Review: ‘Not Dead Yet’ on ABC

'Not Dead Yet' on ABC
(Image credit: ABC/Temma Hankin)

Not Dead Yet, a comedy starring Gina Rodriguez as a journalist whose life is a bit of a mess, starts Wednesday, February 8 on ABC. Rodriguez, who played Jane in Jane the Virgin, portrays Nell, who quit the newspaper she worked at five years ago to move to London with her boyfriend, only to see the relationship explode. She is hired back at the newspaper, but with a less than desirable role: writing obituaries. 

“The dead beat,” said Nell’s old friend Dennis, who’s now her editor. 

Working out of a miserable closet, Nell starts working on her first obit. It’s a musician named Monty, who penned a chewing gum jingle — ”yummy yum, bubble gum!” — that’s so irritating that it turned Nell off gum as a child. 

Martin Mull plays Monty, who pays a visit to Nell. “Fun fact — you’re the only one who can see me!” he says. 

Each episode sees the ghost of the person Nell is writing the obit for check in with her, whether it’s at work, at her apartment or in a bar. (Nell loves to drink.) As Monty says, no one else can see the ghosts. This will make some viewers think of CBS comedy Ghosts, where only Samantha can see and hear the apparitions. 

At first, Nell finds Monty as annoying as the jingle he wrote, but gets to know him better, and finds he has some wisdom to pass along. Indeed, in each episode, the ghost has a pointer or two for Nell about how she can sort out her messy life. 

Two episodes air February 8. Mull is in the pilot, and Mo Collins plays Jane, a high-energy self-help author who has died, in the second episode. 

Hannah Simone plays Nell’s best friend Sam; Lauren Ash portrays Lexi, an entitled boss at the newspaper where Nell works; Joshua Banday plays editor Dennis; and Rick Glassman portrays her roommate Edward, who is on the autism spectrum. Edward bickers frequently with Nell, who grows tired of the many, many notes he leaves her about chores he wants done and rules he wants her to live by. 

Casey Johnson and David Windsor created the show. 

Rodriguez is likable as Nell, who offers a bit more depth than most comedy series leads. Not Dead Yet offers some laughs, though not quite belly ones. Yet it touches some other emotions. A scene near the end of the pilot, which sees Monty speak about the wife he left behind, even ventured close to heart-warming. 

Nell’s efforts to ease up on the drinking, focus on her work and be a happier person play better than the punchlines. The show’s title offers a hint of optimism — times may be tough, but Nell isn’t quite buried yet — and that may just make Not Dead Yet worth watching. ■ 

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.