The premise of the new network comedy Not Dead Yet:
Newspaper reporter Nell longs to be a serious investigative journalist, but is forced to write obituaries instead. Sounds like Just Shoot Me
from the 1990s, except that there's no Wendie Malick around to say "Sorry I'm late" followed by an off-color anecdote: "Sorry I'm late. I told the guys I only had time for three of them."
Also, in Not Dead Yet, the deceased hangs around while Nell is writing, offering advice and generally interfering with her life.
Wait - a newspaper? How old is the intended audience? I'm rather on the old side, and I haven't read a newspaper in years.
There are two men in the main cast: Rick Glassman and Josh Banday. Neither suggests much in the beefcake department, but Josh Banday is bi in real life, so maybe his character is bi, also. Figuring that he would take a few episodes to come out, I reviewed Episode 3: "Not Out of High School Yet"
Scene 1: Nell and her BFF Sam (a girl) planning a wedding. Geez, Sam has no boundaries: she puts her hand right in Nell's mouth! A guy at a bar did that to me once; I freaked out.
At work, extremely femme Dennis (Josh Banday) hands out her next obituary assigment: Piper, an influencer who died tragically trying to take a selfie on a cliff. Nell knows her: she was a Mean Girl back in high school. Piper's ghost immediately appears and passive-aggressively criticizes Nell's life: "I love your tiny little cubby-hole office." Seething, Nell writes a short cursory obituary, and zap! Piper's ghost is gone!
Scene 2: Dennis, Nell, and BFF Sam at lunch. Dennis: "I hate when Ben packs chick peas for my lunch!" So he's open about a same-sex partner, but "Ben" does not appear in any of the first five episodes.
They discuss how the office world is the same as high school, with its cliques: geeks, jocks (cut to Langston Kerman, top photo, showing everyone his biceps), nerds, teacher's pets, Cool Kids. Suddenly the Big Boss Lexi appears and pulls Nell away.
Scene 3: Big Boss Lexi tells Nell that the dead social influencer had 4 million followers, each of whom might buy a copy of the newspaper if they print a front-page obituary. So write something lengthy and spectacular! Piper's ghost immediately pops back from the afterlife to annoy Nell some more.
Out in the bullpen, they are playing office basketball (( think they use a Nerf ball.) The ball bounces to Dennis, and they ask him to make the basket. He runs away in horror; in high school everyone laughed at his lack of sports prowess. I can relate; I always said "I may be bad at this sport, but I'm really good at the one we'll be playing next spring (or next fall, or in the summertime when gym class is over)."
Scene 4: Influencer Piper's ghost is bragging to Nell about her various accomplishments. Mom drops by; Nell complains, and she says "Mean Girls are mean because they're jealous of you." That's certainly not it. They are mean because they are evil. I got tormented incessantly by Mean Girls at church. Not at school, though. I told the Youth Minister, but he wouldn't believe that I didn't want to date them.
Influencer Piper thinks that Nell is too uncool to write a respectable obituary. Flashback to her jeering at Nell during a school assembly in high school -- in 1999? That would make Nell and Piper about 40. Can 40 year olds become social influencers? Do they even know what TikTok is? I don't.
The other male character, Edward (Rick Glassman), at home with his girlfriend or wife. He got tormented by Piper in high school, too, and falls back on the platitude: "She was just jealous." His girlfriend/wife mocks him. Sort of a Mean Girl yourself, aren't you, lady?
Scene 6: BFF Sam asks Dennis about the basketball thing: when he was a kid, some guys invited him to play basketball, but when he threw it, it bounced against his face, breaking his nose, and he fainted. She admits that she was a bully in high school, and offers to atone for her sins by helping him overcome his fear of basketball.
Meanwhile, Big Boss Lexi asks Nell how the obituary is coming: it has to be published soon after his death. Remember on"Mary Tyler Moore," in the newsroom they wrote the obituaries of famous people in advance, so they'd be ready to go. Mary writes a satirical obituary for the oldest man in Minneapolis, and then he dies, and Ted reads it on the air! Sorry, this episode has me flashing back to high school.
Big Boss Lexi has given the obituary assignment to Mason the Intern (Jimmy Bellinger) also; whoever writes a better one will get the front page.
Left: Jimmy nude in the movie Blockers (2018)
Scene 7: Nell is at her mom's bar, Crickets, complaining that the obituary has now become a contest. While Mom gives her heartfelt advice, Ghost Piper criticizes her: "You're just a sad, pathetic loser! You peaked in high school!"
Scene 8: Piper's funeral, in a huge tent, with a catered lunch. Piper is still criticizing Nell; Intern Mason joins in. But Mom points out that none of Piper's followers showed up; no one is making a eulogy; the Mean Girl had no real friends.
Meanwhile, BFF Sam teaches Dennis to play office basketball. "Put your hand in the same position as Mariah Carey doing a vocal run," she suggests. And he makes the basket! He's about as femme gay-stereotype as a character on "Will and Grace."
Back at the funeral, Nell gives a eulogy: "We carry the negative voices from high school for the rest of our lives. Some of us eventually face our fears (flash to Dennis) Some of us are still trying to fit in with the cool kids (flash to Mason). And some of us are trying to atone for who we used to be (flash to Sam)." Realizing that she also had "cruel voices" in her head telling her that she wasn't good enough, Piper can finally go on to the afterlife. This scene makes me tear up a bit.
Scene 9: Big Boss Lexi examines the two obituaries, and chooses Nell's. Mason is indignant. Influencer Piper's ghost drops by on her way to the afterlife to tell Nell that her obituary was "nice."
Scene 10: Dennis, BFF Sam, and Nell at Mom's bar, celebrating. The end.
Heterosexism: Other than the wedding in the first scene, which probably involves Sam and a guy, there are no references to heterosexual desire or romance. Even Mason, who looks and acts like an all-around sleazebag, doesn't flirt with any women.
Gay Characters: Dennis is rather flamboyant, and he has a "Ben" at home.
The Secret: How did Nell acquire her ability to talk to dead people? Do they have to tell her their story, in order to move on to the afterlife? We don't learn anything about it; I guess we're not supposed to ask any questions.
My Grade: B.