“I think anyone that wants to make films or TV shows should have to watch this show. It’ll just blow your mind.”
A lot of great films and shows have some amazing characters that are really well developed, but I don’t know if I’ve ever felt so connected to any characters before I watched Six Feet Under. My best friend’s Mom, aka my second Mom, insisted I watch the show so passionately that I felt like I owed it to her to actually watch it. It took me a few episodes to get into it as a lot of shows do, BUT HOLY MOLY IT’S ONE OF THE BEST THINGS I’VE EVER SEEN.
It’s five seasons of dark comedy, theatrics, mental health and social issues, spiritual and self-exploration, emotional struggles, and psychological fuckery. Six Feet Under follows the lives of the Fisher family after the death of husband and father, Nathaniel Fisher. The two sons, Nate and David, are left to run the family funeral home business, along with their very talented embalmer, Federico. Claire, the significantly younger sister, is still in high school and living at home/above the funeral home with their mother Ruth. The series begins with Nate entering a complicated relationship with a very complicated woman named Brenda, David struggling to come out as gay to his friends and family despite his partner, Keith’s support, and Ruth and Claire both trying to figure out who they are in this stage of their lives.
It’ll make you cringe, laugh, cry, swear at your screen, question your own life decisions, and stay up way too late for your 6AM shift the next morning. I could go on all day about what I love about this series, but I’ll choose just three things.
The writing: This show should be used as an example of how to write complex characters and realistic dialog and action – cue applause for creator Alan Ball. Every single character you see in the show (even the extras that are on screen for just a few minutes) feel so real they could be the person standing next to you in line at the grocery store. Even more real because you actually are interested in learning about them. You feel the history of each person even if no words are put to it, and their behaviors reflect their psychologies very thoughtfully and accurately. The plot weaves their lives and experiences together as if this is actually just a really well produced reality show. And you know how sometimes in a show they’ll introduce some new thing in one episode, and then the lesson or pay-off of that thing is in the next episode? No need to worry about that here!
The performances: WOWZA. Hats off to the casting directors because they NAILED it. The actors do a magnificent job of bringing the complexity of the characters to life. You can just feel them giving everything they have to these roles. Frances Conroy captures the compassion and pain and innocence of Ruth, and knows how to make you hate her just right. Lauren Ambrose evolves so well with her character as she matures throughout the show it makes you wonder if that’s not just her actual life experiences. Michael C Hall (star of Dexter) is probably the master of body language, and delivers a top-notch performance as David Fisher every single episode. Peter Krause somehow reaches through the TV screen and makes you feel every emotion Nate’s feeling, and strangely enough makes you reflect on your own life A LOT.
The material: It’s just a show about a family… a family that goes through a hell of a lot. Six Feet Under addresses so many issues I lost track after the first season. They throw a lot at you, but it’s never too much, and just adds to the dynamic of the characters and their (our) understanding of the world we live in. There are certainly moral messages that come across, but always in a “this is something you should think about,” kind of way, never just trying to tell you that’s how things should be.
As far as giving this a score goes… every time I try to think about something I didn’t like about it I just keep coming back to scenes where I couldn’t stand how Ruth was acting or I felt super awkward for a character, and so on. It’s so clever, so raw, and so… I don’t know… worthy of a 10? Yeah, I’ll venture out and give Six Feet Under a 10/10.