across many platforms. So when the writers of Not Dead Yet adapted the story from the Alexandra Potter novel, Confessions of a Forty-Something F*** Up, the decision to add ghosts was a little bizarre (the very well received novel is more about intergenerational friendships and women over 40 discovering life isn’t always as tidy as they thought it would be).
The writers of Not Dead Yet seem to think that viewers will accept repurposed stories stolen from other films and shows of the friendly ghost genre as new. They also seem to think that the blithely trite and tired themes complete with grandiose speeches and moral reconciliations at the end of each episode are interesting enough to revisit (for example: one episode is literally about how mean girls might seem cool on social media don’t have real friends and are actually self-conscious….wow really breaking ground). Further, there is absolutely no attempt at an explanation for why Nell communicates with her obituary subjects. While the show might decide to make a big reveal on the “why” later in the series, it seems like an elephant in the room that Nell makes no attempt to rationalize her extremely unusual situation.
The either lazy or ill-advised writing of Not Dead Yet is saved by the cast of characters. Though the development of the characters is as lazy as the storylines, the talent has incredible skill and chemistry and brings them to life enough to keep viewers interested if only to root for them. Lauren Ash (Superstore) brings something new to her signature acidic brand of comedy and while Gian Rodriguez is good in the lead, she is not as easy to love as Hannah Simone (New Girl) who plays her best friend, Sam. Rick Glassman (Undateable) is nuanced and loveable as Nell’s autistic roommate and Angela Elayne Gibbs as Nell’s new friend and widow of one of her subjects, Cricket, is the heart and soul of the ensemble.
Thanks to the colorful and well acted cast of characters, Not Dead Yet has is quality enough to give a chance.
Is it liberal propaganda?
Rating: No agenda
Unless we count the fact that Nell is a traditional media journalist as liberal (which feels like a stretch), there is no trace of a political agenda.