Six Feet Under Makes You Laugh Through the Tears
By Olivia Armstrong
To celebrate its 45th birthday, HBO is spotlighting the iconic series at the heart of its history. Dive into HBO’s storied past by discovering (or revisiting) these game-changing shows: The Wire, Six Feet Under, Big Little Lies, The Sopranos, True Blood, Westworld and Game of Thrones. The first episode of each is available for free on watch.HBO.com:
Six Feet Under follows a family running a funeral home, which, with the overt theme of eternal rest and all, may seem like a depressing venture. But you don't have to look much further than the pilot to appreciate the series’ twisted sense of humor — and its unexpected knack for celebrating life.
In the show's first episode, we get to know the Fisher family: matriarch Ruth (Frances Conroy), her husband Nathaniel (Richard Jenkins); and their grown children David (Michael C. Hall), Claire (Lauren Ambrose) and Nate (Peter Krause), on a break from his nomadic ways to return home for the holidays. The Fishers are your relatively normal middle-class clan, save for the fact that they run — and live above — an independent funeral home in suburban California. Death is very much a part of their existence, but when tragedy strikes their own family, their relationship with the afterlife becomes all-too-real, and the uncertainty that follows threatens to destroy the business that defines them.
Amongst the darkness, however, creator Alan Ball and his team of writers manage to deftly walk the line between tear jerking and laugh-out-loud — not only in the first episode, but throughout the series’ five seasons. Six Feet Under and the show’s intimately developed characters often laugh in the face of the inevitable fate that binds us all and the sadness of survivors. We see this in nearly every episode of the series’ opening scenes, when an untimely demise leads the first minutes of each hour. Getting hit in just the right spot by a golf ball, swan-diving in a too-shallow pool, or taking advantage of a limo sunroof at the wrong moment are just a few of the featured final exits.
Five seasons can be daunting, but if you’re looking to get into a classic show — one with characters to fall in love with; one that doesn’t skimp on substance, but can find a way to laugh at its own seriousness — Six Feet Under checks every box.
Watch the first episode of Six Feet Under for free.