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Deathly adventures and other killer TV shows

Your Weekend

STREAMING: From two killer black comedy-dramas to an Australian whodunit and a documentary dive into the unknown with actress Miriam Margolyes, these recommended series all have one thing in common: death.

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Miriam’s Deathly Adventure

“I want to jauntily prance down the tunnel of death,” declares Miriam Margolyes in this entertaining two-part documentary about ageing and mortality newly available on ABC iview.

The first episode takes the 78-year-old actress across America, from a dementia-care home, to a Revolution Against Ageing and Death festival, the Church of Perpetual Life and an eye-opening group session with a “sex magic” practitioner.

In episode two, which aired this week, she travels around the US and Europe talking to a range of people about their own close encounters with mortality – from an 18-year-old rapper with cancer to a widow undergoing psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy to help her prepare for death. Margolyes also designs her own coffin at a coffin club and test-drives a suicide pod invented by euthanasia campaigner Dr Philip Nitschke.

For a doco about death, Miriam’s Deathly Adventure is surprisingly life-affirming, delivered with the Harry Potter star’s trademark ebullience, empathy, frankness and dry humour.

Dead to Me

Christina Applegate – if you’ve got a long memory, you might remember her as teenage Kelly Bundy from Married with Children – plays a real estate agent and mum obsessed with finding the hit-and-run driver who killed her husband in this Netflix black comedy.

The show opens with Jen Harding attending, somewhat reluctantly, an open-air “Friends of Heaven” meeting for the recently bereaved, where she encounters kooky kindred spirit Judy Hale. The pair’s friendship, like the pace of the show, intensifies quickly, but the problem is both are harbouring secrets – some more shocking than others.

It’s the secrets, lies and fraught friendship that drive the compelling storyline, but it’s Jen’s brutal honesty and sardonic humour – delivered with aplomb by Applegate – that give it a quirky edge. With season one comprising just eight half-hour episodes, Dead to Me is a series made for binge-watching.

My Life is Murder

This Melbourne-based murder-mystery series on Channel 10 revolves around another feisty female protagonist, this time played by Lucy Lawless (you might remember her as the kick-arse leather-clad evil slayer from Xena: Warrior Princess).

Alexa Crowe left the police force after her husband died and found new purpose baking bread but has been lured back as a freelance investigator to solve tricky murders – like the curious case of a man shot dead in a locked motel room.

It’s standard whodunit fare, but Lawless is excellent as the sassy, blunt-speaking Alexa – “a bit of a shit-stirrer”, to borrow from the official website – whose prickly personality is offset by her lively, fashion-forward data analyst Madison (Ebony Vagulans). There are also guest performances by actors such as Dan Hany, Magda Szubanski and Danielle Cormack.

New episodes of My Life is Murder are being aired each Wednesday on Ten and you can play catch-up on 10Play.

After Life

An Emmy-nominated British black comedy-drama produced and starring Ricky Gervais, Netflix series After Life is so black it should possibly come with a health warning … but perhaps the tagline “hell is other people” is warning enough.

Gervais plays Tony, an apparently once happy-go-lucky bloke left bereft by his wife’s death from cancer and convinced he has nothing to live for – certainly not his job as a journalist at the local free paper, where he’s lost any tolerance for his workmates and stories about residents who claim they’ve found Freddie Mercury’s tooth or can see Kenneth Branagh’s face in a water stain on the wall.

Tony’s expletive-laden insults and nihilistic rants are so caustic it feels almost wrong to laugh at them. But whether in shock or awe, you almost certainly will laugh.

Gervais (known for shows such as The Office) has said he’s gone further than ever before with After Life, and while some will think he’s gone too far, there is light at the end of the tunnel. You also can’t deny the cathartic effect of watching a person eschew societal niceties to say whatever the hell they want.

There’s just six half-hour episodes in the first series but fans will be happy to know that Netflix has confirmed a second is on the way.

In case you missed it: If you’re looking for more shows to add to the death watch list, The Casketeers (streaming on Netflix) is a wonderfully quirky and charming Kiwi documentary series set in a Māori funeral home in Auckland. Read our review here.

Your Weekend is a new regular InDaily series where we’ll share recommendations for television series, live shows, events, exhibitions, podcasts and more.

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