Thursday, May 18, 2006


On a recent episode of 'Medium', Allison's dreams were haunted by the visitations of Death himself, armed with a dry wit rather than a scythe and dressed to the nines in a tuxedo instead of the usual black cowled robes.

In fact, had she been a resident of Seattle rather than Phoenix, she might have noticed his resemblance to a certain radio talk show host/psychiatrist.

Death has appeared on a lot of TV shows in a variety of forms. Had it been an appearance by Satan or one of the alt. dimensional aliens who passed themselves off as the Greek gods, or an appearance by God Almighty, the splainin for their change in appearance would be easy. Each of them have the power to alter their appearance whenever they see fit.

God once appeared as the very character He was visiting in his coma, explaining that Wayne Fiscus was made in His image after all. ('St. Elswhere')

But when it comes to Death, it's not that he's altering his image with each appearance in a TV show. If he could, don't you think he'd always look like a matinee idol? ('The Twilight Zone' - "Nothing In The Dark")

Each time he shows up, it's a different "Death", because it's not the man, it's the occupation. Death is nothing more than a job title. (Officially, it's "Angel of Death"). It's something for them to put down on their tax forms each year.

Although some of them are addressed as "Mr. Death" ('General Electric Theater' - "The Rider On The Pale Horse"), many of them have actual names. Andrew was often teamed up with the angels Monica and Tess for their missions on Earth ('Touched By An Angel'), while Michael was spotted down on 'Fantasy Island' working in cahoots with the Gallifreyan Time Lord known as Rourke ("The Angels' Triangle/Natchez Bound"). And that "matinee idol" who posed as a wounded policeman to gain access to Wanda Dunn's hovel used the name of Harold Beldon ('The Twilight Zone' - "Nothing In The Dark").

Over in the Tooniverse, however, Death is the same guy no matter what show he appears on, from 'Family Guy' to 'The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy'.

Death for the Tooniverse is also a traditionalist. He wears the standard issue hooded black robe and wields the regulation scythe, as he did in the Broadway production of 'Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol'. For most of the time while he's on the clock as the Grim Reaper, he wears that hood pulled forward so that his face can't be seen. But when he's kicking back with his young friends Billy and Mandy, Death has no trouble with allowing his grim visage to be seen.

As to the changes in his voice, that can be attributed to role-playing on his part. After a while, harvesting souls and snuffing out lives gets to be kind of a hum-drum civil service occupation; not unlike being a mailman I should think. So Death livens it up a bit by assuming different personalities.

Or it could be that he's just wacked. If you had a Mother like Death's, maybe you'd be driven crazy too. ('Family Guy' - "Death Lives")

Back on Earth Prime-Time, we have seen a lot of the employees in the Death Industry. Some of them obviously got hired because of who they know... or knew, considering the hazards of being acquainted with Death.

I'm not sure if they have any sort of SATs that they have to take in order to apply for the job of Death, but they should at least be given psychiatric evaluations before they take up the profession.

There was one Death who was suicidal, until he was talked out of doing his job by an idealistic doctor. Once that doctor realized the downside of a world in which Death no longer operated, it took all of his persuasive skills to convince Death to get back in the game... only to learn too late that his name had been next on Death's list. That's why he found Death "hanging" around the hospital where he worked. ('The Twilight Zone' - "One Night At Mercy")

Some of them may even have been actual Toobworld characters in other shows who had passed on to find something else to do in the afterlife.

This could have been the case with former photojournalist Dennis "Animal" Price, who used to work for the Los Angeles Tribune ('Lou Grant'). Perhaps after his career faltered at the newspaper, "Animal" explored his interest in the Dark Arts. Finally he attained the ranking of First Warlock and served in that capacity in the New England town of Harmony until his untimely death ('Passions'). But then, less than a year later, he returned to Harmony in his new guise as Death.

No sense in wasting good talent.

Some of these members of the Death Squad are able to cross over into other TV dimensions. One of the most imposing employees in the Death program - six foot five and with a rumbling voice that could have found a home in the Hammer films - used to work over in France ('Les Redoutables') at the dawn of the new Millennium. However, nearly a quarter of a century before, he was plying his trade in the alternate TV dimension dedicated to comedy sketches. There, he visited a young girl to comfort her after he came to claim her dog Tippy. And he promised to visit her again on her sixteenth birthday...... ('Saturday Night Live')

Another Death who was visiting from a universe created from Man's Imagination crossed over from the Operatic Universe. He was probably summoned to Toobworld by the daemonic powers and musical stylings of Mr. Sweet ('Buffy The Vampire Slayer' - "Once More With Feeling"). In fact, this Death visited "The Labyrinth" in the TV Universe twice in 1950 and in 1962, bringing his assistant along for the ride. That means that with the second visitation, this Operatic Death would have been shunted off to Earth Prime-Time Delay, the world of the remakes.

As noted above, Death does not always act alone. Obviously he oftentimes uses others to actually carry out the Deed - it can be so messy, after all, - but he sometimes also has assistants for the grunt work. Usually for the clerical stuff; lots of filing, that sort of thing.

Occasionally, Death recruits from the very ranks of those he was sent to ferry over to the Other Side. There was one woman who actively sought out Death and he was so taken by her enthusiasm, he allowed her to accompany him on his rounds ('The Twilight Zone' - "Rendezvous In A Dark Place").

And that brings up another point. I'm sorry if I sounded sexist in what I've already written, usually addressing Death as "he"; when in fact, there are several employees in the program who are females. (I'm not sure, considering they are only assuming the human form, if I can actually call them men and women.)

Female Deaths have been known to work the Chicago area ('Chicago Hope' - "Cold Hearts"), Llanview, Pennsylvania, ('One Life To Live'), and a remote plateau in South America where dinosaurs still roam ('The Lost World' - "End Game").

Death can be found anywhere, from the mundane to the fabulous. From the mean streets of New York City ('The Twilight Zone' - "One For The Angels") and the hills of San Francisco ('Charmed' - "Styx Feet Under" & "Apocalypse, Not" [Two different Deaths worked that beat.]) and in the City of Angels ('Six Feet Under' - "In The Game") to the fabled empire of China ('Shirley Temple's Storybook' - "The Nightingale") to the palaces of Atlantis ("The Emperor Of Atlantis") and the hallways of crypt-like "Gormenghast".

Death is not Earth-bound, as any red-shirt on 'Star Trek' could tell you that. Death has found his way to the farthest reaches of outer space ('Red Dwarf' - "Only The Good....")

Where will he show up next? So long as there are TV shows like '24' and 'Lost' and 'ER', Death will always be around. But so far as a physical manifestation, who's to say? 'Supernatural' is a possibility for next season; even 'Smallville'.

Personally, I'd start watching 'American Idol' if Death could be involved in the elimination rounds.

"Seacrest Out" indeed!


"Abra Cadabra,
The guy's a cadaver."
David Addison

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