On August 21st, 2005, in one of the finest hours of television ever seen since it’s invention a really long time ago, HBO’s masterpiece Six Feet Under was put in a coffin, which was put in a vault and buried under a rock that said R.I.P.
Yes, it would make more sense to post this tomorrow, on the actual anniversary. But, Rolling Stone just had to post their’s today so now I have to too. Anyways…
The series finale is a concept that time and time again is butchered (Seinfeld, The Sopranos). It is amongst one of the hardest things a writer can really nail. But Alan Ball, in what culminated in the most breath-taking, heart-wrenching six and half minutes ever, completely redefined the concept of a series finale, and what it really means to have a story come full circle. And I also cried for the last 10 minutes of it (among the other 20 times I cried watching this show), and you will too.
Ball, the evil genius behind American Beauty, was approached by HBO in 1999 and asked to write a pilot for a show the centered around a family that owns a funeral home. When Ball finally wrote the pilot, HBO asked if he could “make it a little more fucked up”. And he did just that.
Here’s where I need to interject and point out my already evident biases: I love this show and it’s my favorite show ever made. While the content of it may not be as thrilling as a Breaking Bad, it’s the characters and their relationships with one another and themselves that make this show a masterpiece. Sometimes, shows about people and their lives can surpass a show with some overarching story, such as a zombie apocalypse.
What made this show so unique was that it was distinct narrative about life and death. As one would expect from a show about a funeral home, it literally is about death. In fact every episode begins with someone dying, but these are usually the funny parts of the episode, believe it or not. The writers really had fun with these death intros. And it makes one thing crystal clear: a show about death is not 100% depression. While it does take a voyage into the world of depression as well, there’s plenty of comic relief and in-your-face humor to offset all the sadness. How one show can be so terribly funny and crippling depressing, yet wonderfully uplifting is a sign that we’ve got a masterpiece on our hands.
Ultimately, this show will change your life. It puts all the bullshit in perspective. The trials and tribulations of the Fisher family become so real that every little gripe you have with the world will vanish into thin air. Because what this show teaches us is that we’re all mortal. Every single one of us is going to die some day. IT’S NOT THAT BAD. And watching these characters struggle with their mortality, deal with broken relationships and depressions, watch people they know and love tragically pass by means very real to us evokes more emotion than any meth dealer, zombie slayer, *vigilante serial killer*, mother of dragons, gang of bikers, gangster, existential detective, incarcerated lesbian, or transsexual father ever could.
Because it’s real, and it’s going to happen to all of us.
The show also included an ensemble cast including Michael C. Hall (Dexter), Peter Krause (Parenthood), and Frances Conroy (American Horror Story). But beyond that, the admirable lineup of recurring and guest stars includes many names that went on to achieve tremendous acclaim, such as Anna Gunn, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Justin Theroux, Rainn Wilson, Jenna Fischer, Kathy Bates, and James Cromwell.
Last thing I’d like to point out is the impeccable music selection throughout the series. Many of the songs I can’t even listen to anymore without crying because of the context in which they were used, such as “All Apologies” by Nirvana, “Transatlanticism” by Death Cab For Cutie, “The Golden Age” by Beck, “Cold Wind” by Arcade Fire (one of their rarest tracks), and ultimately “Breathe Me” by Sia. Remember that last one.
The take away should be the show’s slogan: “Every Day Above Ground Is A Good One”.