Showtime’s Time of Death Series Premiere: The Messy Business of Dying

Showtime’s Time of Death is difficult to watch but rewarding for viewers interested in authentic and emotional part of the afterlife.

Time of Death airs on Showtime Fridays at 9 pm ET/8c.

Dust in the Wind

Time of Death is a six-part mini series following a variety of people as they come to terms with their impending deaths. The series is executive produced Dan Cutforth, Jane Lipsitz, Alexandra Lipsitz, Cynthia Childs and Casey Kriley.

The first episode of the series follows two terminal cancer patients; Maria, 48, who is receiving treatment and working to settle her affairs before she passes and Michael, 47, who is spending his remaining time in hospice surrounded by his family after being devastated by a rare and aggressive form of cancer.

We are first introduced to Maria, a no-nonsense mother of three who has lived with a Stage 4 cancer diagnosis for four and a half years. Maria lives with her children Andrew, 14, and Julia, 16, and is working to make sure that her two younger children are left in the custody of their older sister Nicole, 25, and not their abusive father. Andrew and Julia are struggling not to let their mother see how her condition is affecting them.

Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door

Nicole harbors some resentment toward her mother because of her rough childhood and feels apprehensive about the prospect of raising her siblings. Marie explained that she discovered her illness after finding a tumor on her side but because she didn’t have health insurance, she didn’t immediately pursue treatment.

Former Sailor Michael has made peace with his terminal cancer diagnosis, eschewing painful life-extending measures in favor living out the rest of his days in hospice care. Michael went through an aggressive round of chemotherapy when he found out about his cancer but after three physically punishing months of treatment, he decided he wanted to stop fighting the inevitable.

Michael’s mother, father and aunt frequently came to visit him after his nurse informed the family that he was nearing the end. Michael’s mother worries that his father is hurting himself by bottling up his feelings about his son’s condition. Andrea, Michael’s ex-wife and the woman he calls the love of his life, put aside her anger toward Michael to comfort him in his last days. Andrea was sad to see Michael pass but appreciated the chance to find closure with him.  After dying peacefully, Michael’s ashes were spread at sea and buried in West Virginia as per his request. Weeks later, Michael’s father still hadn’t cried for his son.

Ready to Die

Nicole finds it difficult to adapt to a parental role, frequently getting into heated arguments with Julia and Maria. After a big blowout, Maria stopped communicating with Nicole for several days. The stalemate ends when Maria sends Nicole a text before going back into chemo. Maria’s nurse tells her to be more open about her feelings with her children to help them process the situation. Maria said that the only reason she was fighting her cancer was because she wanted more time with her children. Maria had a frank discussion with Nicole where she asserted that they couldn’t spend another week not talking to each other because they can’t spare the time. As the episode drew to a close, Julia changed her will to make Nicole Andre and Julia’s legal guardian.

Time of Death offers a refreshingly naturalistic and honest look at the process of dying. It doesn’t shy away from depicting the grisliness of death or the trauma a family goes through when a parent or child falls gravely ill. A television show this real deserves to find an audience but its unfiltered style may turn off viewers not expecting something so heavy in prime time.

Time of Death’s broadcast network competition consists of Hawaii Five-O, Grimm, and Sleepy Hollow, all light-hearted escapist fare that is much easier to watch than an unsentimental gaze into the abyss. Because the show airs on Showtime, it doesn’t need huge ratings to be considered a success but it also doesn’t really fit in with prestige hokum like Dexter or Ray Donovan. Hopefully the network that’s touts “Brace Yourself” as its slogan will show some backbone when it comes to its programming choices.