Time of Death: watch and learn as eight people die

Showtime has given me few reasons to remain a subscriber: meddling in creative decisions as they destroyed Dexter, and now doing the same to Homeland, which quickly went from excellent to mediocre. Its reality series haven’t been great; Gigolos, for example, had potential but wasn’t very real.

But tonight, the network debuts an six-episode reality series produced by Magical Elves’ Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz on which eight people will die. Time of Death follows terminally ill people who range in age from 19 to 77. Showtime says “will take an unflinching, in-depth look at some remarkable individuals facing their own imminent mortality. Cameras will follow brave, terminally ill individuals as they live out their final days, supported by family, friends, healthcare teams and hospice workers, who gently help guide the process.”

This is territory reality TV hasn’t explored in depth before, but it’s a reminder of the power of narrative nonfiction to teach us about the human experience; in this case, that’s one thing we’ll all eventually experience. However, as Lenore says of death while at her own farewell party, “We’re shy about it, we’re afraid of it, we don’t talk about it very much.”

That’s very true, but that that–never mind that it airs on a pay cable network–will probably also keep a lot of people from watching because it’s too challenging, too sad. The trailer and three clips below are hard enough to watch, but also make it clear that this is not at all exploitative, but is television presenting reality.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.