Heaven and hell are pretty difficult to capture on film. Perhaps that's why current dramatists prefer purgatory. No major faith ever imagined an afterlife quite as peculiar and mundane as the antics on the cable drama "Dead Like Me" (9 p.m. Sunday, Showtime), now entering its sophomore season. As we learned last year, George (Ellen Muth) is a teenager who died in a ball of flames when a piece of space debris fell from the sky. She was bickering with her parents at the time, and still has "issues."
George quickly discovers that she must spend an indeterminate period as a reaper, or collector of souls. The job isn't as dramatic, glorious or glamorous as it sounds. And just to make matters worse, reapers have to earn their own keep by taking odd jobs. George works as a temp. Her colleague Roxy (Jasmine Guy, in a fun change-of-pace role) works as a meter maid.
Mandy Patinkin plays the head reaper with a worldly attitude that indicates he's been around for ages.
"Dead" may be too flippant for some tastes. As macabre fantasy comedies go, "Dead" is probably closer to "Topper" than "Six Feet Under" (8 p.m. Sunday, HBO), and some viewers may like that just fine.
- What would summer cable programming be without Shark Week? The Discovery Channel has been celebrating the jagged-toothed killers for the past 17 years. This year, the underwater action kicks off with "Primal Scream" (7 p.m. Sunday), an hourlong documentary about underwater photographer Valerie De La Valdene's too-close encounter with a swarm of sharks. "Tiger Shark Attack: Beyond Fear" (8 p.m.) follows.
- Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson star in the 2000 supernatural thriller "Unbreakable" (7 p.m., ABC), directed by M. Night Shyamalan.
- On back-to-back "Without a Trace" (CBS), bureau intrigue (8 p.m.), a violinist vanishes (9 p.m.).
Sunday's other highlights
- Scheduled on "60 Minutes" (6 p.m., CBS): Nevada's nuclear woes; maverick marketing; surfing 7-story waves.
- Cooper receives national recognition on "The Days" (9 p.m., ABC).