Six Feet Under
is not just a smartly written, sublimely acted soap that happens to be set in a funeral home; it's a profound mixture of emotional truths and whimsical black comedy that uses its setting to comment upon the way we live, with the omnipresent spectre of death throwing life's problems into sharp relief. Creator Alan Ball (American Beauty
) understands modern neuroses more than most, it seems, and his rich sense of the absurd is given added potency, not to say piquancy, by the sometimes comically ridiculous juxtaposition of life and death.
The first series introduces the Fisher family, whose already weighty emotional baggage is bolstered by the sudden demise of their patriarch, who has willed the family funeral home to his two initially hostile sons, wayward Nate (Peter Krause) and in-the-closet David (Michael C Hall). Teenage younger sister Claire (Lauren Ambrose) and repressed mother Ruth (Frances Conroy) have their own problems, as does put-upon mortician Federico (Freddy Rodriguez). The first year's unfolding story arc includes the family's resistance to a hostile big corporation, Nate's budding romance with wild card Brenda (stunningly good Rachel Griffiths), David's attempts to reconcile his Christian faith with his homosexuality, Claire's self-destructive boyfriend trouble and Ruth's gradual realisation that, although she was a wife and is a mother, she's entitled to have a life too.
On the DVD: Six Feet Under, Series 1 spreads 13 episodes across four discs. Care has been taken to reflect the show's stylish look in everything from the novel external packaging to the menu layouts. Picture is good, but only standard 4:3 ratio, though sound is vivid Dolby 5.1. The bonus features include two episode commentaries from creator Alan Ball, who happily chats about the pilot and the season finale, both of which he wrote and directed. There's a 22-minute "Behind the Scenes" featurette--standard HBO fare with cast interviews. More interesting is "Under the Main Titles", which explores Digital Kitchen's creation of the fascinating opening title sequence and talks to genius composer Thomas Newman about his theme music. The music can also be heard in an audio-only track as well as in Kid Loco's "Graveyard" remix. Text biographies, episode synopses and Web links complete the extras. One minor niggle: there's no "Play All" facility, so you can't indulge the luxury of watching uninterrupted episodes back-to-back. --Mark Walker
A series that looks at the life of a family that runs an independent funeral home and how they cope with grief of their own.