Philosophising about the 'S'-word: Watch… and learn
Six Feet Under is an American drama television series created and produced by Alan Ball. It premiered on the premium cable network HBO in the United States on June 3, 2001 and ended on August 21, 2005, spanning five seasons and 63 episodes. The show was produced by Actual Size Films and The Greenblatt/Janollari Studio and was shot on location in Los Angeles and in Hollywood studios. The show depicts members of the Fisher family, who run their funeral home in Los Angeles, and their friends and lovers.
The show stars Peter Krause (Dirty Sexy Money) as Nathaniel Samuel “Nate” Fisher, Jr., whose funeral director father (Richard Jenkins) dies and bequeaths to him and his brother David (Michael C. Hall, Dexter) co-ownership of the family funeral business. The Fisher clan also includes widow Ruth (Frances Conroy, American Horror Story, United States of Tara, How I Met Your Mother, Scooby-Doo!, Royal Pains) and daughter Claire (Lauren Ambrose). Other regulars include mortician and family friend Federico Diaz (Freddy Rodriguez, Ugly Betty), Nate’s on-again/off-again girlfriend Brenda Chenowith (Rachel Griffiths, Brothers & Sisters), and David’s long-term boyfriend Keith Charles (Mathew St. Patrick, All My Children).
On one level, the show is a conventional family drama, dealing with such issues as interpersonal relationships, infidelity, and religion. At the same time, the show is distinguished by its unblinking focus on the topic of death, which it explores on multiple levels (personal, religious, and philosophical). Each episode begins with a death – anything from drowning or heart attack to sudden infant death syndrome – and that death usually sets the tone for each episode, allowing the characters to reflect on their current fortunes and misfortunes in a way that is illuminated by the death and its aftermath. The show also has a strong dosage of dark humor and surrealism running throughout.
Six Feet Under received widespread critical acclaim, particularly for its writing and acting, and consistently drew high ratings for the HBO network. The series has since been included on Time magazine’s “All-TIME 100 TV Shows”, as well as Empire magazine’s “50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time” list. It has also been described as having one of the finest series finales in the history of television. It won numerous awards, including nine Emmy Awards, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, three Golden Globe Awards, and a Peabody Award.