Six Feet Under (TV series)

Six Feet Under (TV series)

Infobox Television
show_name = Six Feet Under

caption = "Six Feet Under" title screen
format = Drama
location = Los Angeles
runtime = approx. 55 min.
creator = Alan Ball
starring = Peter Krause
Michael C. Hall
Frances Conroy
Lauren Ambrose
Freddy Rodriguez
Mathew St. Patrick
Jeremy Sisto
Justina Machado
with James Cromwell
and Rachel Griffiths
country = USA
language = English
network = HBO
first_aired = June 3, 2001
last_aired = August 21, 2005
num_seasons = 5
num_episodes = 63
list_episodes = List of Six Feet Under episodes
imdb_id = 0248654
tv_com_id = 3223

"Six Feet Under" is an American television drama created by Alan Ball that was originally broadcast from 2001 to 2005. It was produced by Alan Ball, Alan Poul, Robert Greenblatt and David Janollari. The series centers on Fisher & Sons Funeral Home, a family-run mortuary, and explores the lives of the Fisher family following the death of the family patriarch. It is set in modern-day Los Angeles. The title is a colloquialism for death, six feet (1.83 metres) being the traditional depth at which a corpse is buried.

"Six Feet Under" was produced by Actual Size Films and The Greenblatt/Janollari Studio. It first aired on HBO in 2001, and has been broadcast in syndication in the US by basic cable channel Bravo as well as in dozens of other countries. The series ended its five year run on August 21, 2005.

The show received critical acclaim from "Variety", "The Hollywood Reporter", and "The New York Times", [ [ New York Times, The Year in Television, The Critics' Choices] ] among other media, and has garnered praise from fellow television producers and funeral directors, [ Life and Loss: The Impact of Six Feet Under, DVD feature, Six Feet Under: The Complete Fifth Season] with many considering it to be one of the best dramas ever made for television. In total, "Six Feet Under" won three Golden Globe Awards and nine Emmy Awards, as well as a Peabody Award. The series won the Golden Globe award for Outstanding Drama Series and Best Supporting Actress for Rachel Griffiths in 2002. Frances Conroy went on to receive the award for Best Actress in a Drama for the Golden Globes in 2004. The show also won the Screen Actors Guild award for Best Ensemble for a Drama Series two years in a row (2003–2004)." [ Awards for "Six Feet Under"] " Accessed December 25, 2006.]


The show stars Peter Krause as Nathaniel Samuel ("Nate") Fisher Jr., the son of a funeral director who, upon the death of his father (Richard Jenkins), reluctantly becomes a partner in the family funeral business with his brother David, played by Michael C. Hall. The Fisher clan also includes mother Ruth (Frances Conroy) and sister Claire (Lauren Ambrose). Other regulars include mortician and family friend Federico Diaz (Freddy Rodriguez), Nate's on-again, off-again girlfriend Brenda Chenowith (Rachel Griffiths), and David's boyfriend Keith Charles (Mathew St. Patrick).

On one level, the show is a conventional family drama, dealing with such issues as relationships, infidelity, and religion. At the same time, it is a show distinguished by its unblinking focus on the topic of death, which it explores on multiple levels (personal, religious, and philosophical). Each episode begins with a death — anything from drowning or heart attack to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome — and that death usually sets the tone for each episode, allowing the characters to reflect on their current fortunes and misfortunes in a way that is illuminated by the death and its aftermath. The show also has a strong dosage of dark humor and surrealism running throughout.

A recurring plot device consists of a character having an imaginary conversation with the person who died at the beginning of the episode. Sometimes, the conversation is with other recurring dead characters, notably Nathaniel Fisher Sr. The show's creator Alan Ball states they represent the living character's internal dialogue by exposing it as an external conversation, yet on some occasions (see the appearance of Nathaniel Fisher Sr. at the end of the last episode of the first season) no living character sees or interacts with the dead character. Also, on many occasions the dead characters relate information the living ones could not know, perhaps representing speculation on the part of the living concerning issues which were never solved before the passing.Or|date=December 2007 Casual conversations with the dead also reflect the genre of magical realism.


Although overall plots and characters were created by Alan Ball, there are conflicting reports on how the series was conceived. In one instance, Ball stated that he came up with the premise of the show after the deaths of his sister and father. However, in an interview, [ [ Six Feet Under: In Memoriam Interview] ] he intimates that HBO entertainment president Carolyn Strauss proposed the idea to him. In a copyright-infringement lawsuit, [ [$file/0455578.pdf?openelement Funky Films vs. Time Warner Legal Case] ] screenwriter Gwen O’Donnell asserted that she was the original source of the idea which later passed through Strauss to Ball; the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, proceeding on the assumption that this assertion was true, rejected her claim.

Major themes

The show focuses on human mortality and the lives of those who deal with it on a daily basis. When discussing the concept of the show, creator Alan Ball elaborates on the foremost questions the show’s pilot targeted:

Who are these people who are funeral directors that we hire to face death for us? What does that do to their own lives - to grow up in a home where there are dead bodies in the basement, to be a child and walk in on your father with a body lying on a table opened up and him working on it? What does that do to you? [ [ Six Feet Under: In Memoriam Interview] ]

Six Feet Under introduces the Fisher family as the basis on which to answer these questions. Throughout its five-season, 63-episode run, major characters experience crises which are in direct relation to their environment and the grief they’ve experienced. Alan Ball again relates these experiences as well as the choice of the series’ title, to the persistent subtext of the programFinale episode Audio Commentary with Alan Ball, Six Feet Under: The Complete Fifth Season DVD] :

"Six Feet Under" refers not only to being buried as a dead body is buried, but to primal emotions and feelings running under the surface. And when one is surrounded by death it seems like to counterbalance that, there needs to be a certain intensity of experience, of needing to escape. It’s Nate with his sort of womanizing; it’s Claire and her experimenting with dangerous boys and dangerous drugs; and it’s Brenda’s whole sexual compulsiveness; it’s David having sex with a hooker in public; it’s Ruth having affair after affair; it’s the life force trying to push up through all of that suffering and grief and depression.

Character histories and cast

{| class="wikitable"
+Supporting Characters
-! Actor !! Character !! Relationship
Richard Jenkins || Nathaniel Samuel Fisher Sr. || Patriarch of Fisher family and owner of Fisher & Sons Funeral Home before his death in a car accident in 2000. Husband of Ruth; father of Nate, David and Claire.
Patricia Clarkson || Sarah O’Connor || Younger sister of Ruth Fisher, an artist who lives in Topanga Canyon.
Kathy Bates || Bettina || Sarah’s friend and caretaker who becomes Ruth’s friend when Sarah undergoes withdrawal and further drug rehabilitation.
Lili Taylor || Lisa Kimmel Fisher || Nate’s former girlfriend and roommate while living in Seattle; she subsequently becomes pregnant with Nate's child Maya, and they marry in 2002. In 2003, she disappears while enroute to visit her sister, and her body later washes up on shore. Eventually it is revealed she was engaged in an affair with her brother-in-law. He commits suicide, and it is suspected but never proven that he murdered Lisa.

Joanna Cassidy || Margaret Chenowith || Psychologist mother of Brenda and Billy; widow of Bernard; current lover to Olivier Castro-Staal.
Robert Foxworth || Dr. Bernard Chenowith || Brenda and Billy’s psychiatrist father; husband to Margaret before his death in 2003.
Peter Macdissi || Olivier Castro-Staal || Professor of Form and Space at LAC-Arts; lover to Margaret Chenowith. Aspects of this character may be based on Nathan Oliveira.
Rainn Wilson || Arthur Martin || A young intern from Cypress College mortuary school who works for the funeral home briefly.
Ben Foster || Russell Corwin || Former boyfriend and classmate of Claire.
Mena Suvari || Edie || Free spirited lesbian artist and good friend of Claire. They shared a hesitant, non-consummated night together with Claire realising she wasn't a lesbian immediately afterwards.
Sprague Grayden || Anita Miller || Former best friend and roommate of Claire Fisher; ex-girlfriend of Russell Corwin.
Marina Black || Parker McKenna || Best friend of Claire Fisher during her high school years.
Eric Balfour || Gabriel Dimas || Claire’s high school boyfriend who was a drug addict and robbed a convenience store. It is assumed he died a short while after he disappears.
Ed O'Ross || Nikolai || Owner of Blossom d’Amour Flower Shop; boyfriend of Ruth Fisher when she worked as a florist.
Chris Messina || Ted Fairwell || Corporate attorney at Braeden Chemical Legal Department who becomes Claire's boyfriend when she is assigned as a secretary through her temp job (temporary employee). Marries Claire shortly after her mother's death.
Kendre Berry || Durrell Charles-Fisher || Adopted older son of David and Keith; older brother of Anthony. He plans on working as a firefighter but later becomes a funeral director like his father.
C. J. Sanders || Anthony Charles-Fisher || Adopted younger son of David and Keith; brother of Durrell. Seen in the flash forward during the final minutes as an adult in the company of a male partner.
Brenna and Bronwyn Tosh || Maya Fisher || Nate and Lisa’s toddler daughter.

Recurring cast

* Ben Foster - Russell Corwin (22 episodes)
* Joanna Cassidy - Margaret Chenowith (20 episodes)
* Ed O'Ross - Nikolai (18 episodes)
* Peter Macdissi - Olivier Castro-Staal (15 episodes)
* Rainn Wilson - Arthur Martin (13 episodes)
* Tina Holmes - Maggie Sibley (13 episodes)
* Tim Maculan - Father Jack (13 episodes)
* Eric Balfour - Gabe Dimas (12 episodes)
* Sprague Grayden - Anita Miller (12 episodes)
* Aysia Polk - Taylor (11 episodes)
* Kathy Bates - Bettina (10 episodes)
* Peter Facinelli - Jimmy (9 episodes)
* Garrison Hershberger - Matthew Gilardi (8 episodes)
* David Norona - Gary Deltman(8 episodes)
* Joel Brooks - Robbie (8 episodes)
* Melissa Marsala - Angelica Suarez (8 episodes)
* Justin Theroux - Joe (8 episodes)
* Idalis DeLeon - Sophia Morales (8 episodes)
* Ed Begley, Jr. - Hiram Gunderson (8 episodes)
* Mena Suvari - Edie (7 episodes)
* Terrell Clayton - Eddie (7 episodes)
* Robert Foxworth - Dr. Bernard Chenowith (6 episodes)
* Dina Spybey - Tracy Montrose Blair (6 episodes)
* Julie Dretzin - Barb Woodworth (6 episodes)
* Jeff Yagher - Hoyt Woodworth (6 episodes)
* Kellie Waymire - Melissa (6 episodes)
* Patricia Clarkson - Sarah O'Connor (6 episodes)
* Anne Ramsay - Jackie Feldman (6 episodes)
* Chris Messina - Ted Fairwell (6 episodes)
* Matt Malloy - Roger Pasquese (6 episodes)
* Nicki Micheaux - Karla (5 episodes)
* Steffani Brass - Michaela Woodworth (5 episodes)
* Michael Weston - Jake (4 episodes)
* Catherine O'Hara - Carol Ward (4 episodes)
* J.P. Pitoc - Phil {Crematorium} (4 episodes)
* Ricardo Antonio Chavira - Ramon Diaz (4 episodes)
* Michelle Trachtenberg - Celeste (4 episodes)
* Julie White- Mitzi Dalton-Huntley (4 episodes)
* Janice Lynde - Woman In Turquoise/Mrs. Loretta Sibley (3 episodes)
* Bobby Cannavale - Javier (3 episodes)
* Steven Pasquale - Kurt, David's boyfriend (3 episodes)
* Glenn Fitzgerald - Aaron Buchbinder (3 episodes)
* Jessica D. Stone - Young Brenda (3 episodes)
* Rosalind Chao - Cindy (3 episodes)
* Jenna Fischer - Sharon Kinney (2 episodes)
* Illeana Douglas - Angela (2 episodes)
* Lee Garlington - Fiona Kleinschmidt (2 episodes)
* Harriet Sansom Harris - Catherine Collins (2 episodes)
* Molly Parker - Rabbi Ari Hoffman (2 episodes)

Significant guest stars

* Sandra Oh (Episode 5, "An Open Book")
* Leeza Gibbons (Episode 22, "Someone Else's Eyes")
* Evan Handler (Episode 30, "Nobody Sleeps")
* Ellen DeGeneres (Episode 42, "Parallel Play")
* Nicole Richie (Episode 51, "Untitled")
* Chris Harrison (Episode 52, "A Coat of White Primer")
* Susie Bright (Episode 57, "The Rainbow of Her Reasons")

Family tree


Season promotionals

The following songs were played during the teaser trailers for the seasons following the first:
* Season 2: "Heaven" by Lamb []
* Season 3: "A Rush of Blood to the Head" by Coldplay []
* Season 4: "Feeling Good" by Nina Simone []
* Season 5: "Breathe Me" by Sia Furler []

Episode recaps

The song played during each episode recap is a 1995 single called "Nothing Lies Still Long" by Pell Mell.

Episode previews

Previews for upcoming episodes feature the "Six Feet Under" theme. The first and fifth seasons feature the original version of the song while the second, third and fourth seasons feature the Rae & Christian remix.



Two soundtrack albums, featuring music that had appeared in the series, were released:
* "Six Feet Under", 2002
* "", 2005



HBO broadcast history

* Season 1: Sunday June 3, 2001–Sunday August 19, 2001—10:00 p.m. ET and PT
* Season 2: Sunday March 3, 2002–Sunday June 2, 2002—9:00 p.m. ET and PT
* Season 3: Sunday March 2, 2003–Sunday June 1, 2003—9:00 p.m. ET and PT
* Season 4: Sunday June 13, 2004–Sunday September 12, 2004—9:00 p.m. ET and PT
* Season 5: Monday June 6, 2005–Monday July 4, 2005—9:00 p.m.
** Sunday July 10, 2005–Sunday August 21, 2005—9:00 p.m. ET and PT


External links

* [ Official website]
* [ "Six Feet Under" on Bravo]
* [ Coming Out of the Coffin: Life-Self and Death-Self in Six Feet Under]

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