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The Epic Masterpiece of Modern Times (and Televsion)
on November 10, 2009
Six Feet Under is, I feel, the War and Peace of our time. It is an epic masterpiece, exploring our vulnerable relationships to sex and death. The characters are flawed, human, struggling, striving with their innate humanity and confusion in a mundane world of repression and desire. Being 'six feet under' does not not necessarily refer to working in a Funeral Home, which the Fisher family certainly does but being 'under' the surface, the complexity of longing and being alone in one's self.
The story revolves around the funeral home of Fisher and Sons in Southern California. David Fisher (still in the closet around his close family) runs the funeral home after a tragic family accident. Ruth, his mother is our traditional matriarch. She is soft-spoken, kind-hearted but not quite at ease in the changing world around her. Nate is the prodigal son and becomes the reluctant family partner, helping David run the family business. Clare is finishing high school, dealing with all the angst and apprehension of adolescence and coming adulthood.
Surrounding these main characters are Brenda, Nate's love interest and Keith, David's lover. Both have been scarred by their childhoods but manage to offer support and sometimes clarity to their mates.
Last but not least is Frederico, the restorative artist employed by the Fishers whose life is linked to the family by the goodness of Nathanial Fisher, the former patriarch.
As the show evolves from the first episode, the viewer is aware that this is more than just a television program. It is a prolonged meditation of death. Each episode provides us with a momento mori (a souvenir of death) in which the show opens with a death that will either be consequential, opening up stories or provide background to the episode. There are numerous ways to die but how do these deaths affect the men and women who must face it everyday and run a business by it?
Alan Ball, writer of American Beauty, notes in the documentary about the making of Six Feet Under that he wanted to create a show that was honest about the lives of funeral directors. There are like heroes, he comments. In a society in which death is behind closed doors, where grief is done in private, the show was meant to open up a conversation about our mortality. We can go at any time - how do we live our lives?
Six Feet Under is a masterpiece of television production. It is filmed with cinematic beauty, the stories evolve with complexity and humanity and with the use of magical realism, intertwining fantasy and reality. The characters face death and sex in their own lives. There is the threat of death in terms of a corporate take-over and death in relationships. It is also a mirror of American society, taking on subjects not for the faint of heart.
But the show wouldn't be anything without its humor. There is always a balance between the macabre and the funny aspects of the mundane. The humor can be dark but what can you expect from a series that focuses on the lives of undertakers?
A must see for anyone that is tired of the same old television. This show breaks through and leaves an incredible impression on one's psyche and soul.