TV Body Count Study – Fall 2012

TV to Die For, Part 2: A Ranking of TV Shows by Dead Bodies

September, 2012

Funeralwise Fall 2012 TV Body Count Study

The new Fall TV season is starting up and Funeralwise once again asks: Is death entertaining? Is our popular culture obsessed with death? How do portrayals of death affect the popularity of entertainment programs? Who is most likely to be drawn to death-oriented programs?

Following up on our last study, looks to answer these and other questions about the role of death in popular culture. The objective is to create a dialogue contrasting our acceptance of death in the abstract, such as in entertainment programs, vs. how we deal with the reality of our mortality, such as our willingness to make funeral plans in advance.

Want to See the Results from the 1st TV Body Count Study?
Visit this page:


The study will determine the presence of death in TV shows by counting dead bodies appearing in the shows as well as gender and cause of death, when it is possible to determine. Thirty-Nine (39) television series have been selected for analysis. The study will be conducted in the fourth quarter of 2012 and will analyze the most recent 8 original episodes of each series.

How are we Conducting the Study?

As we did in our previous study, we will include those television series that regularly include portrayals of death in their story lines. This is a subjective selection by the organizers of the study and may not encompass every series that includes portrayals of death. We may also include new series that were not on the air as of our last study.

Funeralwise will retain the assistance of “watchers” to view the most recent 8 episodes of each television series. If a series is not running original episodes during the current season, then the most recent 8 episodes will be included in the study, and this will not overlap with episodes from the original study.

To ensure accuracy of the counts, each episode will be viewed by at least 2 watchers and the counts will be compared. When there is a discrepancy in the count, an additional watcher will view the show and determine the correct count.

Watchers will record the following information for each episode viewed:

  1. Series Name
  2. Season # / Episode #
  3. Episode Name
  4. Dead Body Count
  5. Funeral Count
  6. Type of Death
  7. Gender of Deceased

Are you Interested in Participating in the Study?

We are looking for “watchers” to help us view the TV shows and record the body counts. Since a few of the episodes have already aired, you’ll need access to the prior original episodes either online or through your television provider. We are paying $60 per TV series watched (8 episodes @ $7.50 per episode). The limit per “watcher” is 4 TV Series.

If you would like to participate in the study as a “watcher,” email us at Let us know your name, age and occupation, and indicate the TV series that you would like to watch from the list below.

We need your commitment to watch the most recent 8 episodes of the series assigned to you. To participate, you must commit to watching all 8 episodes of at least 2 TV series. We will assign a maximum of 4 series to a watcher.

Tell us how many series that you will commit to watching (2 to 4) and list them in order of preference. Since your preferred series may already be taken, you should list at least 6 or 7 series that you could commit to watching.

TV Series Included in the Study for Fall 2012

666 Park Avenue (ABC)
Castle (ABC)
Last Resort (ABC)
Once Upon A Time (ABC)
Revenge (ABC)
Blue Bloods (CBS)
Criminal Minds (CBS)
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (CBS)
CSI New York (CBS)
Elementary (CBS)
Hawaii Five-O (CBS)
NCIS Los Angeles (CBS)
Person of Interest (CBS)
The Mentalist (CBS)
Vegas (CBS)
Bones (FOX)
Fringe (FOX)
The Mob Doctor (FOX)
Broadcast, continued
Chicago Fire (NBC)
Grimm (NBC)
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (NBC)
Revolution (NBC)
Arrow (CW)
Beauty and the Beast (CW)
Nikita (CW)
The Vampire Diaries (CW)
Supernatural (CW)
The Walking Dead (AMC)
Copper (BBCA)
American Horror Story: Asylum (FX)
Sons of Anarchy (FX)
Haven (SYFY)
Major Crimes (TNT)
Premium Cable
Hunted (Cinemax)
Strike Back (Cinemax)
Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
Dexter (Showtime)
Homeland (Showtime)

What do we Count?

  1. We count the number of dead bodies appearing in the episode. A body is counted only once even if it appears in more than one scene.
  2. For each dead body we count, we note the gender (male/female) and the cause of death (shot, stabbed, etc.)
  3. We separately count the number of “undead” creatures such as vampires, zombies, werewolves, shape-shifters and any formerly living or human-like creatures. If you are not sure, count it and describe what it is.
  4. We do not count dead animals.
  5. We do not need to see the character die on screen. We are counting dead bodies that appear in the episode and noting their gender and cause of death.
  6. We do not need confirmation that a character is dead. If characters appear to be dead and we do not subsequently learn in the episode that they survived, we’ll assume they are dead.
  7. If a funeral is held for a dead character, we count it.
  8. We do not count dead bodies appearing in the opening recap of prior shows or in previews of the next episode.
Download a PDF of the Body Count Study Instructions
Get a copy of the Body Count Study Instructions here.


How should you Watch each Episode?

You can watch each episode in real time if you wish. Typically, that will be 60 minutes of viewing time. However, if you have recorded the episode or are watching online or on demand, you can fast-forward through it to reduce your viewing time. Just fast-forwarding through the commercials will significantly reduce your viewing time.

However, be careful that you do not miss anything. In most cases, the dead bodies are easy to spot and count. But it is not always clear – for example, a scene may show someone being shot and then taken to a hospital. In that case, you would need to find out if the character lived or died which would require watching real time until you find out. Keep in mind that we are not counting violent acts, just dead bodies that appear in the show.

In some instances, you’ll see violent acts but the show doesn’t specifically acknowledge whether or not the victim died. In those cases, you need to make a judgment call. If the victim appeared to be killed, then you should count it as a dead body. When in doubt, make a note of the instance and we will investigate further.

How do you Submit your Counts?

Body Counts are Submitted Via our Website
We have the form now accessible.
If you are a confirmed watcher and have questions or need to reset your password, Contact Study Coordinator


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