Six Feet Under is an American drama television series created and produced by Alan Ball. It premiered on the premium cable network HBO in the United States on June 3, 2001 and ended on August 21, 2005, spanning five seasons and 63 episodes. The show was produced by Actual Size Films and The Greenblatt/Janollari Studio and was shot on location in Los Angeles and in Hollywood studios. The show depicts members of the Fisher family, who run their funeral home in Los Angeles, and their friends and lovers. The series traces these characters’ lives over the course of five years. The ensemble drama stars Peter Krause, Michael C. Hall, Frances Conroy, Lauren Ambrose, Freddy Rodriguez, Mathew St. Patrick and Rachel Griffiths as the show’s seven central characters.
Six Feet Under received widespread critical acclaim, particularly for its writing and acting, and consistently drew high ratings for the HBO network. Six Feet Under has frequently been described by critics as one of the greatest television series of all time as well as having one of the greatest series finales of all time. It won numerous awards, including nine Emmy Awards, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, three Golden Globe Awards, and a Peabody Award.
The show stars Peter Krause as Nathaniel Samuel “Nate” Fisher, Jr., whose funeral director father (Richard Jenkins) dies and bequeaths to him and his brother David (Michael C. Hall) co-ownership of the family funeral business. The Fisher clan also includes widow Ruth (Frances Conroy) and daughter 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 long-term boyfriend Keith Charles (Mathew St. Patrick).
On one level, the show is a conventional family drama, dealing with such issues as interpersonal relationships, infidelity, and religion. At the same time, the show is 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 deceased; for example, Nate, David, and Federico sometimes “converse” with the person who died at the beginning of the episode, while they are being embalmed or planning or during the funeral. Sometimes, the conversation is with other recurring deceased characters, most 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.
Learn more about the concepts, principles and symbolism behind the subliminals found in this television series: