Six Feet Under (Season 1)
Wow… where to begin? I guess in my mind, S6ix Feet
Under does for TV drama what The Marriage of Figaro does for
opera. And by that, I mainly mean it takes all the best elements of the
medium and genre, combines them artfully and diligently, strains out the
crap and delivers gem after gem of gripping entertainment that is
enjoyable both to the novice and the connoisseur because it is quality
from top to bottom and back to front. Just as Mozart’s mentioned opera,
though four hours long, has no extra bits that sag with tedium, so too
each 55 minute instalment of Alan Ball’s (American Beauty)
visionary creation had me totally enthralled.
I had only ever glimpsed snippets of the show late at
night. Channel Nine had relegated it to the graveyard shift. I
recognised Rachel Griffiths (who plays Brenda) but that’s about all I
remembered. I knew they ran some sort of funeral home…
So what is the marvellous show about? The Fisher
family run an independent funeral home in Los Angeles. The pilot episode
shows the patriarch surrendering to delicious irony. His two sons (one
of the prodigal kind) end up inheriting the company and proceed with the
business. It takes the whole season for the two brothers, their sister
and their widowed mother to come to terms with the loss of a man who was
connected to them all.
Each episode focuses on one main death, and aptly
opens with a scene depicting how the person died. Were this a crime
show, we’d have police swarming the body. Six Feet Under shows up
what happens to the body after death but prior to burial. One important
step is the preparation for viewing, where cosmetic reconstruction is de
The kooky and quirky family, so used to the most
frightening thing most of us preoccupy ourselves have space to enjoy
life in a way we spend a lifetime learning. There is a genuine love for
each of the characters pretty much from the beginning and this is only
strengthened. There is a strong team of writers and directors that
varies from episode to episode, but it is such a nice touch that creator
Alan Ball gets the two ‘book ends’.
There is a genuine humanity to the show that engulfs
the devoted viewer. It is visceral, urban and contemporary. It is how we
are and who we are without the usual pretensions—because once we’re
gone, our socially constructed persona dies too. The very fact so much
effort goes into the ceremony and the perfection of the body lying in
state proves that it is purely for the sake of the survivors that these
rituals and conventions persist. Realising this point allows you to sit
back and giggle along with these characters, who very quickly move from
detached weirdoes to fragments of our very selves.
On top of all that, it has many bonus features
including a behind the scenes featurette, commentaries on selected
episodes and even DVD ROM extras!
I’d better stop ranting about how much I love this.
Definitely a must buy for anyone who’s seen it before or who is sick of
condescension from TV makers.