We’ve always loved a good television show, and with the rise of Netflix and other streaming services it’s never been easier to binge watch entire seasons of a show in one or two nights.
When it comes to the portrayal of death on TV, it sometimes can come across as tone deaf or downright inappropriate, but occasionally you get a few gems that help normalise conversations about death and help us with our own grieving process.
We’ve put together a list of television shows that not only portray death in a meaningful way, but also pass on some life lessons along the way, whether that be through a gut-wrenching drama or a hilarious black comedy series.
*Spoiler alert: yep there’s a few here….(sorry)*
Six Feet Under
A critically acclaimed series, Six Feet Under explores the life of the Fisher family after the death of the patriarch, Nathaniel, and how they continue to run the family business, a funeral home.
For a show that started in 2001, Six Feet Under was way ahead of its time and is still iconic today as one of the few series that gets into the nitty gritty of death and the need to tackle mortality head on.
Plus it also has one of the all-time great finales. Stock up on tissues kids.
You can watch Six Feet Under with a Foxtel Go subscription.
Looking for Alaska
One for Gen Z and Millenials, the TV adaption of the bestselling book by John Green is just as heartbreaking and poignant in its portrayal of death. John Green has this incredible knack for writing stories that are relatable to teens but can be read well into adulthood, which translates well into the show.
Touching on strong themes of grief, hope and adolescence, the story follows Miles, a bit of an outcast, who leaves his public school to attend a more elite boarding school so he can start a new adventure in his life.
Looking For Alaska teaches us that no amount of closure or answers makes the grieving process any easier, as we watch Miles and his friends come to terms with the passing of their friend Alaska. Keep the tissues at hand, the sob factor is 100/10.
You can stream Looking For Alaska on Stan.
Sorry for Your Loss
This drama series follows a young widow, Leigh, who has unexpectedly lost her husband and her and her family are struggling to cope. It is an eerily accurate portrayal of grieving for your loved one and putting your life back together after such a shocking loss.
Most of us know Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff from the Marvel Universe, but before she played grieving partner on WandaVision, she gave us a harrowing performance as grieving widow Leigh.
We watch Leigh going through the motions in the months after her husband’s death and learn from her that grief doesn’t have an end date; often it comes in waves and a moment will come along that brings it all back up again.
Get ready to laugh and cry watching Leigh navigate her life after loss.
Find Sorry for Your Loss on SBS on Demand.
The Good Place
You might be thinking The Good Place is an odd show to add to this list, but this fantasy sitcom about dying and ending up at The Good Place (heaven), which actually turns out to be The Bad Place (hell) can teach us a whole lot about life, death and what it means to be a good person.
The show feels a bit like a rollercoaster, taking you on so many different twists and turns when 4 people from all walks of life end up banding together to fix The Good Place. It ultimately comes with the realisation that without an end, there is no meaning, and what gives our lives so much meaning is the definitive that it will end. All we can do is take advantage of the now and live our lives to the fullest.
If emotional tearjerkers aren’t your thing, this hilarious exploration of the afterlife will be right up your alley, with 4 seasons to keep you occupied.
The Good Place is available to watch on Netflix.
With a similar premise to Sorry for Your Loss but a completely different take on the subject, After Life is a black comedy that follows Tony (Ricky Gervais) who loses his wife to breast cancer and decides to go out and punish the world and be cruel in his grief.
Tony, despite his best efforts to hurt people by saying and doing what he pleases, is often met with pity and kindness as he eventually comes to terms with his wife’s death. Tony meets an assortment of kind people who help him come to the realisation that it’s important to care, and shows how vital it is to be surrounded by the right people when dealing with loss and grief.
We all know Ricky Gervais as a talented comedian, so expect lots of laughs in between the heartbreaking moments.
After Life is available to stream on Netflix.
Do you ever wish you could have a conversation with a loved one who has passed away? Pushing Daisies brings that concept to life in the most absurd way with Ned, a pie-maker who possesses the ability to reanimate the dead. Ned brings his childhood crush Chuck back to life and starts working with the police to help solve murders.
For a show that contrasts a cheery demeanour while being shrouded by death, Pushing Daisies teaches us that even in loss, you can find hope and even in death, beauty can be found just around the corner.
If you’re looking for a quirky, award-winning show that helps you ponder more broadly on death, this is one to watch. You can find the two seasons of Pushing Daisies online on 7plus.
This Is Us
This Is Us is a drama about the Pearson family and follows their lives over several decades. It is a heartwarming generational story about an unusual set of triplets and their parents, and covers themes of adoption, divorce, infertility and grief.
This series touches on how death and grief from the past can continue to dictate and shape our futures in the years to come, particularly when grief isn’t properly managed.
If you enjoy the suspense of waiting for the big reveal and fans of 2000’s stars Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore then definitely check out This Is Us. Plus it’s bingeworthy with 6 seasons and over 100 episodes under its belt.
Watch now on Disney+.
Kidding sees Jim Carey take on a slightly more sombre character. Jeff is a TV children’s performer who is dealing with the loss of one of his twin sons, then the subsequent separation from his wife. Having repressed his grief for months, Jeff decides to use his television show to teach children about loss and repair his relationships with his family.
Kidding is an honest and heartbreaking depiction of the death of a child and the grief that follows. Whilst grief will never truly leave us, it’s important to challenge ourselves to adapt to our new life after loss. Jim Carey sprinkles his comedic genius through this poignant comedy drama.
You can find Kidding on Stan.
Beloved Friends star Matthew Perry features in the short lived comedy series Go On, where sports radio host Ryan is grieving after the passing of his wife and succumbs to joining a support group. The group band together, become friends and lean on each other during their journeys of healing.
Go On gives us the insight of attending therapy after a loss, which is often missing in shows about grief and death. Whilst the sitcom has a sub-par group leader, it highlights how essential professional help and surrounding yourself with the right people are vital for healing from grief.
Friends fans will appreciate the character Ryan as he’s super similar to Chandler Bing in humour and demeanour, plus keep an eye out for Courtney Cox’s cameo.
Go On is available to stream on Youtube and Apple TV.
Never Have I Ever
The coming of age comedy series Never Have I Ever might not seem like a show about death, but the first season eloquently portrays grief as 15 year old Devi navigates boys, school and her relationship with her family while dealing with the impact of suddenly losing her father.
Devi loses sensation in her legs and is unable to walk for three months following her father’s death, and while she is occasionally ridiculed for this, it’s not often we see a physical depiction of grief represented in media. Never Have I Ever also highlights what happens when families withdraw and don’t talk to each other about their shared grief, which can impact their ability to heal and move on.
Come for the honest portrayal of death and stay for the boy drama, friendship drama and to watch Devi make one dumb decision after another, which all eventually blow up in her face. There’s a reason why Never Have I Ever was one of the most popular Netflix series of 2020.
Never Have I Ever is streaming on Netflix, with season 3 on the way.
To plan ahead with a pre-paid funeral, click the below button for a free quote, or give Bare Cremation a call on 1800 202 901.