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Six Feet Under
Sixfeetunderlogo.jpg
Genre Drama
Black comedy
Created by Alan Ball
Starring Peter Krause
Michael C. Hall
Frances Conroy
Lauren Ambrose
Freddy Rodriguez
Mathew St. Patrick
Jeremy Sisto
Justina Machado
James Cromwell
Rachel Griffiths
Theme music composer Thomas Newman
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 5
No. of episodes 63 (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) Alan Ball
Robert Greenblatt
David Janollari
Alan Poul (Seasons 2-5)
Bruce Eric Kaplan (Seasons 4-5)
Rick Cleveland (Season 5)
Running time 50–60 minutes
Broadcast
Original channel HBO
Original run June 3, 2001 (2001-06-03) – August 21, 2005 (2005-08-21)
External links
Official website

Six Feet Under is an American television drama series created and produced by Alan Ball. It premiered on the premium cable network HBO in the United States on June 3, 2001 and ended on August 21, 2005, spanning five seasons and 63 episodes. The show was produced by Actual Size Films and The Greenblatt/Janollari Studio and was shot on location in Los Angeles and in Hollywood studios. The show revolves around members of the Fisher family, who run their funeral home in Los Angeles, and their friends and lovers. The series traces these characters' lives over the course of five years. The ensemble drama stars Peter Krause, Michael C. Hall, Frances Conroy, Lauren Ambrose, Freddy Rodriguez, Mathew St. Patrick and Rachel Griffiths as the show's seven central characters.

Six Feet Under received widespread critical acclaim, particularly for its writing and acting, and consistently drew high ratings for the HBO network. Six Feet Under has frequently been described by critics as one of the greatest television series of all time.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13] It won numerous awards, including three Golden Globes, nine Emmys and three Screen Actor's Guild Awards. It also generated controversy for its graphical depiction of sexuality and some of the themes it addressed.

Contents

Show synopsis

The show stars Peter Krause as Nathaniel Samuel "Nate" Fisher Jr., the son of a funeral director who, upon the death of his father (Richard Jenkins), reluctantly becomes a partner in the family funeral business with his brother David (Michael C. Hall). The Fisher clan also includes widow Ruth (Frances Conroy) and daughter Claire (Lauren Ambrose). Other regulars include mortician and family friend Federico Diaz (Freddy Rodriguez), Nate's on-again, off-again girlfriend Brenda Chenowith (Rachel Griffiths), and David's long-term boyfriend Keith Charles (Mathew St. Patrick).

On one level, the show is a conventional family drama, dealing with such issues as relationships, infidelity, and religion. At the same time, it is a show distinguished by its unblinking focus on the topic of death, which it explores on multiple levels (personal, religious, and philosophical). Each episode begins with a death — anything from drowning or heart attack to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome — and that death usually sets the tone for each episode, allowing the characters to reflect on their current fortunes and misfortunes in a way that is illuminated by the death and its aftermath. The show also has a strong dosage of dark humor and surrealism running throughout.

A recurring plot device consists of a character having an imaginary conversation with the deceased; for example, Nate, David, and Federico sometimes "converse" with the person who died at the beginning of the episode, while they are being embalmed or planning or during the funeral. Sometimes, the conversation is with other recurring deceased characters, most notably Nathaniel Fisher Sr. The show's creator Alan Ball states they represent the living character's internal dialogue by exposing it as an external conversation.

Concept

Although overall plots and characters were created by Alan Ball, there are conflicting reports on how the series was conceived. In one instance, Ball stated that he came up with the premise of the show after the deaths of his sister and father. However, in an interview,[14] he intimates that HBO entertainment president Carolyn Strauss proposed the idea to him. In a copyright-infringement lawsuit,[15] screenwriter Gwen O’Donnell asserted that she was the original source of the idea which later passed through Strauss to Ball; the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, proceeding on the assumption that this assertion was true, rejected her claim. Ball stated in an interview "When I went to HBO and they had read my first draft and Carolyn Strauss said, "You know, this is really, really good. I love these characters, I love these situations, but it feels a little safe. Could you just make it just a little more fucked up," which is not a note that you get in Hollywood very often. And I thought, "Wow!" And that gave me free range to go a little deeper, go a little darker, go a little more complicated".

Major themes

The show focuses on human mortality and the lives of those who deal with it on a daily basis. When discussing the concept of the show, creator Alan Ball elaborates on the foremost questions the show’s pilot targeted:

Who are these people who are funeral directors that we hire to face death for us? What does that do to their own lives — to grow up in a home where there are dead bodies in the basement, to be a child and walk in on your father with a body lying on a table opened up and him working on it? What does that do to you?[14]

Six Feet Under introduces the Fisher family as the basis on which to explore these questions. Throughout its five-season, 63-episode run, major characters experience crises which are in direct relation to their environment and the grief they’ve experienced. Alan Ball again relates these experiences as well as the choice of the series’ title, to the persistent subtext of the program[16]:

Six Feet Under refers not only to being buried as a dead body is buried, but to primal emotions and feelings running under the surface. When one is surrounded by death — to counterbalance that, there needs to be a certain intensity of experience, of needing to escape. It’s Nate with his womanizing — it’s Claire and her sexual experimentation — it’s Brenda’s sexual compulsiveness — it’s David having sex with a male hooker in public — it’s Ruth having several affairs — it’s the life force trying to push up through all of that suffering and grief and depression.

As Shoshana and Teman suggest in their sociological analysis of the "life-self" and the "death-self" embodied by the members of the Fisher family, "The series hurls death provocatively in the viewer's face, each episode consciously serving as a "memento mori" for its audience. Consequently, death is starkly present within the life-world of the series, challenging the strict binary between life and death. The blurring of these boundaries evokes the idea that the living can be more lifeless than the physically deceased and the departed can be livelier than the living."[17]

Character histories and cast

Main characters

The main characters of Six Feet Under in the first season
Actor Character Relationship
Peter Krause Nathaniel Samuel "Nate" Fisher Jr. Eldest son of Ruth and Nathaniel; co-operator of Fisher & Diaz.
Michael C. Hall David James Fisher Middle child of Ruth and Nathaniel; co-operator of Fisher & Diaz.
Frances Conroy Ruth Fisher Matriarch of Fisher family.
Lauren Ambrose Claire Simone Fisher Youngest child of Ruth and Nathaniel; artist of the family.
Freddy Rodriguez Federico Diaz Business partner and embalmer at Fisher & Diaz with Nate and David; husband of Vanessa.
Mathew St. Patrick Keith Charles Los Angeles police officer with a long-term relationship with David.
Rachel Griffiths Brenda Chenowith Daughter of Margaret and Bernard Chenowith; sister of Billy; on-again, off-again partner with Nate.

Major recurring characters

Actor Character Seasons Relationship
Richard Jenkins Nathaniel Samuel Fisher Sr. 1–5 Patriarch of Fisher family and owner of Fisher & Sons Funeral Home before his death in a car accident in 2000. Husband of Ruth; father of Nate, David and Claire.
Jeremy Sisto Billy Chenowith 1–5 Brenda’s younger brother who has bipolar disorder; son of Margaret and Bernard Chenowith.
Justina Machado Vanessa Diaz 1–5 Registered nurse; wife and high school sweetheart of Federico.
Joanna Cassidy Margaret Chenowith 1–5 Psychologist mother of Brenda and Billy; wife of Bernard.
Patricia Clarkson Sarah O’Connor 2–5 Younger sister of Ruth Fisher, an artist who lives in Topanga Canyon.
Eric Balfour Gabriel Dimas 1–3 Claire’s high school boyfriend who was a chronic drug user.
Ed O'Ross Nikolai 1–2; 5 Owner of Blossom d’Amour Flower Shop; boyfriend of Ruth Fisher when she worked as a florist.
Marina Black Parker McKenna 1–2 A friend of Claire's during high school.
Robert Foxworth Dr. Bernard Chenowith 1–3 Brenda and Billy’s psychiatrist father; husband to Margaret.
Gary Hershberger Matthew Gilardi 1–2 Employer of a major funeral home organisation who attempts to buy out Fisher and Sons.
Ed Begley, Jr. Hiram Gunderson 1; 5 Had an affair with Ruth Fisher while she was married to Nathaniel.
Lili Taylor Lisa Kimmel Fisher 2–5 Nate’s former girlfriend and roommate while living in Seattle; she subsequently becomes involved again in his life.
Aysia Polk Taylor 2–3 Keith's niece, who is under his care for season 2.
James Cromwell George Sibley 3–5 Geologist/professor; second husband to Ruth.
Kathy Bates Bettina 3–5 Sarah’s friend and caretaker who becomes a good friend of Ruth.
Peter Macdissi Olivier Castro-Staal 3–5 Claire's Professor of Form and Space at LAC-Arts; lover to Margaret Chenowith.
Ben Foster Russell Corwin 3–5 A friend of Claire's from at art school and one-time boyfriend.
Rainn Wilson Arthur Martin 3–5 A young intern from Cypress College mortuary school who works for the funeral home briefly.
Sprague Grayden Anita Miller 3–5 A friend of Claire's from art school.
Mena Suvari Edie 4 Free spirited lesbian artist and friend of Claire's from art school.
Justin Theroux Joe 4 Boyfriend of Brenda during season 4.
Tina Holmes Maggie Sibley 4–5 Daughter of George Sibley.
Chris Messina Ted Fairwell 5 Lawyer at Claire Fisher's temp. office job; boyfriend of Claire Fisher during season 5.

Family tree

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Nathaniel Fisher Sr.
 
Ruth Fisher
 
 
 
 
 
Bernard Chenowith
 
Margaret Chenowith
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
George Sibley
 
Unnamed
prior wife
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Keith Charles
 
David Fisher
 
Claire Fisher
 
Nathaniel Fisher Jr.
 
 
 
Brenda Chenowith
 
Billy Chenowith
 
 
 
Lisa Kimmel Fisher
 
 
Maggie Sibley
 
Brian Sibley
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Anthony Charles-Fisher
 
Durrell Charles-Fisher
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Willa Fisher Chenowith
 
 
 
 
 
 
Maya Fisher
 

Score and sound

The series' main theme, written by composer Thomas Newman, won an Emmy award for Outstanding Main Title Theme Music and Grammy awards for Best Instrumental Composition and Best Instrumental Arrangement for title theme.

The production sound from seasons 3 through 5 was mixed by Bo Harwood, and was nominated for a Cinema Audio Society Award.

Awards and nominations

Primetime Emmy Awards

  • 2002 Award for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series (Alan Ball)
  • 2002 Nomination for Outstanding Drama Series
  • 2002 Nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (Michael C. Hall)
  • 2002 Nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (Peter Krause)
  • 2002 Nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Frances Conroy)
  • 2002 Nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Rachel Griffiths)
  • 2002 Nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Freddy Rodriguez)
  • 2002 Nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Lauren Ambrose)
  • 2002 Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series (Patricia Clarkson)
  • 2002 Nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series (Lili Taylor)
  • 2002 Nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series (Illeana Douglas)
  • 2003 Nomination for Outstanding Drama Series
  • 2003 Nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (Peter Krause)
  • 2003 Nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Frances Conroy)
  • 2003 Nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Lauren Ambrose)
  • 2003 Nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Rachel Griffiths)
  • 2003 Nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series (James Cromwell)
  • 2003 Nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series (Kathy Bates)
  • 2003 Nomination for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series (Alan Poul)
  • 2003 Nomination for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series (Craig Wright)
  • 2005 Nomination for Outstanding Drama Series
  • 2005 Nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Frances Conroy)
  • 2006 Nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (Peter Krause)
  • 2006 Nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Frances Conroy)
  • 2006 Nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series (Joanna Cassidy)
  • 2006 Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series (Patricia Clarkson)
  • 2006 Nomination for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series (Alan Ball)
  • 2006 Nomination for Outstanding Art Direction for a Single Camera Series
  • 2006 Nomination for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series (Alan Ball)

Golden Globe Awards

  • 2002 Nomination for Best Actor in a Drama Series (Peter Krause)
  • 2002 Award for Best Drama Series
  • 2002 Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Miniseries, or TV Film (Rachel Griffiths)
  • 2003 Nomination for Best Actor in a Drama Series (Peter Krause)
  • 2003 Nomination for Best Actress in a Drama Series (Rachel Griffiths)
  • 2003 Nomination for Best Drama Series
  • 2004 Award for Best Actress in a Drama Series (Frances Conroy)
  • 2004 Nomination for Best Drama Series

Screen Actors Guild Awards

  • 2002 Nomination for Outstanding Male Actor in a Drama Series (Peter Krause)
  • 2002 Nomination for Outstanding Ensemble in a Drama Series
  • 2003 Award for Outstanding Ensemble in a Drama Series
  • 2004 Nomination for Outstanding Male Actor in a Drama Series (Peter Krause)
  • 2004 Award for Outstanding Female Actor in a Drama Series (Frances Conroy)
  • 2004 Award for Outstanding Ensemble in a Drama Series
  • 2005 Nomination for Outstanding Ensemble in a Drama Series
  • 2006 Nomination for Outstanding Ensemble in a Drama Series

Satellite Awards

  • 2001 Nomination for Best Drama Series
  • 2002 Nomination for Best Actor in a Drama Series (Peter Krause)
  • 2003 Nomination for Best Drama Series

GLAAD Awards

  • 2001 Award for Best Drama Series
  • 2002 Award for Best Drama Series
  • 2003 Nomination for Best Drama Series
  • 2004 Award for Best Drama Series
  • 2005 Nomination for Best Drama Series

Promotionals

Season promotionals

The following songs were played during the teaser trailers for the seasons following the first:

Episode recaps

The song played during each episode recaps in Seasons One and Two is a 1995 single called "Nothing Lies Still Long" by Pell Mell.

Episode previews

Previews for upcoming episodes feature the Six Feet Under theme. The first and fifth seasons feature the original version of the song while the second, third and fourth seasons feature the Rae & Christian remix.

Releases

DVDs

All five seasons are available on DVD in individual box sets and in a collected volume.

Season Region 1 Release Date Region 2 Release Date Episodes Discs Bonus Features
1 February 4, 2003 July 7, 2003 13 4
  • Two audio commentaries; "Under the Main Title" featurette; "Behind-the-Scenes" featurette with cast and filmmaker; deleted scenes; cast and filmmaker bios; two music tracks
2 July 6, 2004 June 21, 2004 13 5
  • Five audio commentaries; "Anatomy of a Working Stiff: Life as a Dead Body" featurette
3 May 17, 2005 April 4, 2005 13 5
  • Five audio commentaries; "A Birdseye View of the Third Season" - An in-depth interview with show creator Alan Ball including the original HBO trailer
4 August 23, 2005 September 5, 2005 12 5
  • Seven audio commentaries; "Cut by Cut: Editing Six Feet Under" featurette; deleted scenes; Exclusive Bob Costas interview with the cast
5 March 28, 2006 April 10, 2006 12 5
  • Six audio commentaries; "Six Feet Under: 2001-2005": two 30-minute retrospectives; "Life and Loss: The Impact of Six Feet Under" featurette

Soundtracks

Two soundtrack albums, featuring music that had appeared in the series, were released:

Books

  • Ball, Alan (2003). Alan Poul. ed. Six Feet Under: Better Living Through Death. ISBN 978-0-7434-8065-9. 
  • Akass, Kim; Janet McCabe, Mark Lawson (2005). Reading Six Feet Under: TV To Die For. I. B. Tauris. ISBN 978-1-85043-809-0. 

References

External links


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