Not Dead Yet may have just premiered, but it’s a show that feels like you’re reconnecting with an old friend, and that’s largely due to Gina Rodriguez, a massive talent who just gets it and knows how to command a show and an audience.
She is an old friend—if you were a fan of Jane the Virgin, and she brings that same energy and likability to the role of Nell Seranno, a mid-30-something who is being forced to start her life all over after her relationship imploded.
While Nell is a character we’re meeting for the first time, it feels like we’re getting reacquainted with her just like her old friends from the paper where she snagged a job after returning from London. Long story short, Nell dropped everything to pursue a romance with Phillip, including a budding journalism career. When that didn’t pan out, she started back at square one, trying to pick up the very broken pieces and make sense of it all.
Upon returning to Los Angeles, her old co-workers, who now hold senior job titles, help her get her old job back, but unfortunately, she needs to earn back her, so she’s forced to take on the job that no one else wants—writing obituaries.
Almost immediately, the series jumps into its wacky premise with Nell discovering, when she’s drunk on her birthday, no less, that she can see dead people. The first ghost to appear belongs to Monty, a man who wrote a despised children’s jingle. Nell tries to ignore Monty’s presence, but the more she runs, the more it becomes clear that all she does is run from her problems. When things get tough—she bolts. It’s no way to live a life, and Monty, who is already dead and has nothing to lose, isn’t afraid to tell it like it is.
We learn a lot about Nell, and she learns a lot about herself, through her encounter with Monty. While the idea of seeing ghosts is comical on the surface, the series aims to leverage it on a deeper level. Eventually, Monty forces Nell to get out of the house, and while they’re at dinner, she musters up the courage to have a drink with his widow, Crickett, who ends up becoming a good and much-needed friend. You can find your people in the most unexpected of places.
Nell has her work bestie, Sam, but Crickett becomes the unconventional friendship that we often don’t see on television; an older woman and a younger woman forming a bond! It’s a friendship I’m excited to explore as Crickett has a vigor for life that I can see being a good influence on Nell.
The ghosts—we don’t get to see all of the ones Nell deals with—all come into her life for a reason. Their journeys are short-lived as they don’t get to stick around for long, with many of them fading out the moment she turns in the obit, but they make an impression nonetheless and provide a lesson that makes Nell a better friend, employee, roommate, and human.
The second ghost, Jane, helps Nell unlock an inner confidence that she’s been lacking since returning to her old job. When we initially meet Nell, her life is a mess and doesn’t have much meaning. She doesn’t feel like she’s accomplished anything, nor does she truly understand her place in the world. After writing a handful of obits—and dealing with the pestering of the ghosts—she lets Jane the motivational speaker transform her life by helping her write an exposé.
Lexi, the out-of-touch with reality magazine editor who is introduced as Nell’s former enemy-turned-boss, isn’t pleased that Nell went around her back to upload it online (which honestly should be illegal!), but she is happy with the positive feedback that her obits are getting. With the print world needing a little bit of a facelift, the fact that people are connecting to the obits means that Nell is doing something right. And that’s when she realizes that all she needs to do is embrace the here and now. She’s always chasing the next thing and never fully living in the present, but while looking like a crazy person while talking to yourself all day is enough to cause anyone whiplash, Nell has a real opportunity not only to shine but to make a difference. We thought the ghosts were put in place to help Nell, but in reality, she’s there to help them; She’s able to provide closure and tell a dead person’s one last story—the one of their life.
I went into Not Dead Yet thinking that it was going to be a straightforward comedy, but it’s actually a heartfelt series chock-full of feel-good moments about life, death, and the in-between. It’s goofy, sure, but it finds the right balance between being comical and sincere. Like life, it never takes itself too seriously. It also helps that Rodriguez can act her butt off and seems passionate about bringing Nell’s story to audiences.
The series also introduced her roommate, Edward, who is a little passive-aggressive at first, though we later learn that he’s autistic. He explains that there’s a method to the madness, and you can’t help but like him due to his straightforward nature. The series seamlessly works his ASD into the joke, with Nell putting her foot in her mouth and casually asking, “what do you have Asperger’s?” to which he provides a complex answer that indicates that he does. It’s clear being on the spectrum is going to play into his personality, likely teaching audiences about the developmental disorder in the process (and not just the stuff you see on TikTok), but it also doesn’t stop Nell from being totally honest with him, though she learns some empathy along the way. And my guess is that Edward is going to become a love interest at some point as they already went from being random roommates to friends who hang out at Crickett’s wine bar together and troll each other.
I’ve read some pretty sour reviews about Not Dead Yet, and honestly, it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s impressing the targeted audience. It’s a breezy show to watch with a likable cast and a fun premise, and sometimes, that’s all you need.
Why I’m Excited for Gina Rodriguez’s Return to TV in ‘Not Dead Yet’
Alright, I admit it—I’m really excited about ABC’s Not Dead Yet premiering tonight, Feb 8.
I wasn’t able to secure a screener, so I haven’t watched it yet—this is not an official review.
The network is putting a lot of faith in the series, hoping to hook audiences with two back-to-back episodes of the new Gina Rodriguez-led comedy that toes the line between reality and the afterlife.
The most obvious reason for my excitement? I’m a huge Gina Rodriguez fan, and while she’s starred in plenty of movies as of late, this marks her official return to the small screen as a leading lady since Jane the Virgin. And we all know that too many people snoozed on JTV.
Not Dead Yet also promises to add to ABC’s impressive comedy slate—with hits like Abbott Elementary, Home Economics, The Conners, and The Goldbergs—the network knows what it’s doing, so I don’t think they’d add the sitcom unless they were confident it was going to be a bonafide hit. It’s also getting an Abbott Elementary lead, hoping to hook all those fans to stick around for a bit longer.
The premise of a woman seeing dead people isn’t exactly new—see: Ghosts—but it is a successful one, nonetheless, and provides plenty of opportunity for witty, wacky, emotional, and unique storytelling, while also remaining grounded through a relatable protagonist that’s dealing with worldly issues like breakups and trying to solidify a career in journalism.
Ghosts’ success bodes well for Not Dead Yet, but the shows also have another thing going for them/in common—The CW. Much like Rose McIver, Rodriguez comes from a series with a quirky premise and has the subtle comedy acting chops to sell it. We believed her when she was a pregnant virgin, so you’re damn right I’ll believe her when she claims to be talking to dead people. She can sell drama, she can sell comedy, she can sell dramedy. I’m in.
The current TV landscape is perfectly positioned for Not Dead Yet to become a bonafide hit that sweeps the awards circuit next fall. And even if it doesn’t, all it needs to do is make you laugh like no one’s watching.
Here’s the official Not Dead Yet synopsis:
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