When someone dies on your favorite show, you usually mourn them for a couple of episodes, then move on. It's just TV, after all.
But what about when a character death breathes new life into a show? Or, better yet, when they don't really die? Both of those things happened a lot in 2010 -- so often that we felt many folks were much more interesting in death than in life.
Kicking the bucket has never been more beneficial to viewers. Here's why:
The Walking Dead
At first, we weren't that put off or scared by the zombies on this new AMC hit. I mean, they were hard to look at, but all they did was shuffle around, so they seemed easy enough to outrun. Meh. But as the series continued to unfold and we saw the sheer number of zombies in the world, the situation got super intense -- especially when the living were faced with having to kill a loved one that had been zombified.
Don Draper's tough exterior was cracked
It was horribly sad when Mad Men's Don Draper lost Anna -- his best friend, and the only one at the time who knew all his secrets -- to cancer. But her death made things infinitely more fascinating, starting with the first moment Don saw Anna's spirit while in a drunken haze. Don suddenly felt truly alone in the world, and began anew. Don started being more open with his feelings, which resulted in improved relationships with his kids, as well as a weird quickie-marriage to his secretary. We're anxious to see how it all plays out next season, and whether his nuptials were a good idea, or just a way to try and fill the void Anna left.
Celebrities are not immune
Today's stars get all the perks: Free swag, big paychecks and the admiration of "regular folks." But the dead don't play favorites when it comes to haunting, according to the tales that are spun on the Biography channel's Celebrity Ghost Stories. Ghosts have visited Justine Bateman and Traci Lords, Daryl Hannah and Marilyn Manson. Heck, Maks Chmerkovskiy from Dancing With the Stars credits a ghost for returning him to dancing shape after a serious accident when he was a boy. Some tales are harmless, some are eerie and others made us change the channel so we wouldn't have nightmares. But it's never, ever dull.
Because fans say so
TV Guide just held its first fan favorite contest, and readers cast more than 5.5 million votes. The best show on TV according to fans? Supernatural, a drama about brothers that hunt demons and paranormal beings. It beat out the two other top contenders, Castle and How I Met Your Mother. Of course, it probably doesn't hurt that the ghost-hunting bros, Sam and Dean Winchester, are preeeeeetty hot.
They know the meaning of teamwork
From the contestants on Survivor to the workers on The Office, people who need to work well together often don't. But the same can't be always said for the dead folks. Zombies have one goal: To feast on human flesh. And while they can't move quickly, they know to surround and intimidate like nobody's business. Vampires on True Blood and The Vampire Diaries often bicker amongst each other, but when it comes to teaming up against werewolves, humans or other adversaries, they are always on the same cold, pale team.
They put people in their place
You can always count on the departed s to give you their real opinion, because, hey, what do they have to lose? You might get mad at them? That's really the least of their problems. We most enjoy this trait on the Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures. The main investigator, meathead and fauxhawk-wearing Zak Bagans, is one of the biggest tools on TV. Ever. So when he provokes spirits by spewing insults or hurtful remarks that you'd never say to the living, we always chuckle when they tell him to "get out" -- or better yet, make him scream like a little girl. Nothing like seeing a macho man scurry into a corner.
You can depend on them to stick around
On regular TV shows, people are fragile. A car crash, a tumble down the stairs, a drug overdose -- all of these things can take out mortals instantly. But getting rid of the undead requires much more effort and skill. Killing a zombie requires sharp-shooting skills, or the stomach to beat them over the head until their brains spill out. Offing a vampire is even harder because they move so quickly. So unless you can stab them with a wooden stake while they're sleeping, or chain them up out in the sun, you're going to lose the battle.
Everyone needs a spiritual guide
While there are hundreds of people who have died on Dexter (including his own wife) one has been extremely influential for the serial killer, especially during the most recent season. Dexter's deceased dad, who still advises him on how to properly channel his violent tendencies, has never been more important to the serial killer. As a new single father, Dexter needs a spiritual guide now more than ever -- even if the guide does condone his extracurricular activities.
Russell Edington could set vampires back 1000 years
One of TV's best new characters this year was True Blood's complex Russell Edington. In the TB world, vamps and humans co-exist mostly peacefully. But at the conclusion of the last season, Edington pretty much guaranteed the pleasantless would end, after he brutally killed a news anchor on live television, then used the platform to threaten, well, everyone. Mississippi's vampire king is passionate and evil, a gentleman and manipulative, a southern charmer and the scariest person you've ever met. A delightful, shrewd villian.
Fashion is still important
OK, so The Walking Dead are gross to look at. But vampires take their appearances pretty seriously. True Blood's Pam has a vast shoe collection -- and why not? It probably doesn't hurt to wear stilettos 24/7 when you're dead. TB's Eric Northman foils highlights into his hair, and whether The Vampire Diaries' Damon is wearing his signature leather jacket, or a tousled scarf with a zip-up jacket, he's always looking like a 20-something sexpot. Aside from Bill Compton, you won't find any bloodsuckers on What Not to Wear anytime soon.