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Six Feet Under? More Like Dick's Meat Blunder! - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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November 5th, 2007

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06:12 am - Six Feet Under? More Like Dick's Meat Blunder!
I was never very interested in Six Feet Under when it was on, as it didn't seem to appeal to me at all (some show about a family who owns a funeral home? O...kay, good for them). About the only thing it had going for it as far as I knew was that it was created by Alan Ball, and I had loved American Beauty. Over the years, several things happened that made me finally decide to check it out:

  • I watched Oz, which showed me how amazing premium channel television was.
  • I watched Sports Night and loved Peter Krause.
  • I watched Dexter and loved Michael C. Hall.
  • I saw Grindhouse and loved Freddy Rodriguez.
  • I kept seeing soleta_nf use this icon and thought Lauren Ambrose was hot.
  • hobviously informed me the show employed magical realism with characters talking to dead people and stuff.
  • People said the last five minutes of the series finale, set to "Breathe Me" by Sia, was amazing.
  • electricmonk would not shut up about wanting me to watch the show.

I love the opening credits (sometimes, I swear I felt like I loved the credits more than the show itself). It's a series of haunting images set to a theme that I feel perfectly encompasses the tone of the show. Strong, punctuated moments in the stream of life, with some quirky banjo breaks. It reminds me of the Dexter credits.

Six Feet Under is about the Fisher family, who operate Fisher and Sons, a funeral home. The catalytic, series-starting event is the death of Nathaniel Fisher, Sr. That's pretty much it. This isn't a show about plot but about character. And, to be honest, I didn't like most of the characters at first (besides David and Rico). I grew to like them all to some extent, however.

Nate Fisher is the prodigal son who escaped to Seattle to work a food co-op, swearing he'd never become a funeral director. He's coming home to L.A. for Christmas and ends up staying after his father's death (obviously). Nate is perhaps the most maddening character of all because he can be a narcissistic asshole without trying very hard, but he can also be a very sympathetic man who is clearly trying to do the best he can.

David Fisher is the secretly gay son who has embraced his role as funeral director. He's pretty uptight and proper about things, and we rarely see him not wearing a suit. Except when he's taking his clothes off to fuck some random guy (I found David's sluttiness really irritating because he's such a control freak you'd think he'd be able to keep it in his pants once in a while). He's my favorite character, and I don't think the fact that Michael C. Hall is completely awesome has nothing to do with it. David Fisher and Dexter Morgan are very different characters, and he plays them both so well.

Ruth Fisher is the mother who becomes somewhat unhinged by her husband's death. At first, Ruth annoyed me a lot, but I was surprised by how much I ended up liking her. Ruth Fisher is something you don't often see on television: a well developed female character in her fifties. What I love about Ruth is that she is a mother, a wife, and a sister, but she's also a person. We are more than just our family roles. I like that she begins to question what she wants in life, what she wants to do with the time she has on this planet.

Claire Fisher is the rebellious teenage daughter trying out drugs and bad boyfriends. As the youngest Fisher, she has sort of a devil-may-care attitude about the whole enterprise, but we get to watch her mature and find her direction in life.

Rico Diaz works at Fisher and Sons as a restorative artist trained by Nathaniel Sr. He's generally pretty adorable, but he is very adamant about wanting more respect from the Fishers; he really wants to be a partner in the business. As the series progresses, we get to see more of his family life.

Keith Charles is David's boyfriend, a cop. He sincerely loves David, but the two of them don't see eye-to-eye on several issues, which leads to many an argument. I think the show is probably notable in its portrayal of gay characters and gay relationships, since they're a major part of the show and given just as much weight and importance as heterosexual relationships.

Brenda Chenowith is a woman Nate meets on the plane from Seattle and then fucks in the closet (hey, this is HBO!). She's there for Nate when he finds out his father's dead, and they begin a relationship. Brenda is one very fucked-up woman, but unraveling her mysteries is the focus of the early episodes, so I will say no more.

The show has three trademarks: every episode begins with an often-gruesome death, there are fades to white instead of black, and characters both talk to dead people and have very active imaginations that manifest onscreen. Surprisingly enough, only the first two really work to their full potential (not that the fades have a lot of potential; they're just different). The deaths range from creative to mundane, and their importance in the plot varies. Sometimes, the intake is a major focus; sometimes, the victim is barely mentioned offhand. Most of the time, the deaths are just random people, but occasionally, people the characters know are offed in the teaser as well. It's a fun device, and it's fun to see the different ways the writers use it.

The magical realism aspect of the show, however, doesn't always seem to work. While it's something that distinguishes the show from other dramas, it doesn't often add a lot. I usually didn't feel like we learned anything new by having someone talk to the Dead Person of the Week (now, Nathaniel Sr. was generally better at drawing insight out of the characters, of course). And characters frequently had Ally McBeal-style fantasy sequences or weird-ass hypothetical conversations that would abruptly cut back to reality, leaving you half-confused about what was actually said. The way it's all shot makes it seem like the characters often talk out loud to these specters, which just makes them all seem like nutjobs. And, granted, most of them are really repressed, and the fantasies of Things I Wish I Could Say But Won't are a manifestation of that, but it can often be confusing because you're always afraid something that's happening could prove to be just a fantasy. I didn't mind it all the time, but I don't know how successful a device it really was.

Another successful device? GUEST STARS! Oh man. I guess everyone wants to be on a critically acclaimed HBO show, right? I loved recognizing so many of the guest stars, some who were only around for one or two episodes, others who had bigger roles. Some I didn't even recognize until I saw the credits. I thought about naming some, but it's more fun to be surprised and on your toes.

Six Feet Under is a show about life and death, OBVIOUSLY, but those themes sort of work their ways in tangentially, simply by the nature of the stories being told. To me, the show was really about relationships of all kinds, the way that people relate to each other. The ways we hurt and help each other, the ways we connect with other human beings and enrich their lives. How we fit together and don't fit together. And along with that, it's about the fact that it's never too early or too late to find out Who You Are. It's about defining yourself first so that you can define yourself in relation to others. And, of course, it's about family.

What I love about Six Feet Under is that it truly is one long story told over five seasons. We follow these characters' lives for years, watching them grow and regress and fuck up and make mistakes and be nice and be stupid. Nearly every character went through a phase where I wasn't too fond of them, but they got their shit together and won me back by the end. (Some of the secondary characters I never really liked, but they were important to the story.) You feel like they're real people you know because you watch them go through so much. And in the last five minutes of the finale, when you have to let them go, I cried. People hadn't been exaggerating. It was an amazing, beautiful end to the series.
Current Mood: groggygroggy
Current Music: Sia - Breathe Me

(36 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")


[User Picture]
Date:November 5th, 2007 02:27 pm (UTC)
How long did it take you to watch the entire series? I agree with you about almost every assessment you made, except that overall the magical realism elements worked for me most of the time.

Man, that finale was stunning and brutal and, yes, perfect.

Hope you're healing well!

[User Picture]
Date:November 5th, 2007 02:37 pm (UTC)
How long did it take you to watch the entire series?
About two weeks.
[User Picture]
Date:November 5th, 2007 02:27 pm (UTC)
Now I have a desire to watch some of S1 again. Thanks, Sunil.

I missed parts of S3 to S5 when I was in college, but despite the subject, this show managed to get my entire family to sit down and watch.

There was something about all of the characters that never really made me love any of them, but they all had moments when I really liked each of their fucked up situations.
[User Picture]
Date:November 5th, 2007 02:57 pm (UTC)
You feel like they're real people you know because you watch them go through so much.

Exactly! Of all the movies and TV shows I have seen and all the books I have read, the Six Feet Under characters remain the most real to me.

I also loved the finale. I have watched it three times and it still makes me cry.
[User Picture]
Date:November 5th, 2007 03:03 pm (UTC)
Of all the movies and TV shows I have seen and all the books I have read, the Six Feet Under characters remain the most real to me.
I think because there's so much focus on the minutiae of everyday life. They're just regular people living their regular lives, fighting about stupid things like we all do. We get to see a lot of different sides of them as they get put in different situations.
[User Picture]
Date:November 5th, 2007 03:24 pm (UTC)
Like you, I was never excited by the premise.

You almost convinced me to watch. Almost. It sounds good.

However, five seasons is A LOT. Maybe if this writer's strike goes too long and we're all desperate for new shows?
[User Picture]
Date:November 5th, 2007 03:45 pm (UTC)
Five seasons, but only twelve or thirteen episodes a season! It's not that much! And it is good. I'm glad I was almost convincing. The acting is uniformly excellent, and the characters are complicated and interesting. Don't watch with the boys around, though! ("Mom, what does 'Fuck me harder' mean?")

I was actually just thinking that if the writers' strike goes on really long and everything gets into reruns, I would make a post linking to all my pimping posts so people had something to watch.
[User Picture]
Date:November 5th, 2007 04:30 pm (UTC)
I watched the first season as it aired, and was completely enthralled (this was back when the whole HBO TV concept was still new, and only the Sopranos and SatC were around). Then I went back to college, didn't have Tivo, and never got to see the next four seasons. I've been kind of curious about it since then, though, especially because I love all the actors and a bunch of actors I also love have guest-starred, but I did hear it had some serious low points. Maybe once I catch up on some other shows I will try it again.
[User Picture]
Date:November 5th, 2007 04:57 pm (UTC)
I don't know how serious the low points are, but there were definitely storylines I wasn't happy with, and at times, it gets really depressing, but I think you should give it a try if you loved the first season and the actors.

You know, it's funny. I mention Oz up there as showing me how amazing premium channel television could be, but I watched Sex and the City before that. Heh. I liked it, but I guess it wasn't as impressive.
[User Picture]
Date:November 5th, 2007 04:47 pm (UTC)
I was like you on the characters. There were many times when I didn't like a single one of them, but their flaws fleshed them out so perfectly and they would still have me rooting for them. I don't think this show wanted you to like them much of the time, and I find it brilliant to have messed up characters that you can love, hate, want gone, hold onto and cry for all over the space of a few seasons. These people invoked all these things all at once. The finale made my heart ache and from beginning to end, the thing that touched me most was the up and down yet always strong relationship between the two brothers.
[User Picture]
Date:November 5th, 2007 06:24 pm (UTC)
I lost interest around season 3, but caught the finale and then had to go back and watch everything I'd missed, because DAMN. Finales should always be that good.

If you like Lauren Ambrose, you have to check out Psycho Beach Party. It's a murder mystery revolving around a Gidget-esque character with some highly amusing multiple personalities.

[User Picture]
Date:November 5th, 2007 06:28 pm (UTC)
That sounds amusing! I'll look into it.
Date:November 5th, 2007 09:55 pm (UTC)
Nearly every character went through a phase where I wasn't too fond of them, but they got their shit together and won me back by the end.

I think this is really what kept me from getting into the show. I liked the concept and the acting, but eventually it got to the point where I hated too many of the main characters (Nate especially) that I wasn't willing to stick around long enough for them to redeem themselves.
[User Picture]
Date:November 5th, 2007 10:41 pm (UTC)
Even David? I think David was my rock. I was annoyed with him at times, but I always loved him. And even when I knew Nate was being a dick, I couldn't outright hate him most of the time because of Peter Krause. There's something about him.

In any case, it's worth another try, if only for the ending, which is just perfect for the series.
[User Picture]
Date:November 5th, 2007 10:02 pm (UTC)
Hooray! Now I'll have to think of something else to bug you about. I'd say early Grey's Anatomy, but it's gotten so bad now that my heart wouldn't be in it.

David was also my favorite, ultimately. I loved him and Keith a lot. And the magical realism brought us Claire's pantyhose song, so I can't complain.

I'd heard so much about how powerful the finale was (like in an essay by my T.A. I had a huge crush on) that I was entirely prepared to be underwhelmed. But... yeah, I bawled. The show's so well-written and well-directed and watching it all at once had me so immersed in that world that it was hard to let it go. That doesn't happen to me too often anymore.

[User Picture]
Date:November 5th, 2007 10:37 pm (UTC)
I'd say early Grey's Anatomy, but it's gotten so bad now that my heart wouldn't be in it.
Yeah, I think I'll pass.

David was also my favorite, ultimately.

I loved him and Keith a lot.
There were times when I was afraid they would be apart forever and then I checked to see that Mathew St. Charles was still a regular. Same with Rachel Griffiths and the Nate/Brenda situation.

And the magical realism brought us Claire's pantyhose song, so I can't complain.
Hee. That was awesome. It did have its moments, for sure.

(like in an essay by my T.A. I had a huge crush on)
Ooh. I liked that. I wonder about that question myself, although I'm not enjoying Dexter less week-by-week instead of all in one day. But it would be a different experience. I was spoiled about the death and the mind-blowing montage, too (but the death still surprised me, because I thought it happened in the finale). It's interesting to read some of those articles, what people were saying about the show when it aired. I'm glad some of my assessments match up with theirs.

I was entirely prepared to be underwhelmed. But... yeah, I bawled.
Mmhmm. About a minute in, I started tearing up, and I was all, "No, don't do this!" And then more tears started falling down my face; I just couldn't help myself anymore. I just let it happen.

The show's so well-written and well-directed and watching it all at once had me so immersed in that world that it was hard to let it go. That doesn't happen to me too often anymore.
And well acted! And it wasn't so much the letting go but that the end is so fucking hopeful. After all the shit the characters go through over five seasons, it was such a lovely, beautiful note to end on. And I love what this guy says about the way the flash-forwards make concrete the stories of the characters after the show ends, makes them real people with real lives, not just stuck in a limbo the last time we saw them. And then it does become about letting go because even though it ends with a new beginning, we feel the finality of the story, of all the characters' stories. It seems like such a simple, pedestrian idea, honestly, but it was the perfect ending for the series, with the gravestone cards and all.
Date:November 5th, 2007 11:38 pm (UTC)
I've still never seen the finale!

Someday I'll marathon the series all the way through, though. S1 is like my favourite season of TV ever (or, up there with Office S2 and Dexter S1 and Buffy S3 and Avatar S2...).
[User Picture]
Date:November 5th, 2007 11:45 pm (UTC)
Really? I didn't know that! Why do you love it so much? I find it hard to compartmentalize seasons since everything all sort of runs together, but, yes, good show. I want you to marathon the series so you can experience the beauty of the finale, but I also imagine you might be unhappy with later seasons (most everyone I talked to thought the first two seasons were the best), especially since Nate becomes harder to like. And, yes, there were storylines and characters in later seasons I wasn't fond of, but I think that was true of the first two seasons, too. That's just the way the show was. It wasn't trying to make you like it. Things just happened, and the characters lived their lives. Life is like that, up and down. But, someday!
[User Picture]
Date:November 6th, 2007 06:04 am (UTC)
I TOLD YOU. I just read the parts where you admitted I was right, I'll have to read the rest later.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
Date:November 6th, 2007 04:05 pm (UTC)
He was great! His character was even weirder than Dwight. I squealed when I first heard his voice.
[User Picture]
Date:November 7th, 2007 01:53 am (UTC)
I just saw this post of yours! I was a HUGE fan of 6 Feet Under's first, oh, 2 1/2 seasons + the last 5 minutes of the finale. So it's interesting to me that you say David is your favorite character. When I was watching 6FU during it's original run, I hated David. He was absolutely my least favorite character, (until Lisa came along), for so much of the series. So much so, it affected my opinion of Michael C. Hall - who I'd never seen in anything before. Over the years, watching him play David, I'd come to the conclusion that he wasn't that great of an actor and that he was just basically playing himself as a gay man (this based on interviews I'd seen of him and stupid assumptions, basically). I just was never impressed by him as an actor. So when I first heard about Dexter, I was dubious. But I tuned in out of loyalty to a 6FU alum, like I do for so many of them. Then of course, I was blown away by Dexter. And as it goes on, I'm just absolutely AMAZED at how frickin' fantastic Michael C. Hall really is! When I first started pimping Dexter, I'd even mention how very very different Dex is from David and how I find that astonishing. Anyway, 6FU was a great show and I miss it sometimes. The last 6 minutes of the finale are on YouTube - so I watched it again, and I STILL cry. I think it was the perfect ending for that show.

My favorite character on 6FU was Brenda. Absolutely. She was so frickin' great to watch, I thought.

[User Picture]
Date:November 7th, 2007 02:07 am (UTC)
who I'd never seen in anything before.
He'd never been anything before! Isn't that nuts? What a debut.

I haven't seen interviews with him, so I don't know how he really is and whether David is close to his personality. But he was one of the few characters who was never deliberately an asshole. Like Keith said, he was always concerned with making sure everyone was happy.

Brenda was great to watch, definitely. I liked that she got her shit together in the last couple seasons.

It's funny about Lisa. There's a link up there that I followed to a blog post that calls her the great villain of season three. And, while I was watching, yes, I was so fucking annoyed by her, but I wasn't sure whether we were supposed to be! That's the thing about the show; it didn't really judge. It laid out the people as they were, and it didn't specifically point fingers at anyone, so if you wanted to think Lisa was right and a good, perfectly decent person (and she was, in some ways), you could.
[User Picture]
Date:September 17th, 2008 03:24 pm (UTC)
The guest stars on this show were spectacular. I was constantly playing "Hey it's That Guy/Lady!"

And, yeah, you have to let the Fishers go at the end there. That's hard to do.

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