Not Dead Yet review: Gina Rodriguez comedy is already on life support

Not even a spirited Gina Rodriguez performance can save this lifeless comedy.

Gina Rodriguez sits on a bed in Not Dead Yet
(Image: © ABC/Temma Hankin)

What to Watch Verdict

Gina Rodriguez's return to TV is shockingly mundane and one-note.


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    Gina Rodriguez shows off her charm


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    Frustratingly not funny

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    Already feels repetitive two episodes in

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    No chemistry between its characters

Jane the Virgin established Gina Rodriguez as one of the most exciting actors on television. Since the conclusion of the telenova comedy/drama in 2019, Rodriguez's roles in movies (Miss Bala, Someone Great and Awake) have failed to show how magnetic she can be, while her TV work has mostly been as a voice in animated shows. 

So when it was announced Rodriguez would be returning to live-action television with Not Dead Yet, her very own sitcom with an intriguing and spooky twist for ABC, there was genuine excitement over her being back on the small screen. 

Unfortunately for viewers, the shockingly mundane Not Dead Yet completely wastes Rodriguez. The Golden Globe-winning actress is clearly giving it her all as Nell, a down on her luck journalist who is forced to return to the Southern California newspaper where she began her career after a devastating split with her fiancé. 

While Nell has the support of her best friend Sam (Hannah Simone), who also works at the paper, and editor Dennis (Josh Banday), she struggles to adapt to her new life. Especially when it comes to her roommate, Edward (Rick Glassman). 

Nell's main issue is her new position at the newspaper, as she has been hired to write obituaries. She’s given a helping hand with her work, though it’s not a living one. Instead, Nell is assisted by the recently deceased people themselves, as the ghosts she’s writing about visit her until she’s concluded her writing.

After introducing us to Nell and her predicament through a clunky voiceover from Rodriguez that lacks the wit or pathos her intelligent character should possess, we see her trying to re-acclimate to the surroundings she has depressingly had to return to.

Even this is handled in a tired and cliched fashion, as Nell is given a closet as an office and she's warned not to touch a scolding hot pipe, jokes that pretty much every other office-based sitcom have made before.

This is where we’re introduced to Nell's nemesis, too, in the shape of Lexi (Lauren Ash), the editor in chief of the paper. Nell and Sam used to despise Lexi. But after Nell’s departure, Sam bonded with Lexi over the fact that they’re both working moms.

Hoping they can let bygones be bygones, Sam decides to bring Lexi out for Nell's birthday. But, jealous over Sam and Lexi's sudden closeness, Nell drunkenly tells Lexi they used to call her scotch tape (because she's always stuck up). Not only does this cause a rift between Nell and Sam, but it also puts her job in jeopardy.

All the while, Nell has been talking to a random old man about her sad state of affairs. This just so happens to be the ghost of Monty Waxberg (Martin Mull), the man she is writing her first obituary about. At first, Nell insists that his manifestation is the result of half a weed gummy and eating too much food. But she eventually realizes he’s there for a reason.

Martin Mull and Gina Rodriguez sit at a bar in Not Dead Yet

Martin Mull and Gina Rodriguez in Not Dead Yet (Image credit: ABC/Eric McCandless)

Monty tells Nell to go to his favorite restaurant, where he points her in the direction of his widow, Cricket (Angela Gibbs). Nell strikes up a conversation with her and the pair soon become friends. All of which helps Nell to write a deeply moving obituary about Monty.

At times, there's actually something really heartfelt about Not Dead Yet. The dead people visiting Nell each pass on some pearls of wisdom that give her a new outlook on life. It's genuinely moving and effective when Monty advises Nell that she needs to stop looking at how "life should be" and instead focus on "what it is."

But Rodriguez's charm and empathy doesn’t make up for Not Dead Yet's inability to produce one decent laugh over its opening two episodes. While its pilot mostly underwhelms, it at least shows some moments of potential, its follow-up "Not a Tiger Yet" has few, if any, positives.

Even though she's now more accustomed to being haunted, Nell decides she wants to get off the obituaries desk. She's helped in this pursuit by Jane Marvel (Mo Collins), a recently deceased motivational speaker, who lifts Nell's confidence so much she writes an investigative report to impress Lexi.

But Lexi immediately takes the article down as she’s scared of being sued. She's even about to fire Nell on the spot, only for Sam to arrive and save her. Lexi then admits that Nell's obituaries have been getting a lot of praise, as readers feel like she actually knows the people she is writing about. This leads Nell to realize she's been too caught up in what she’s not doing and not appreciating that she's doing something good. Again, a sweet message.

Still, Not Dead Yet has already begun to feel too one-note and repetitive, as well as overly sentimental. When coupled with its dire jokes, and the lack of chemistry between its characters, you can't help but feel as though, despite Rodriguez's best efforts, Not Dead Yet will soon reach the demise its title teases.

Not Dead Yet airs on Wednesdays on ABC. Episodes are available to watch the next day on Hulu.

Gregory James Wakeman

Born and raised in England but now based in Philadelphia, Gregory Wakeman has written for the BBC, New York Times, The Guardian, GQ, and Yahoo Movies UK, all while defiantly trying to keep his accent.