Friday, July 15, 2011

"Six Feet Under"

I recently had the opportunity to watch the final few seasons of the HBO series "Six Feet Under." I had followed the show when it first premiered in 2001 but lost track of it when my finances wouldn't allow me to keep subscribing to HBO.

It is my most favorite television series of all time. There are several that I have enjoyed over the years, some more than others, but I think I have to put Alan Ball's creation at the top of my list.

As I watched the series finale, I kept thinking to myself, "This is what life is like: complicated and uncertain. And that's okay." Especially if we can find meaning and purpose in the connections we make with the people in our lives.

The very premise of the show both fascinated and disturbed me. A family that runs a funeral home. My first memory of death was the funeral of my maternal grandmother. A Spanish, Catholic affair with all of the attendant histrionics. I remember my mother crying and becoming hysterical and my sister and I couldn't help but get caught up in that emotion. We wanted to go to our mother, but our older brother Patrick wouldn't let go of us. From that moment until my teens, I didn't want to even think about death. I felt traumatized. I wouldn't attend another funeral until the death of my own mother in 2005*--coincidentally, the same year that "Six Feet Under" ended it's run.

I love "Six Feet Under" because of the way it made me feel. Frank Capra is quoted as saying, "I made mistakes in drama. I thought drama was when actors cried. But drama is when the audience cries." "Six Feet Under" has put me in tears more often than any other drama on television and I'm grateful for that. Besides the very moving series finale, the most powerful moment of the series that stands out in my mind as I write this is when Nate Fisher (Peter Krause) buries his late wife in the desert and the reaction he has when he sees her remains falling from the body bag.

Seeing Ruth Fisher (Frances Conroy) evolve from conventional housewife to an independent, single woman willing to explore herself and her humanity gave me a greater appreciation for the lives of parents as perceived by their children. No one likes to think of their parents as having been young, or having dreams, desires or regrets but in the end, we are all someone's children, living our lives and trying to figure them out along the way. The loving relationship between David and Keith (Michael C. Hall and Matthew St. Patrick) helped to reshape my opinion about the capacity that human beings have to love each other. Claire Fisher (Lauren Ambrose) was the character I found myself rooting for the most. This beautiful young woman, perfectly capturing the awkwardness of adolescence and uncertainty of a budding young artist. The complicated relationship between Brenda and Billy (Rachel Griffiths and Jeremy Sisto) served as an interesting balance between the extremes of the two main families of the series, to paraphrase Brenda, the Chenowiths with their lack of boundaries and the Fishers with nothing but boundaries.

There's little more that I can say about the series that hasn't probably already been said in the years since it ended, so I'll just repeat my earlier statement: It is my most favorite television series of all time. I'd feel really blessed to discover another series that stirs up such emotions in me again.


*My sister insists that I did, in fact, attend another funeral prior to that. For a family friend at Church. If this is true, then I have completely blocked it out.