Thursday, August 20, 2009
Six Feet Under - Seasons 1 - 5
When this show debuted, I knew I was going to like it. The general premise of a family run funeral business isn’t exactly something that’s explored a lot or at all on television but I went from thinking this was interesting to becoming completely hooked. Nathaniel’s death in the opening episode set the series off on a bang and while the Fishers may have their faults; one of their biggest strengths is their believability as a family. Claire was the kind of teenage character that more TV series need while Ruth’s attempts of finding love with both Hiram and Nikolai certainly had their moments. Nate also had to deal with becoming a partner in a business he didn’t want and if Brenda wasn’t complicated enough for her, the woman’s whole family are a nuttier bunch all together. David and Keith’s relationship became one of the most influential gay relationships on TV and the former’s struggles to come out did make for riveting television. Federico was probably not as well defined as other characters but he certainly his moments and the ongoing rivalry with Kroehner thankfully didn’t drag out. It was also nice to see the variety of characters per cold open as well as the pithy dialogue, stunning/surreal visuals and fantasy as well as some truly glorious character moments. This show rarely hit a bum note.
HBO have been fairly good with this series, DVD wise, certainly better than some of their other shows. Alan Ball provided two brilliant commentaries for “Pilot” and “Knock, Knock” and there’s a wonderful cast and crew interview with some brief spoilers on the second season. Also worth noting are some deleted scenes, a look on how the title sequence was made from Digital Kitchen and two music tracks.
1x01: Pilot = 9/10, 1x02: The Will = 9/10,
1x03: The Foot = 8/10, 1x04: Familia = 7/10,
1x05: An Open Book = 10/10, 1x06: The Room = 8/10,
1x07: Brotherhood = 7/10, 1x08: Crossroads = 8/10,
1x09: Life’s Too Short = 9/10, 1x10: The New Person = 7/10,
1x11: The Trip = 8/10, 1x12: A Private Life = 10/10,
1x13: Knock, Knock = 9/10.
I think it’s around this point that the series became more and more confident in its abilities. The first season was wonderful but the second one actually became better as it progressed. David and Keith managed to get back together and became parents (in their own way) to the latter’s swear happy niece, Taylor and that was before we got more insight into Keith’s family (druggie sister, doormat mother, abusive father). I didn’t like the end part with Keith losing his job and the relationship not in the greatest of places but nothing is ever easy in real life and this show. This can also be applied to Nate and Brenda. As a couple, they’re easy to root but both of them really do a lot of sabotage to each other. Nate practically waited until he had a fit to tell Brenda about his AVM and then he told her about getting Lisa pregnant after pissing his former lover. Brenda was no saint herself with the whole sex addiction plot but it’s hard not to like them as a couple no less. Claire seemed to have her own romantic woes as well. On the plus side, she did get rid of Gabe but she also rejected a nice guy in Toby and didn’t seem all that perturbed with Billy, even though Nate was rightly cautious. Ruth also dumped Nikolai after slowly realising that he didn’t care about her. Some of Ruth’s better moments in the season involved other people. Her friendship with Robbie was neat, hashing things out with the errand Sarah was another highlight as was finally being able to support Nate when he told her about his AVM. Federico on the other hand, we got to meet his closeted cousin, his obnoxious sister in law, see him and Vanessa come into money but also we got flashbacks to his time with Nathaniel, adding another layer to the character.
Although this is a brilliant season and HBO are better with this series, DVD wise than other ones, this was weaker. The 20 minute featurette on “Making Of A Working Stiff” had it’s moments and it was nice that we got commentaries of “In The Game”, “Back To The Garden”, “The Secret”, “I’ll Take You” and “The Last Time”, it’s just a pity we didn’t get more stuff, like an overview of the season or the gorgeous trailer shot for it.
2x01: In The Game = 9/10, 2x02: Out, Out Brief Candle = 8/10,
2x03: The Plan = 9/10, 2x04: Driving Mr Mossback = 7/10,
2x05: The Invisible Woman = 9/10, 2x06: In Place Of Anger = 7/10,
2x07: Back To The Garden = 8/10,
2x08: It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year = 10/10,
2x09: Someone Else’s Eyes = 8/10, 2x10: The Secret = 9/10,
2x11: The Liar And The Whore = 7/10, 2x12: I’ll Take You = 9/10,
2x13: The Last Time = 10/10.
Third season are rapidly becoming a funny thing in that they divide viewers a lot. This season and the next one seemed to have that overwhelming effect. In retrospect, it might not be as good as the first two seasons but there’s a lot worthy of it too. Okay, Nate and Lisa’s marriage is terrible. If ever there was a valid reason as to why two people should not marry each other just because they’ve had child together, Nate and Lisa are it. They don’t work at all. Nate withdrew more from Lisa than he did with Brenda and Lisa just nagged and nagged like there was no tomorrow. It was obvious that when she went missing that she would wind up dead and that Nate’s internal guilt would have him lash out. Nate can be pretty cruel when he lashes out at people. The rest of the characters continue to get better screen time. David and Keith start the season by going to couples therapy, partaking in threesomes before breaking up and getting back together again. Claire seemed to be more in her element in art school, even before both Russell and Olivier disappointed her by sleeping around and it was nice to see Brenda take stock of her mistakes and genuinely try to atone. Ruth sort of varies – at first being too clingy with Lisa and Maya and then letting her hair down with Bettina (one of the best recurring characters introduced into the series). Her relationships with Arthur and George do vary as well – Ruth sure knows how to pick them. Federico’s vocalisation gets better too, though he does overplay the ‘I’m a partner’ stance at Fishers And Diaz a little too much for my liking. Copping off with the skanky Sophia however wasn’t his smartest of moves though.
An improvement here, most definitely. Commentary wise, we’ve got ones for “The Eye Inside”, “Nobody Sleeps”, “The Trap”, “Death Works Overtime” and “I’m Sorry, I’m Lost”. There’s also a very nice selection of deleted scenes and a wonderful fifteen minute “Living On The Ledge: A Bird’s-Eye View Of The Third Season” featurette that’s well worth watching, especially as it deals with all the main themes and shooting of the trailer for the third year.
3x01: Perfect Circles = 9/10, 3x02: You Never Know = 8/10,
3x03: The Eye Inside = 7/10, 3x04: Nobody Sleeps = 10/10,
3x05: The Trap = 8/10, 3x06: Making Love Work = 7/10,
3x07: Timing And Space = 9/10, 3x08: Tears, Bones And Desire = 9/10,
3x09: The Opening = 8/10, 3x10: Everyone Leaves = 8/10,
3x11: Death Works Overtime = 9/10, 3x12: Twilight = 10/10,
3x13: I’m Sorry, I’m Lost = 10/10.
Another season that seemed to divide a lot of viewers – was it impatience or was the series losing it’s edge? I’m not sure. Out of all five seasons, Season 4 is the one that arguably could be seen as the lightest of the bunch. Okay, David went through hell when being kidnapped by psycho boy Jake and that was something that affected him and David, up until the finale but we’ve had darker moments. I knew David and Keith would be unable to maintain an open relationship and I was glad when that plot dissipated. I was also glad to see the back of catty pop star Celeste as well but that’s another matter. Claire certainly got to explore her artistic abilities as well as various group actions with Edie, Billy and Jimmy throughout the entire season. The fiasco with Russell over the collages didn’t put her in a favourable light though her moments with David certainly did. Nate and Brenda on the other hand spent half the season dancing around each other before getting back together (too bad we lost bondage lover Joe, he was sweet in his own way) and deciding to start a family. Implicating that Hoyt was responsible for Lisa’s death was also a rather nice way of wrapping up that storyline as was showing the eventful dissolution of Federico and Vanessa’s marriage. Ruth also had to find out about George’s colourful history and there was the introduction of Maggie as well.
I love this season for the extras. It really did step up another level. Seven commentaries was brilliant and on largely pivotal episodes as well. The episodes commented on were, “Falling Into Place”, “Parallel Play”, “That’s My Dog” (would’ve liked Michael C. Hall for that one), “Terror Starts At Home”, “The Dare”, “Bomb Shelter” and “Untitled”. Other goodies include more deleted scenes, a Bob Costas interview with Peter Krause, Michael C. Hall, Lauren Ambrose and Frances Conroy as well as the “Cut By Cut: Editing Six Feet Under” feature with the writers and producers for the episode, “Parallel Play”.
4x01: Falling Into Place = 9/10, 4x02: In Case Of Rapture = 8/10,
4x03: Parallel Play = 7/10, 4x04: Can I Come Up Now = 9/10,
4x05: That’s My Dog = 10/10, 4x06: Terror Starts At Home = 9/10,
4x07: The Dare = 8/10, 4x08: Coming And Going = 7/10,
4x09: Grinding The Corn = 9/10, 4x10: The Black Forest = 8/10,
4x11: Bomb Shelter = 8/10, 4x12: Untitled = 9/10.
Final seasons should never be this awesome but this show always was something of a rule breaker. For me, everything clicked and then some. Nate and Brenda had finally tied the knot and had dealt with the miscarriage of their baby before discovering that they had become expectant parents again. Nate embraced the idea of Quakerism, embarked on a brief fling with Maggie but ultimately met his death three episodes before the finale while Brenda went into premature labour and had a girl named Willa. Ruth struggled to keep her marriage alive amidst George’s illness and after leaving him, the two became drawn again. Knitting friends weren’t that great but at least Sarah and Bettina were there when Ruth needed them the most. Claire left her art life behind, sensibly ditched Billy when he became too much and lost some of her self indulgence. Hooking her up with Ted also broke her trend of being attracted to dysfunctional men too. Plus Ted was proof that Alan Ball can write for conservative characters who aren’t raging nutters. David and Keith took the inevitable step into parenthood before buying Rico out of the family business, who in turn bought his own business after reuniting with Vanessa. As for the final episode, has any series ever produced anything so perfect? As much as I miss this series, I’m glad it ended. It knew when to quit and it left on one hell of a high note that no other series ender has usurped in quality. Plus Alan Ball is now wowing us with True Blood, so all is definitely not lost then. And there’s Brothers And Sisters to fall in love with as well.
A final season deserves a good send off and this DVD set does deliver. Again there are six commentaries for “Time Flies”, “The Rainbow Of Her Reasons”, “The Silence”, “Ecotone”, “Static” and “Everyone’s Waiting” from producers, Alan Ball, Frances Conroy, Michael C. Hall and Lauren Ambrose. The 2001-2005 hour long respective documentaries which even E4 aired during transmission of the last season are thankfully included in this set and just wait until you watch the “Life And Loss: The Impact Of Six Feet Under” feature. Even Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry is happy to tell viewers how this show influenced his. A wonderful way of capping off the final season of a truly magnificent show.
5x01: A Coat Of White Primer = 9/10, 5x02: Dancing For Me = 8/10,
5x03: Hold My Hand = 8/10, 5x04: Time Flies = 10/10,
5x05: Eat A Peach = 9/10, 5x06: The Rainbow Of Her Reasons = 10/10,
5x07: The Silence = 8/10, 5x08: Singing For Our Lives = 10/10,
5x09: Ecotone = 10/10, 5x10: All Alone = 9/10,
5x11: Static = 10/10, 5x12: Everyone’s Waiting = 10/10.
All episode reviews can be found on both my TV TOME page and SHAWNLUNN2002TVHITS, both of which are linked on this blog.