In the beginning, it seems, God put death in a jar and let Toad guard it, but Frog broke the jar and let death into the world. Much later, Georgia Lass, called George (Ellen Muth), an 18-year-old college dropout in Seattle, gets a job filing papers for Happy Time Temporary Services. On her lunch break, she is killed by a toilet-seat falling from the sky as the Mir Space Station burns up on re-entry. She meets two Grim Reapers who inform her that she is dead and must now become a Reaper herself, in the External Influence Division. She does not like death any more than she liked life. Also, she does not get paid as a reaper and still has to go to work, although in a different body. Ellen Muth, incidentally, is a member of Mensa and just as smart as you think she is.
She meets her fellow Reapers, who gather in Der Waffle Haus dining room, led by Rube Sofer (Mandy Patinkin), who died in 1926. Every day, he brings in a number of yellow post-it notes with the names of that day’s dead-to-be, and the Reapers are to meet them as they die and guide their souls to wherever it is they go. At the waffle house, waitress Kiffany (Patricia Idlette) seems never to be shocked at the bizarre behaviour of the reaper group. Later, we wonder if she’s psychic.
Also in the group are Mason (Callum Blue), a British drug addict who died in 1966. He died drilling a hole in his head in an attempt to achieve a permanent high. He is a pretty lousy reaper, a complete fuck-up, drunk much of the time and prone to terrible mistakes. In the pilot, he steals from the dead and they move into an apartment after everyone inside is killed by gangsters. Then they wait in a bank for somebody to slip on a banana peel dropped by a Graveling. These hideous but hard to see little creatures are there to set up the deaths, often in a Rube Goldberg situation reminiscent of the deaths in the Final Destination films.
Roxy Harvey (Jasmine Guy), who died in 1982, is a meter maid. She was strangled to death with her legwarmers by a jealous roommate. In the pilot, she reaps a woman who is killed by a falling piano and makes the soul ride with her until she finishes her meter-maid rounds. Betty Rhomer (Rebecca Gayheart) keeps records of the dead in shopping bags. She died cliff-diving with a friend. Daisy Adair (Laura Harris) died in 1938, a spoiled actress who recounts her sexual escapades with famous classic film-stars. She claims to have been asphyxiated on the set of Gone with the Wind. George is to reap a little girl who is the only casualty in a train-wreck. George desperately tries to save the girl but cannot do so.
George is forbidden to contact her family and all reapers a different face so as not to be recognized. Her younger sister Reggie Lass (Britt McKillup) is devastated by her death and thinks she can see her ghost. She is in therapy. Joy Lass (Cynthia Stevenson), her divorced mother, is a pathological Virgo obsessed with order and control. Clancy Lass (Greg Kean), her father, is an English Professor at the University of Washington and is having an affair with a student. At Happy Time Temporary Services, Delores Herbig (Christine Willes), George’s boss, hated George but likes her new persona Millie. Her website is Getting Things Done with Delores. She has a cat named Murray. Crystal Smith (Crystal Dahl) is the receptionist, who used to be a Special Forces operator in Southeast Asia. She dresses up as a Grim Reaper for Halloween and steals post-it notes.
Charlie (Spencer Achtymichuk) is a child Reaper who saves the souls of animals He was killed by a drunk driver and lives on the streets. Penny (Yeardley Smith) died on the Titanic and works in a nursing home. If the Reapers fail to get hold of a soul, it dies traumatically in its body after the shock of witnessing its own autopsy and burial and cannot move on. Reapers are easily cured of illness and injury. The quirky and darkly comic series was created by Ryan Fuller for Showtime, based loosely on the fantasy novel On a Pale Horse, by Piers Anthony, but Fuller left after five episodes because of creative differences with MGM and the series was taken over by executive producers John Masius and Stephen Godchaux.