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We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

TV Series Review

Good grief, Charlie Brown says. And maybe he has a point. But grief sure doesn’t feel good. In fact, it can mess you up something awful.

Just ask Jen, a 40-something real estate agent whose husband was killed by a hit-and-run driver—leaving her with two sons and zero sense of closure. She has no idea who killed her husband; the police say she probably never will. And even though she’s trying to move on, it’s not easy—not with the three-alarm rage boiling underneath her pinched face and folded arms. Writing down the license plate numbers of cars that have a “person-sized dent” in them doesn’t seem to be helping, either.

What does help? Chocolate chip cookies. The Facts of Life. A little marijuana. And, most especially, her best friend, Judy. In Jen’s world filled with pitying glances and unanswered questions, Judy helps her laugh, and cry and even sleep.

But Jen hasn’t noticed the person-sized dent in Judy’s own car just yet.

Where’s the Grief?

Netflix’s Dead to Me is characterized as a black comedy, and indeed it’s plenty dark. But poking through its grim folds we find some unexpected insights, and maybe even a kernel of hope and wisdom.

The show unpacks the weird, messy realities of grief, a condition we all process differently. It’s not a one-size-fits-all box that we climb into or out of the same way or on the same schedule. And in this show's own curious and sometimes barbed style, it offers both advice and hope on how to process our losses and, eventually, to move past them.

Judy’s own cause of grief offers an interesting wrinkle, too. She and Jen meet at a grief workshop, and Judy first says that she lost her fiancée to a heart attack. But when Jen discovers that Judy’s one-time beau is alive and quite healthy, another layer of Judy’s story unfurls: She and her fiancée desperately wanted a family, but Judy kept miscarrying. In flashback, we see Judy after her fifth miscarriage, weeping bitterly in a hospital hallway, her dress stained with blood. She says they ultimately broke up over the painful issue.

When Judy apologizes to Jen for lying and joining a grief support group, even though she didn’t have an “actual thing,” Jen (eventually) corrects her.

“I think it is an actual thing,” Jen says. “Not if a Republican is asking … but you heard a heartbeat, and you fell in love with that heartbeat.” In that moment, Dead to Me reminds us that there’s more than tissue in a pregnant womb: Something special is growing, something worth grieving over.

Given that, perhaps we might be forgiven for grieving a bit over the show itself—or, more fairly, what it could’ve been.

Hit and Run

Dead to Me didn’t need to be TV-MA. Everything that makes the show watchable, if not special, is part of its core DNA: Its strong cast (anchored by Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini), its thoughtful character development and clever writing.

No, the f-words—of which the show has plenty—are unneeded. The drug use we see here serves a purpose, but nothing that dozens of other narrative decisions could’ve done just as effectively.

And again, let me remind you this is indeed a black comedy—thoughtful at times, yes, but bleak as well. It goes in some dark directions that plenty of viewers won’t want to go.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

May 3, 2019: "Pilot"

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Christina Applegate as Jen Harding; Linda Cardellini as Judy Hale; James Marsden as Steve Wood; Max Jenkins as Christopher Doyle; Sam McCarthy as Charlie Harding; Luke Roessler as Henry Harding; Edward Asner as Abe

Director

Distributor

Network

Netflix

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

Released

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Paul Asay

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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