July 07, 2003 12:00 PM

Showtime (Fridays, 10 p.m. ET)

Showtime makes a play for the Six Feet Under audience with this insistently irreverent new comedy-drama about death and what’s beyond.

A sullen college dropout named George Lass (Ellen Muth) is killed in the June 27 premiere when a toilet seat plummets from a spacecraft and strikes her on a city sidewalk. George soon learns that she has been drafted by some higher power—the script is evasive on the subject of God—to join Rube (Mandy Patinkin) and his team of “reapers,” undead beings assigned to collect the souls of those whose lives have just ended.

The bizarre causes of death on the show—woman gets hit by falling piano, guy accidentally drills hole in his head—are indicative of its self-conscious quirkiness. But George makes a touching effort to communicate with her harsh mother (Cynthia Stevenson), and the rookie reaper has some funny moments as an office assistant at a temp agency. That’s right: These undead have day jobs.

BOTTOM LINE: Some signs of life

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