If you seek subtle psychological drama that follows a dysfunctional family living their lives literally among the dead, then binge-watch Six Feet Under. With careful pacing, sometimes surreal direction, and first-rate writing, Six Feet Under is a compelling, if dark, delight.
Title: "Six Feet Under"
Year it began: 2001
Where it can be seen: Amazon; HBO
Who’s in it: Peter Krause; Michael C. Hall; Lauren Ambrose; Frances Conroy; Rachel Griffiths; Freddy Rodriguez; Matthew St. Patrick; Jeremy Sisto
Typical episode length: 53 minutes
Number of episodes to date: 63
Brief plot description: After his father’s untimely death, Nate Fisher joins his brother David in running the family mortuary business from the home shared by their intense younger sister Claire and their anxious mother Ruth. Nate courts free-spirited genius Brenda Chenowith, while David dates upright police officer Keith Charles.
Why it’s worth watching: While it may seem difficult to imagine televised entertainment centered on a mortuary, "Six Feet Under" offers a rich and rewarding series about life thriving in a cold world.
With exquisite directing and excellent soundtracks, "Six Feet Under" is engaging, thoughtful, and often genuinely moving. Opening each show with the death of a person whose corpse will be prepared by Fisher and Sons, the show deftly weaves together the worlds of the living and the dead—often literally, as dead people sometimes speak to daydreaming characters to help them cope with their current struggles.
The show’s cast is uniformly excellent. Krause’s spiritual, but open-eyed Nate provides a natural empathy—what his father called a “gift”—that enables him to calm the grieving as he journeys back to the funeral home he once tried to flee. Hall expertly portrays the intense David, who has learned to separate his demanding professional life from his personal life as a religiously conflicted gay man seeking a loving, meaningful relationship.
Ambrose is fantastic as Claire, who bravely deals with typical teenage struggles while navigating the often stifling atmosphere of the funeral home in which she was raised and now lives.
Other standout performances include Griffiths’ troubled and manipulative Brenda, a genius haunted by psychologist parents and a mentally ill brother; St. Charles’ even-keeled and caring Keith; Conroy’s charmingly repressed yet late-blooming Ruth; and Rodriguez’s Federico Diaz, a talented restorer whose pride and enthusiasm in preparing bodies for open-casket viewing is both infectious and unsettling.