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Six Feet Under: Alan Ball's Amazing HBO Series

Updated on September 22, 2011

Great Television as Dark and Haunting as American Beauty

Waiting with the orphans......
Waiting with the orphans......

The mini-series Six Feet Under is one of the most beautiful, poignant, tragic, funny, and unique shows that HBO ever produced. The boxed-set gathers all five seasons in packaging that is lovely, almost as stunning as the macabre opening titles. Alan Ball, the man responsible for the film American Beauty , created the series in 2001 and wrote and directed many of the episodes. It won Emmys, Screen Actors Guild awards and its finale is noted by many as the best ever, as is the series itself. The boxed set has great commentary and extras, and the backstory of the opening titles is fascinating.

Everybody Leaves

The series centers around the Fischers, a dysfunctional family who own a funeral home. Each episode begins with a death, deaths that are mostly random, sometimes violent, but each one reveals a piece of what mortality means.

The series begins with the patriarch, Nathaniel, on his way to pick up "prodigal son" Nate on Christmas Eve. A bus plows into his hearse, and Nathaniel dies instantly. But he remains an active role by revealing himself and his experience after death to each of the members of the Fischer family throughout the series. These are some of the most poignant, surreal and funny moments in the show. Nathaniel Fischer is truthful about death, amused by the living and what they expect it be. Yet he was an enigma in life.

He makes his first (or second, because Claire, the youngest Fischer sees him at the funeral) appearance to Nate. Nathaniel (or his ghost?) is leaving on a bus, much like the one that killed him. He waves a goodbye to Nate, as the song "Waiting" by the Devlins plays. The series uses music to great effect, and two soundtracks are available, and even if the show isn't to your taste I would recommend them. Itunes also offers many of the songs individually.

It's the little details that add to the amazing quality of the things you might not notice until you see an episode for the second time. IHMO "Waiting"s lyrics are a perfect addition to Nate's vision. But look closer and you'll notice that Nathaniel is waiting for a bus on a bench; Nate is waiting to cross the street. Nathaniel's bench has an ad on it, saying "Accident" and as the bus drives away, we see another ad on the side of the bus. "A Good Night's Sleep" is the ad posted there.

The shows touches on everything from promiscuity, homosexuality, drug use, mental illness, unwanted marriage, repression of emotions....and of course, grief. But it's funny, none the less. Honest. You possibly could call it a modern day Harold and Maude meets Father Knows Best. The descriptions "dark humor" or "black comedy" don't do it justice.

Overlooked Brilliance?

It's a great series and I think it was overlooked because everyone was tuning in to the beasts on Sex and the City . Or maybe The Sopranos. Anyway.....

Buy it on Amazon. New is best because finding the last season isn't easy to find and you want the last season, I'm telling you. But work on it and you can find great deals on the used seasons or the entire boxed set. Or catch a few episodes on HBO, but it's best seen in order from beginning to end. And spoiler alert: don't watch the last episode of the last season first.

This was HBO's best work and it should not be missed.


Six Feet Under


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    • vge-j profile image

      vge-j 5 years ago from Denver, CO

      I know. . . I can't quite accept Nate as Mr. Braverman on Parenthood.

    • profile image

      Taylorwise 5 years ago

      I miss them, too. I still associate the actors with the characters. It's like watching Dexter....Dexter? no, he's a funeral director, not a serial killer!

    • vge-j profile image

      vge-j 5 years ago from Denver, CO

      I loved Six Feet Under. I still miss those characters. The brilliant blend of humor, character development, and the direct exploration of the topics of death and bereavement--something of a personal and professional cause for me--make this show dear to my heart and an all-time favorite.

    • Cogerson profile image

      Cogerson 6 years ago from Virginia

      I have season one....and I agree it is a great series. First time I ever notice Michael C. Hall. I can not believe the series has been over this many years...thanks for posting.

    • Taylorwise profile image

      Taylorwise 7 years ago from Austin, TX

      good for you d.william.. i looked and looked for SFU in retail stores and never found next boxed set will be deadwood when i save up my pennies!

    • d.william profile image

      d.william 7 years ago from Somewhere in the south

      I loved this series. I just bought the complete set after seeing a few teaser episodes on 101 (Direct TV). Got it at WalMart online, for $79.00 (+tax).

    • Taylorwise profile image

      Taylorwise 7 years ago from Austin, TX

      Yeah, I guess 'overlooked' was the wrong word to use...the show garnered alot of awards (Emmys, SAGS, etc) but so many of my friends haven't heard of it....grrr. And yet they can quote SATC.

    • b. Malin profile image

      b. Malin 7 years ago

      I thought when it was in it's prime it one an award...if not, many a great show is overlooked, this happens , but the people watching are really the ones that count! Good Hub.

    • OrlandoC profile image

      OrlandoC 7 years ago from Glen Ridge

      Unbelievable show. I don't think it was overlooked but it was definitely overshadowed by other HBO shows.