Dead to Me

Photograph: Netflix
Rating 7.8
Streamer Netflix
Seasons 2
Duration 20 x 30 mins

In this expensive looking, soapy, melodramatic thriller we’re going to the Los Angeles suburbs, where wine moms are something to be feared…

It almost sounds as if we were describing Desperate Housewives, doesn’t it? And whilst we’re not, we’re in no doubt that fans of that soapy noughties classic will absolutely love this equally trashy treat. But let us make it clear, trashy is not always a bad thing. In fact, sometimes it’s a very good thing, giving you the perfect hour of escapism, where you can plonk your bum on the sofa and check out of reality. That’s exactly what you’ll be able to do with this one…unless of course the plot of widows gone wild is somehow familiar to you.

Said widows are the tense, cold, affluent Jen (so who better to cast than Christina Applegate) whose husband was recently killed in a hit-and-run car accident, and lovely, kind-hearted hippy Judy (perfectly played by Linda Cardellini). They meet at a support group for people who are grieving, with Judy sharing with Jen that she recently lost her fiancé Steve. Whilst Jen has a good go at being the cold, distant woman she wants to be, she ends up bonding with Judy, the pair comforting each other with phone calls, bottles of red and trash TV. But despite her cheery temperament, Judy isn’t all she appears to be. Turns out, said fiancé Steve is very much alive, and the pair actually broke up after Judy suffered her fifth miscarriage. Luckily the besties manage to work through this lie, Judy even moving into Jen’s guest house. However, that other little secret she’s been hiding might be slightly harder for Jen to get over…

If you love a show about female friendship, you need to watch Grace and Frankie

This show really is rather charming, with dark comedy, drama and two brilliant leads. Admittedly, the premise isn’t exactly complex, but here it doesn’t really matter. Judy and Jen are both highly entertaining characters, harbouring their own vices and building a friendship that most women watching will relate too. And even with the soapy setting, their discussions and portrayal of grief, with its guilt, anger, despair, are really quite moving. Plus, with that slow burning mystery running through it all, you can really see why so many people ploughed their way through season one with such fervour.

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And season two was thankfully just as good, starting right after that massive cliffhanger. The second season, too, saw improved press, when the reviewers seemingly realised this was more than a melodramatic thriller for bored housewives, and was in fact, really quite good. Lucy Mangan of The Guardian will no doubt be kicking herself for dismissing season one for being “badly paced, tonally inconsistent and – above all – deadly dull,” and to be honest, we’re not sure she was even watching the right show. We think Vulture’s Kathryn VanArendonk’s review was more accurate, calling it “very watchable,” saying “Dead to Me feels carefully calibrated to make you click on the next episode as quickly as possible, and the experience of watching it feels as smooth and frictionless as one of the show’s many highly polished architectural surfaces.”

However The Telegraph’s Eleanor Halls puts it perfectly, by saying “While Dead to Me may cause snooty lovers of “cerebral” shows such as Succession to wrinkle their noses at its hangover-friendly dialogue and ludicrous cliff-hangers, creator Feldman deserves more credit. The complexities of grief, motherhood and friendship are all carefully kneaded for genuine relatability or revelatory home truths.”

First shown May 2019. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here.

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