Over the course of the 2001-2002 US TV season we've had a slew of impressive new shows equally as eager to make an impact with UK viewers as they have within the US. We've had not one, but two espionage series with gadgetry and stunts more impressive than your average Bond which this is where 24 and Alias would appear. A prequel to Star Trek and another re-imagining of the Superman mythology ensued, as did the hilarious Scrubs. And the likes of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Sex And The City and The Sopranos were literally compulsive viewing, but the best series of the bunch is hands down Six Feet Under, the critically acclaimed funeral home drama from American Beauty scribe Alan Ball and the purveyors of increasingly daring and innovative television - HBO.
The pilot kicks off in Los Angeles, Christmas Eve with Nathaniel Fisher SR, owner of ailing funeral home, Fisher and Sons being killed when a bus collides with his hearse. Incidentally enough, it was he who was to pick up eldest son, Nate (who works for an organic food co-op in Seattle) from the airport. Not that Nate has trouble getting home as after a steamy sex session with masseuse Brenda in one of the airport's closets she offers him a lift home.
News of Nate SR’s death spreads quickly with each and every member of the Fisher clan reacting in a variety of unpredictable ways. Both sons Nate and David (a closeted gay man, seeing a black policeman named Keith) are constantly sparring - prior to (when they first meet at the hospital to identify their father's body), during as well as after their father's funeral. Youngest child and daughter Claire learns of her dad's death whilst after taking Crystal Meth with her boyfriend, Gabe and has difficulties distinguishing her sudden anguish as either grief for her dad or a side effect of the drug she took.
She also puts both warring brothers in their place and has a funnily intimate conversation with her deceased father (during the funeral- it seems that just because Nate SR is dead, doesn't mean he won't be popping up from time to time) while matriarch Ruth pretty much destroys the Christmas dinner she was preparing and lets her guilt get the better of her and reveals to her children her two year affair with a hairdresser named Hiram. Didn't see that one coming.
On the non- Fisher front we are introduced to Federico, Fishers and Sons talented mortician (married to a nurse named Vanessa who is expecting their second child), Keith, who so far all we know is dating David and is clearly not happy about his boyfriend being so closeted (unaware to them Claire actually knows of their relationship). Last but definitely not least there is Brenda - who on sight pretty much presents a challenge to Nate in the sense she tells him that she won't succumb him as quickly as he has managed to get other women to. She also has a manic depressed brother, and although we don't see them on screen nightmare parents to boot (who funnily enough happen to be therapists).
There is also a rival home – Kroehner Service Corporation who seem to pose a real threat to Fisher and Sons and are determined to tear the ailing funeral home down, now that they appear to be at vulnerability.
Also in "Six Feet Under"
We had a hilarious opening funeral where the husband told David he hoped his wife was shovelling shit in hell. Then there was also that weird funeral fanatic Tracy Montrose Blair.
Loved the promos for the funeral products, including the GAP piss take with the saltshakers.
David: "What the hell?"
Ruth: "There's been an accident. The new hearse is totaled. Your father is dead. Your father is dead and my pot roast is ruined".
Strange they didn't have Nathaniel's death credits.
Nate:" Yeah, you know. You are so fucking hot"
Brenda: "Oh, you're so sweet".
Ick moment of the episode besides the obvious death/blood related sequences included those flies on the pizza in that crack -house.
Claire: "No I’m not kidding, this is actually happening. And now I’m high on crack"
Claire: “Whatever! So I guess this whole hellish experience i'm about to go through is just gonna burn a little brighter now. Great. Thank you. Fuck".
Claire (to Nate and David):"Jesus. Just pull out your dicks and measure them and let's get this over with".
David isn't the only gay character related to Ruth. It turns out her cousin's husband is too. David is though out to Keith's parents though.
Store Attendant: “You’re gonna have to pay for that”
Claire: “Will you just fuck off?”
David (to Nate):"You wanna get your hands dirty? You sanctimonious prick. Talk to me when you've had to shove formaldehyde soaked cotton up your father's ass so he doesn't leak".
Chronology was December 2000, though the series premiered six months later on HBO.
Nate (to Brenda): "My Dad's dead, my mother's a whore, my brother wants to kill me and my sister's smoking crack. I think I win".
Standout songs included Peggy Lee's "I Love Being Here With You" and The Devlins' "Waiting". The score piece during the flashbacks of Nate and David's childhood was also beautiful.
Yes, once again those lovely people at HBO have got it right, putting their finances into a show as intelligent and invigorating as this. In terms of series openers, this has to be one of the best I have seen in a long time with all the main players each making an impact with viewers on first inspection. It may be a little early in the game to choose favourites but Brenda and David are definitely the ones that I'm most interested in seeing develop throughout Season One. The Fishers are definitely a screwed up bunch and seem to be the most authentic dysfunctional family seen in recent television. Praise the Lord, Six Feet Under has come to remove the "touchy-feely" nauseating crap that drivel such as 7th Heaven and Touched By An Angel has inflicted on us mere mortals for years and is set to give us a more obscure and introspective look at what happens when we meet our maker and how death affects everyone around. Praise indeed. This show is a breath of fresh air.