Six Feet Under: The Black Dramedy With All The Feelings

six feet underPhoto: Courtesy of HBO.
Full disclosure: We love TV. So much so that sometimes we'd rather spend a whole weekend in front of the tube than dancing at da club until 3 a.m. The lack of any kind of television service holding you back from feeling our joy? No problem! You can get by just fine on Netflix, Hulu, and the myriad other streaming services rapidly taking over the home entertainment industry (thank you, Internet!).
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Some shows are just better when binge-watched. Whether it's the latest BBC comedy, a PBS miniseries from the '70s, or just that cultish show prematurely scrubbed from a network — we're hooked on the stream. So, we're unrolling Staying In(stant), a new feature highlighting the best of streaming content. Each week, we bring you a show we're obsessed with and think you should be, too.
This week? Six Feet Under. HBO's early-aughties drama that revolves around the Fisher family, a lovably dysfunctional clan that owns a funeral home in Los Angeles. Only a small percentage of each episode actually deals with the business of death — it's more about the family members' lives — but there's no question who the real protagonist is: mortality.
Where To Watch
Amazon Prime, HBO Go
How I Got Hooked
It was 2005, the first time. My boyfriend had stopped answering my calls/texts/emails, and after two months, I thought, "This might be it." So, every few days, I would emerge from my bedroom to confront the TV in the pre-streaming world that it was. Yet, no matter how many times I'd try, try again, I could not focus on the simplest show. Watching an episode of Project Runway (and a Bravo-era one at that) was like reading Proust or a GRE reading-comp essay or anything Stephenie Meyer ever wrote. I just couldn't. But, eventually, I found Six Feet Under, a dark match for a darker mood, and we just hit it off. While I don't want to say a TV show can be a substitute for therapy, I pretty much just did. Both can be cathartic; both offer new perspective, and both are just under an hour. And, this one worked.
I rewatched the whole series over the last month sans depression. Yes, 63 episodes in 31 days, because January, it's for resolutions.
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Best Episode
I really tossed and turned over this decision. The second half of the last season is an emotional downpour that induces feelings upon feelings upon feelings. It's an unfair advantage, really. But, because the entire series builds up to these episodes (like, really, I'd be surprised if the ending wasn't planned from the very get-go), I chose one of them: "All Alone." Though it's probably blasphemy not to choose the finale (a frequenter of Best TV Episode Ever lists), and the dream sequence at the end of the preceding show, "Ecotone," deserves, at the very least, a gift card, "All Alone" embodies the series. See, as much as Six Feet Under is a show about life, it's first and foremost a show about death — the two are, after all, in business together as this season two Lynch-esque dream scene can attest. And, no episode does death better than this. Whether you're familiar with its picture of grief or not, you're certain this gets it right. And, because you've spent five seasons with these characters, you're invested to a degree that a movie could never allow you to be. Plus, if you ever wanted to spend 58 minutes with tears in your eyes, this is your chance.
Why You'll Love It
Because HBO's initial notes for creator Alan Ball was to make it "a little more f*cked up." Because no other show is quite like it, and no character is who they initially seem to be. Because somebody always show up to dinner high. And, though the father is dead, he is still a reoccurring character, and its depiction of teenage girls is painfully spot-on. And, because, you really don't watch it as much as you feel it. It's one of the most cathartic experiences you can have without getting off your couch and living life yourself. Is that enough?
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