Review: Jack Foley
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentaries on episodes 1 and
13; Episodic previews and recaps; Deleted scene from pilot with
audio commentary; Digital Kitchen: Making The Opening Sequence
piece; Behind the scenes featurette; Music tracks (main theme
and never before released Kid Loco Remix).
AMERICAN television just seems to be getting stronger at the
Following on from the ground-breaking likes of ER and NYPD
Blue, not to mention the equally compulsive 24,
Six Feet Under marked HBO's latest barn-stormer, a controversial
potboiler in The Sopranos mould, which takes a darkly comic look
at life and death from the perspective of a dysfunctional family
that runs an independent funeral home in California.
Written by Alan Ball, the brains behind the equally challenging
Oscar-winner, American Beauty, Six Feet Under is one of those
programmes that shocks in its audacity, yet remains a tremendously
life-affirming, even uplifting family drama that really makes
Things begin as they mean to go on. For within 20 minutes of
the pilot, the father of the family (Richard Jenkins) is killed
in a motor accident, leaving his family to inherit the news, including
his freshly-stoned daughter, Claire (Lauren Ambrose), and his
two sons, the uptight and secretly homosexual David (Michael C
Hall) and the family blacksheep, Nate (Peter Krause), who has
just met the mysterious Brenda (Rachel Griffiths) on a plane and
shagged her at the airport.
Completing the line-up is Frances Conroy stern matriarch, who
feels guilt over an affair she is having.
And all the while, watching from the sidelines, is the aforementioned
Jenkins - dead, but not forgotten, but appearing for many a surreal
moment, as the family attempts to confront their unspoken feelings
It makes for a heady mix, but an extremely satisfying one, that
manages to combine laughter with moments of extreme poignance;
and an overall effect of breathtaking brilliance.
Performance-wise, it is difficult to pick out a winner, as everyone
- from central characters to support players - are on terrific
As Nate, Krause is probably the most identifiable and, therfore,
most cool, but Ambrose and Conroy run him close for overall acting
The pace of each of the 13 episodes is also expertly judged,
seldom allowing things to flag, while the visual panache and surreal
nature of many of the proceedings lends things an almost mystical
quality, which forces you to confront many of your own feelings.
Each episode begins with a death that is more outlandish than
the previous, occasionally throwing in a real twist to set things
up beautifully - as in the humdinger featuring the demise of Claire's
boyfriend's younger brother in a gun accident.
While the issues it tackles - from acceptance, to homosexuality,
to growing old, to schizophrenia - are all dealt with in an adult
and no-nonsense way that sets it apart from the majority of 'safe'
That it hasn't generated the viewing figures it deserves on Channel
4 is bordering on scandalous, for this deserves far more than
the 'cult' following it currently enjoys.
That said, programme schedulers deserve to he shot for putting
the second season up against 24 on Sunday evenings - for, by all
accounts, it is every bit as good as the first.
If you missed this on TV, however, don't let it pass you by on
DVD. This is well worth a place in anyone's collection, particularly
if you like your TV to be challenging and profoundly moving at
the same time.