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A real treat...intelligent and highly entertaining!

  • Nov 3, 2005
  • by
Rating:
+5
Thank God for DVDs. We do not have cable in our household, and so we often hear about these great shows on HBO or basic cable, but don't get to see them when they first come out. DVD sets allow my wife and I a great chance to catch up, whether with terrific comedies (CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM, RENO 911) or dramas (SOPRANOS), or, in wonderful case of SIX FEET UNDER, a strange, nearly sublime combination of the two.

By sublime, I don't simply mean "good." Sublime implies something that creates a feeling of ease or relaxation. A good meal can be sublime. And the lovely gelling of the ridiculous and the ordinary, the laughable with the tragic, is what makes SIX FEET UNDER so good.

It's a treat to be able to watch the series essentially in a bunch. Although we don't have time for a marathon session (watching them all in one day, for example) we do manage one episode every couple of days. So the emerging story feels great.

Creator Alan Ball mixed similar comedic/tragic events in the terrific film AMERICAN BEAUTY. SIX FEET UNDER explores similar topics of family members at dis-ease with each other...locked into relationships that prevent the individual from persuing their dreams...which Ball would have us believe is the source of our follies and our unhappiness. We do silly, funny, wacky things do allow ourselves to have some "fun" or pursue a personal goal that might not mesh with what everyone else in our immediate social system wants. We also do foolhardy, dangerous and regrettable things for the same reasons. In the process, we bounce off those closest to us, sometimes harmoniously, sometimes destructively or hurtfully. What's great about SIX FEET UNDER is that the creators understand that these two conditions happen SIMULTANEOULSY. To the person they are happening to, it may not feel that way, but for a compassionate observer, the pain is leavened by humor...and the dark humor is shot through with anguish. GOOD STUFF.

The show is sharply written, and wonderfully cast. Peter Krause and Michael Hall as the two VERY different brothers are quite good. They don't have any problems showing their ugly or at least unattractive sides, but we are able to see the goodness beneath the squabbling. Frances Conroy is wonderfully insane as the mother. Richard Jenkins (deserving of Oscar nomination for NORTH COUNTRY) as the dead father is laconic, ironic, bitter and very funny. I think the best discovery may be Lauren Ambrose as the teenage sister. Ignored by the rest of her much older family, she may just be too smart for the room. Certainly, she's too smart for her school. A character like this (goofy clothing, unusual car [a green hearse!], smart-ass mouth) sounds quite clich├ęd...but in this young lady's hands, she makes it seem original and BELIEVABLE. We see that she's very smart and observant, but also, that she is a kid experiencing some pretty adult things for the first time...on her own.

I also love the theme music.

Very small downsides: we know this is a fractured family, but when they lose their father very suddenly, there should be more signs of grief, or at least mixed emotions. Instead, they mostly seem put off by the inconvenience. Even people who are estranged from their parents almost always muster up more emotion when faced with a sudden death. And yes, I know they're in the funeral business, but that's like saying a doctor can't get emotional over his/her own illness. Also, the key plot point of the "large funeral-home conglomerate" working so hard to drive them out of business is to me a bit cartoonish...an awkwardly concealed dig at Wal-Mart and its ilk. I don't mind the idea of competition from a big corporation...it's the Machiavellian machinations that don't quite fit. These are minor quibbles, though.

We both enjoy the show immensely. It's been said before, but because it's true, I'll say it again...there's nothing else quite like SIX FEET UNDER. I've only seen Season 1, but can't wait to dive into the second...and third...and fourth!!

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More Six Feet Under: The Complete F... reviews
review by . August 23, 2005
I fought watching this at first, as I, for my taste, cannot stand most of the shows which HBO produces. This was one of about four exceptions over the years. This series is quite well done. The acting is great, the story line is absolutely addicitive. Once I was hooked by this first season, I have anxiously awaited season after season. For a pretty much non-TV watcher, that is pretty good. I cannot go as far as some reviewers in stating that this is the absolute best show ever made, but it is good …
About the reviewer
I've got my own site, www.afilmcritic.com, on which I'm posting my reviews. I am 46 years old, married 25 years, two kids (23 & 18) and currently work in accounting/finance. I spent 15 years … more
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Wiki

The Fishers are your typical dysfunctional family. Ruth (Frances Conroy) is the stern matriarch who has trouble expressing emotion and snaps at the slightest problem. Daughter Claire (Lauren Ambrose) is an underachiever who cultivates a moody, mysterious loner image in high school (she's indulging in illegal substances too). Brother David (Michael C. Hall) works in the family business, and is uptight beyond belief (he's indulging in a secret homosexual relationship too). Elder brother Nate (Peter Krause) is the black sheep, who, eschewing responsibility, fled to Seattle but got lured back. And Dad (Richard Jenkins) watches it all bemusedly. Did we mention Dad's dead? Oh, and that the Fisher family business is a funeral home? It might sound off-putting, but coming from the mind of Alan Ball, the man who strip-mined suburban life to find the mordant wit underneath inAmerican Beauty,Six Feet Underis a trenchant, stylish spin on standard family dysfunction.

This HBO series initially aspired to fits of Twin Peaks-like whimsy, with each episode starting with a death more outlandish than the previous, but soon settled into a comfortable groove that harkened back to the most familiar of TV family dramas (in fact, it's almost a mirror image of '70s drama Family, down to the three sibling archetypes). Of course, its HBO roots allowed it ample leeway with sex, drug usage, profanity, and violence. While the writing strove to be a little too clever, the overall look and tone of the show ...

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Details

Genre: Television, Drama
Studio: HBO
DVD Release Date: February 4, 2003

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