When you think of a list of the most dysfunctional families in the history of television and cinema, Alan Ball has made sure that we will not forget the Fisher family. I just got done writing some reviews for Arrested Development, and while these two shows are completely different from each other, they are both shows that establish the traits and quirks of their characters very well in the first episode. By the end of the first hour of "Six Feet Under," I feel like every member of the Fisher family has a well-explored background, one that leaves plenty of room for growing. Even the father who dies in the opening minutes has plenty of scenes!
Perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself. The show itself seems to focus on the Fisher family, a family that owns and runs a funeral parlor. The story begins when the father, in the opening scene shortly after he buys a new hearse for the company, is rund own by a bus and killed. Him and his wife (the two characters are played by Richard Jenkins and Frances Conroy respectively) have three kids: Nate (Peter Krause, isolated from the family), David (Michael C. Hall in his first big pre-Dexter role) and Claire (Lauren Ambrose). The pilot episode is all about the family preparing to say goodbye to their father/husband and learn how to move on.
Death circles the entire episode and the show itself, and Alan Ball does a great job of tying it into the writing. And I have to say, Alan Ball does a good job here in creating a voice for each character. It's nice when you can watch a show and have the character's interactions with each other seem fresh and familiar, even if we've never seen them to talk with each other before. And the acting? Superb. Every actor does a great job here, and despite me not being well-versed in the show, I can already tell we're going to get some great scenes from these actors. I mean, whether it's Peter Krause freaking out at his father's funeral, Michael C. Hall trying to hide from everyone that he's gay Frances Conroy's Ruth admitting her infidelities or Claire Fisher freaking out in a grocery store, it seems like each and every one of these characters is well-written, as if Alan Ball knows exactly where he wants these people to go from Point A to Point B.
Much like "American Beauty," the pilot episode does a great job of luring us into a difficult situation and using dark humor, good writing and good acting to keep us lured in.