I’ve only just begun watching the acclaimed HBO series Six Feet Under, the dysfunctional drama with the family that runs the funeral home (created by Alan Ball). It’s a result of my having gotten obsessed with Weeds and Entourage over the past year; finding these well-written and compelling shows that have the freedom to go where network TV fears to tread. Unfortunately, I don’t have HBO or Showtime, so I tend to miss out on these, but thank God for the DVDs (and for specialty retailers who periodically sell them for next to nothing). It took a couple of episodes to adjust to the entire “death” aspect of the series (thankfully they dropped those awkward funeral commercials after the pilot) and I still get unnerved during the opening scene, but regardless, I’ve become hooked. It’s taken in a matter of fact, business-like matter, such as I assume it is in the “death-care” industry. Each episode starts with the death of one of their clients, which range from the random to the absurd to the devastatingly tragic. After which point, we switch back to the Fisher family and their latest foibles. The characters and stories are so well-defined, you can’t help but feeling for these people. However, they still manage to find a lot of irony and humor in the macabre and absurd (such as those fantastical elements, with the ghosts and subconscious revelations). But you know me, I love the dysfunction. The Royal Tenenbaums, Arrested Development, Weeds, August: Osage County and now this. And does the awkward come in spades… My goodness. I’ve only just started the second season, so we’ll see where this is going to progress. I already can figure out where certain characters are headed and it should be very interesting, to say the least.
The entire ensemble is stellar: Peter Krause, whom I’ve enjoyed since Sports Night (anyone?), Lauren Ambrose (has teen rebellion ever been presented in a more attractive guise?), the outstanding Rachel Griffiths (with one of the best American accents I’ve ever heard from any foreign actor) and Michael C. Hall. (Dexter will be soon) But the highlight to me is Frances Conroy as Ruth Fisher. Every time she is in a scene, she inadvertently steals my focus, my attentions and my emotions. She takes this little moments and turns them into something both incredibly genuine and real; and for that the pay-off is tenfold. Watching this woman perform, I could tell that she must have had some stage experience. Lo and behold, in searching, I discovered she was a graduate of Juilliard and also that she appeared in eleven plays on Broadway, most recently in 2000 in The Ride Down St. Morgan. I would relish the opportunity to see her perform live in NY. I also think she should appear on The Office as Angela’s mother. Yes, think about that idea for a moment… I wish I could have seen her Birdie Hubbard in the LCT revival of The Little Foxes (the one that starred Stockard Channing – and again, more dysfunction!)
I can tell you the date I realized how much I enjoyed the darker aspects of familial humor. January 20, 2002. When I saw The Royal Tenenbaums (which remains one of my all-time favorite movies). I realized something was up when afterward I told my friend “I absolutely loved it.” And she in turn gave me a look of condescension, “Well, I hated it.” She’s since seen it again and changed her mind (HA!).
Other shows on the agenda: The West Wing (I’ve never watched a single episode in my life), The Office (UK), It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and the fourth season of The Bob Newhart Show. Then there’s also the first season of The Sopranos, of which I’ve only seen one episode. I also am supposed to catch up with the second season of Lost and also take in The Wire, as the list continues to grow and grow and grow…