Main Cast: Christina Applegate, Linda Cardellini
Creator: Liz Feldman
Update: Dead To Me has been renewed for a second season!
Oh, my friends. When Netflix originals are good, they’re really, really good. And the ten episode gem that is Dead To Me is one of their best. As a huge fan of The OA, Travelers, Stranger Things, Russian Doll and more, I do not say that lightly.
Dead To Me begins with Jen (Christina Applegate), grieving hard for her recently killed husband, trying out a bereavement support group. I think it’s fair to say that Jen is not the support group type. But she is struggling and desperate. At the group meeting she encounters Judy (Linda Cardellini), another new member, but one with a sunny, optimistic personality. The polar opposite of Jen. The two become friends (sort of) and we embark on the incredibly weird, twisty, sad, and really, really funny story of two women brought together by their individual tragedies.
It doesn’t sound super special, I know. I went into the series with moderate hopes based on my respect for the lead actors. I was blown away – by them, by the scripts, by the production, by the whole package. Without spoiling it for those of you who haven’t yet indulged in this perfectly binge-worthy show, I’ll tell you a few of the reasons I loved it.
Dead To Me is a sitcom for grown-ups. It deals with adult themes surrounding marriage, death, single parenting, and most of all carrying on after unfathomable loss. It’s hard to do any of those things and be funny, harder still to be both funny and sensitive. While part of the humor here comes from acerbic inappropriateness and awkwardly timed insensitivity, the show as a whole has clear empathy for all of its characters. For every snarky comment Jen makes at someone else’s expense, there’s a point at which she has to own her anger and disrespect. It’s a really tricky balance and they pull it off remarkably well.
Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini give stunning performances. That’s an odd sort of thing to say about 25 minute sitcom episodes, but it’s true. These characters grow more in each installment than some do over 20 years of hour long dramas (yeah, I’m looking at you, Law & Order and CSI). Individually and as a team, these actresses play the hell out of every single scene. Also notable are supporting performances by James Marsden, Ed Asner, Max Jenkins, and Valerie Mahaffey. They are more typical, single note characters because you really can’t stuff more into 25 minutes. But each adds to the richness of the main duo.
Dead To Me is fearless. Nothing is off the table for these characters. Things that other writers would not touch because they might be distasteful or make characters unlikable are abundant and appreciated. Harsh words, ugly actions, unfortunate histories – we get all the icky parts of being human that most TV comedies avoid like the plague (resulting in a lot of stereotypical, uninteresting TV comedies). It works, all of it. We care more, we laugh more, we understand more because nothing is glossed over.
Dead To Me is one of the best series I’ve watched in a long time. Netflix has not announced whether it will be back for a second season. If not, season one is fine as a stand-alone. But I would love to see more of these characters. I hope Netflix agrees.
You can usually find Sue watching dysfunctional family indie dramas in order to make her own household seem normal. She is the Editorial Manager at Silver Beacon Marketing and an aspiring Crazy Cat Lady.