Why TV is suddenly nuts about death -- We examine recent killings on ''Las Vegas,'' ''Desperate Housewives,'' and others

By Tim Stack and Jennifer Armstrong
December 02, 2005 at 05:00 AM EST

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to mourn what appears to be the loss of yet another TV character: George (Roger Bart), Desperate Housewives‘ murderous pharmacist. We should also mention the recent passings of Monica (Lara Flynn Boyle) on Las Vegas and Shannon (Maggie Grace) on Lost, plus the seemingly dead Abruzzi (Peter Stormare) on Prison Break and Vaughn (Michael Vartan) on Alias.

Why the rampant loss of life? Ratings (of course), buzz, and the chance to embark on a new creative direction. ”Usually you see somebody in the main titles and you think, ‘They’re not going to die.’ That’s not the case anymore,” says Smallville co-creator Al Gough, who is offing a ”big” character on the show’s 100th episode in January. TV’s body count will grow this spring when Everwood creator Greg Berlanti co-writes the swan song for a main cast member. ”It’s hard for character-driven shows to stand out, so this is one way to do that,” he says. On the bright side, it gives ghost whisperer Jennifer Love Hewitt a slew of new people to communicate with.