Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Six Feet Under-An Appreciation

I don't like death. I know it's inevitable and that everything that lives will one day die, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. I don't like funerals. I've been to too many in my life and I'll have to go to more before I'm done. I went to my sister Linda's funeral when I was 8, my mom's funeral when I was 10, my dad's memorial service when I was 17, and I had to arrange my sister Sandy's funeral 7 years ago. I hate the smell of most floral arrangements because they remind me of funeral homes, funerals, and dead bodies. I hate the smell of embalmed bodies and the way people who've been embalmed look.

So, then, why the fuck do I love a TV show about a family that runs a funeral home?
My first run in with this show was back when I was still selling tools, supplies, and equipment for wheel and under car and truck service. I was out of town one or two nights a week every week and the motels I'd stay in usually had HBO and one night I caught part of an episode of Six Feet Under and I hated it. I remember thinking, "Who the fuck had the bright idea to make a show about a funeral home?" I quickly turned the channel and never regretted it.

Flash forward to a few weeks ago when I was in Big Lots. I was perusing their selection of discounted DVDs and I spotted some big multi packs of DVDs. I checked them out and there in bundles were seasons 1 through 4 of Six Feet Under for six bucks each. In the years between when I had seen part of the episode of Six Feet and now I had read good things about the show and how passionate fans of it were. So I decided to give it a try and I bought season one.

Sparky and I watched the first few episodes of the show that night, it turned out the DVDs were from a former Hollywood Video store, and we were hooked. The show was well written, well acted, and addictive. We decided that night that we'd go back the next day to see if they had any of the other seasons left. And lo and behold they had season 2 in stock for six bucks when we went back the next day. We watched two and three episodes a night and we quickly burned through those first two seasons. Season 3 we bought from a local corporate bookstore for $20 some bucks. Season 5 we bought from the big used book and DVD superstore in Knoxville on our way back from Nashville a week or so ago but we couldn't watch it until we had season 4, which we had to order from the website of the local corporate bookstore. The we went on a binge and watch we watched them all in sequence.

While the show is about a fucked up family who runs a funeral home, it's really about so much more. It's about life, death, sex, mental health, family, drugs, drink, homophobia, tolerance, blacks, Hispanics, whites, aging, sexual and cultural mores of gays, blacks, whites, Hispanics, and much more.

The reason I loved this show so much is the characters. They are real 3 dimensional people. No one is a stereotype or a stock TV show character. The Hispanic characters are just as deep and interesting as the white ones. The gays aren't limp wristed screaming pansies and neither are they put upon liberal idealized versions of what someone thinks gays are. The best thing about all the characters is they are real. They're shown in depth, warts and all. We go through their highs and their lows with them. They all face trials and have triumphs and it's all very real and at times, it's all very surreal, especially when the dead people interact with the living.

Another thing I love about this show is that it didn't always do what you expect. People died when you didn't expect them to, they didn't always do the 'right thing,' and they didn't always learn from their mistakes. So in that regard the show was kind of like life itself, it was messy, dramatic, funny, challenging, and always interesting.

My favorite character in the show as Ruth, the matriarch of the Fisher clan. She went through so many changes and had so much to deal with it was almost exhausting. She was played superbly by Frances Conroy. I also loved Rico and Vanessa, Claire, Maya, George, Nate, David, Keith, Sarah, Lisa, Maggie, Ruth's other suitors, and Nathaniel Fisher (played to perfection by Richard Jenkins).

The Chenowith family characters became my least favorites as the series wore on. I love Rachel Griffiths and Johanna Cassidy but their characters in this show were so self absorbed and narcissistic that they grated on me, especially in the last season. I really hated the character of Russell, Claire's art school boyfriend, I wanted to punch his mopey face before I ran him off. All in all though, I willingly put up with these characters because the others were so good.

I can't recommend this show highly enough. My only regret is I didn't buy the first four seasons for six bucks apiece when I first had the chance that day in Big Lots. I don't regret spending the time or the money to get and watch all of them because I know that Sparky and I will watch them all over again, and when we do, we'll appreciate new things about the series and we'll notice stuff we missed the first time around.


Bill Morgan said...

Glad you loved it. What did you think of the final episode?

Dr. MVM said...

It was quite a fitting end.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't make it past a few episodes. Griffiths (who I usually like) and that annoying twat who played her brother just drove me nuts.

K.Line said...

Best. show. evah. I am not into watching anything after the fact - or anything about death - and I got totally hooked (on rental DVD, no less). It actually reframed my perspective on death, which says a lot for a Hollywood TV show.

Dr. Monkey Hussein Monkerstein said...

I agree completely K.

Anonymous said...

The final episode had me BAWLING my eyes out for a good ten minutes.