In recent years, the lines between comedy and drama have become increasingly blurred, at least in the television world. It’s not uncommon to see hourlong series that more closely resemble comedies and half-hour shows that are for all intents and purposes dramas. This current trend was kickstarted almost fifteen years ago with shows like Weeds and Desperate Housewives that, while being ostensibly comedies, often leaned more heavily toward the drama side of the coin. Demand for this type of series has only increased, and dramedy has become a surprising enduring and successful genre for female-led series. Just look at last year’s Emmy nominations — Fleabag, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and Russian Doll each straddles that line and all were met with critical acclaim.
Also add Dead to Me to that list. The series, created by Liz Feldman, is a (dark) comedy about grief. Two women meet in a therapy group for grieving spouses. Jen (Christina Applegate) lost her husband after a hit-and-run while Judy (Linda Cardellini) is mourning her fiancé who died of a heart attack. However, a dark twist towards the end of the pilot reveals a deeper connection between the two women and propels the story from a dramedy into something resembling a psychological thriller at times.
But the show’s main draw is its lead actresses. Applegate and Cardellini imbue their characters with such an emotional realness that it’s impossible not to root for them, even when they’re making terrible choices. The show, at its heart, is about female friendship, and there isn’t quite another relationship like it on television. Friendships can be messy, and Feldman and the writing staff uses that to their advantage.
As a character study, Dead to Me is a great show to watch, and it’s one of the few shows out there to effectively mine grief for humor. And season two just premiered on Netflix, so if you’re looking for your next binge, you could do much worse.