National Edition

New Showtime documentary series to televise death

Published: Friday, Nov. 1 2013 8:05 p.m. MDT

“Time of Death,” a documentary series detailing the deaths of eight Americans with terminal illnesses, will premiere Friday night on Showtime.


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“Time of Death,” a documentary series detailing the deaths of eight Americans with terminal illnesses, will premiere Friday night on Showtime.

The show, according to The Huffington Post, will take viewers into the final days and minutes of the lives of a variety of people, including 19-year-old Nicolle Kissee and a “75-year-old former psychotherapist dying in her home from pancreatic cancer," The Huffington Post reported.

"Let's be honest: Death and dying is all over TV, but it comes in the form of 'Dexter,' 'The Walking Dead,' every murder-driven show, but that tells you nothing about the process of dying and the way we experience it with our loved ones," David Nevins, president of entertainment for Showtime Networks, told The Huffington Post. "But if done right, there is an infinite fascination with dying."

The series — produced by Magical Elves, which in the past has developed “Top Chef” and “Project Runway” — will “follow the complicated struggles faced by the dying and their families, from the physical pain and the emotional toll of death to dealing with the high costs of hospitalization and decisions over finances, property and child custody,” The Huffington Post reported.

Religion plays a role, too. The show will feature funerals and the questioning of life, including one man “who worries that he will go to hell because he thinks he lived a bad life," The Huffington Post reported.

The Denver Post published an article last week that said the series was “difficult” and Showtime “issues a challenge” with the series because it confronts human death directly in a mundane way.

The show “doesn't make the finality less sad or scary (personally, it took a day or two to recover from the viewing experience), but it does suggest that a frank approach to the inevitable is the healthy way to go,” according to the article.

A writer at Time explained that realistic and ordinary death is rarely confronted directly on television, and that “Time of Death” tackles this issue head-on.

“The show is understated, thoughtful, and at times surprisingly cathartic and uplifting,” Time wrote. “But yeah: It’s about death, actual, unstylized, unglamorous death, and the emotional difficulty of accepting it.”

Entertainment Weekly released its review of the show early Friday. Though the show was realistic in multiple ways, the camera’s presence might have shifted the way people on the show reacted to death, Entertainment Weekly said.

“I often wondered about what influence, if any, that the cameras and everything they represent — the awareness of being watched; the anxiety of being judged — had on behavior,” wrote Jeff Jensen.

But the positives of the show outweigh this minor flaw, Jensen wrote.

“And yet, ‘Time of Death’ succeeds because its subjects and their families are willing to open their doors, let down their defenses, and surrender all vanity as they waste away,” he wrote. “By sharing themselves this way, our capacity and empathy is stretched, and we gain insight and ideas for when death comes for us.”

Email: hscribner@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @hscribner

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