Dead Again (Mania.com)

By:Eric Moro
Date: Tuesday, August 14, 2001

What do you get when you cross THE SIXTH SENSE with JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS? Why, you get DEAD LAST, of course the latest summer replacement series from the youth oriented WB. Shooting for that strange X-FILES meets THE MONKEES premise, DEAD LAST tells the story of a fledgling rock group known as The Problem that accidentally stumbles across an ancient amulet. Once in their possession, the magic talisman bestows upon each band member the ability to see ghosts ("they see dead people"). The group's popularity suddenly skyrockets if only with the dead as they find themselves helping a seemingly endless parade of apparitions resolve their unfinished business so that they can move on to the afterlife.

No matter how hard front man Vaughn (Kett Turton), drummer Scotty (Tyler Labine) and bass player Jane (Sara Downing) try to turn their backs on their new mission and instead pursue a course toward musical stardom, the amulet and its powers remain (almost like that BRADY BUNCH episode with the cursed Hawaiian tiki). Like it or not, these three musicians are greeted at every turn by the walking dead and it seems that The Problem now has a problem of its own helping the dearly departed actually depart. This is one gig they've got for the rest of their lives.



"I think a big part of the

The cast of DEAD LAST [left to right] Kett Turton, Tyler Labine, Sara Downing, Wayned Pere [bottom center]

main characters being a rock band was coming from a place of who would be most annoyed by having to deal with this burden," says executive producer Patrick O'Neil. "In other shows, the characters kind of saddle themselves. They take on being the vampire killer or whatever. We came at it from a more real place."


Utilizing a cast of young up-and-comers (Downing had a brief stint playing a waitress on ROSWELL, while Labine starred opposite Ryan Phillippe in ANTITRUST), the series boasts a trio of creators/executive producers with a more substantial list of credits. D.V. DeVincentis and Steve Pink wrote and co-produced the John Cusack starrers GROSSE POINT BLANK and HIGH FIDELITY making a name for themselves in the quirky, twenty-something comedy circles while Patrick O'Neill has worked with the duo for a number of years developing pilots for Fox and HBO.



If their previous two feature films serve as any indication, DeVincentis and Pink have proven that they possess the ability to weave together action, humor and good 'ol fashioned rock and roll into one cohesive package.


"I

The DEAD LAST trio never know when or where they may run into otherwordly visitors

think it's a good [show]," says Wayne Pere, who plays The Problem's manager Dennis Budny. "If I were sitting around and I heard there's a show from the guys who wrote GROSSE POINT BLANK and HIGH FIDELITY, two films which I really loved because of that dark, edgy kind of thing, I would watch it. And I think I wouldn't be disappointed."


With less emphasis placed on being a supernatural thriller and more on being a comedy, DEAD LAST utilizes very little in the way of special effects when it comes to telling its story. Instead, the producers focus on what they do best create funny situations through all too real characters.


"There's very little special effects in the show, as you'll see," says DeVincentis. "The sort of angle we came at in terms of the ghosts, because we like to write comedy, was that anybody who hasn't moved on is still on Earth because they're sort of neurotically unresolved. So most of the time with them is not spent watching them explode or disappear or transmogrify into something else. It's watching them have some ridiculous problem that the guys have to deal with."



That's all fine and dandy,

The Problem's front man and bass player Kett Turton and Sara Downing used to be an item

but can a cast of disinterested grunge rockers shoulder a supernatural comedy that focuses more on character and less on special effects? If initial buzz is any indication, the answer is yes. With 13 episodes in the can, the series' creators hope DEAD LAST will continue well beyond its "October commitment."


"[DEAD LAST] is running through October, so we'll get at least eight or nine weeks of the show on the air," says DeVincentis. "The hope would be that if it works, we still have five, six, seven episodes left to play out. And we have made deals so that we do have people to help, which a lot of times over the summer you do not have."


Ultimately, the decision as to whether the series is labeled a success or failure is up to the finicky WB audience. However, with three young and likeable grunge rockers who deal with comical supernatural themes on a weekly basis, the show would seem like a sure fire hit with its target demographic.


"I think people are really interested in ghosts and vampires," says Turton. "It's a good marketing thing. Anything that people don't really know about, they're very interested in. It's fun and exciting and it has a lot of different directions you can go in."