Six Feet Under-standing

Today I finished watching the fifth season of a little HBO show they like to call ‘Six Feet Under’. I began watching Season One earlier this year with intelligent and sort of cineophile-ish Canuck boyfriend. When he began explaining the premise of the show (that it is about a family who own, operator and live at the premises of a funeral parlour) I was intrigued but hesitant (the fact that he has not once been wrong in suggesting a film to me is besides the point.)

What began in the early part of this year ended today, and to his credit, Canuck boyfriend watched the entire thing again from start to finish with me, without missing an episode. We would discuss at length this emotional, fantastic show about love and loss and everything in between.

I haven’t watched many shows from start to finish without missing an episode, and especially with the same person in the room for every viewing experience. I think the last time something like this happened I was in Hong Kong for Christmas, and my Mum and I downloaded the first and second season of ‘Archer’ a wickedly funny animated adult-ish show about a spy agency. I was supposed to be heading out later that evening, but Mum and I downloaded them all, started drinking Bailey’s in the afternoon and couldn’t stop. I have never laughed so hard, nor snorted Milk so far across a room before.

But watching ‘Six Feet’ was different. Not only are the characters so real that you miss them and hope for their safety and well-being, but the way the show progresses is in a linear narrative structure, so each episode reveals something new about the characters and deepens their journey. And while I’m sure that each episode has its stand-alone qualities (each episode begins with a death and follows a similar structure, jumping from story lines that ensnare the different characters) after watching 5 series of this show in order…I can’t imagine just flicking on the TV and catching a re-run, or skipping to episodes I think I might like better.

After five series you believe in the struggles of the Fishers (the main family) and their community, and you have also watched them grow and develop, make up and break up, so you feel like you know their past and where they might be headed.

The whole cast and crew of this show can not be commended highly enough. They take you on a roller coaster of emotion, and although I am extremely late to the party on this one (the fifth season ended in 2005) I feel that the messages and struggles within the show are relatable to each of us today.

Whether it is David’s struggle with accepting his sexuality and wanting a family, Nate’s fear of commitment and responsibility, Ruth’s fight for independence and self-image after years of playing the role of wife and Mother, or Claire’s desire to be heard, to not be forgotten about and to be loved, we have all been there, we have all felt at times like a David, a Nate, a Ruth or a Claire. This show reminds us that life is not always pretty. It’s intense and interesting, but it ain’t always sunshine and lollipops.

In a TV and film landscape where producers and film studios are still trying to feed us glittery images of a Utopia that doesn’t exist (well…maybe it does…on the backlots of LA studios) this show is refreshing a sad and unflinching when it comes to dealing with pain.

‘Six Feet Under’ says:

Hey you know what? Sometimes life sucks. But you’ll get over it.

Everyone always said to me that the last episode would stay with me. After the tumultuous five seasons, I couldn’t imagine where the writers could take us after all the hurt we as an audience had endured. But they really took it to the next level and everyone was right. The last episode was amazing.

I would recommend that people commit to the 70 or so hours of viewing, just for the last ten minutes of episode twelve, season five.

I wish sometimes that life was documented like a TV show (I’d definitely want mine to be HBO). Things happen to us in increments sometimes, just little tiny pieces of the days and nights and they add up to make big things, to change lives for the better or for the worse, but always clumping together to form hours and days and months and years. And it’s hard to see them in big picture form. Sure, you’ll remember the big ones, the day she said yes, the day you signed your name on the deeds of the new place, births, deaths, awkward school reunions…

But what about the moments of interaction with a family member – where you learned something unique about them just for a split second, where you saw them in a different light for just a moment? In TV land the character could narrow their eyes and the music could come up, but in real life those moments go undocumented. They just happen and without realizing them, or having the remote control to go back, freeze and re-watch, we are unable to perhaps identify significance – or appreciate that nuance to the extreme.

The underlying message that I took away from this incredible show is that life is short and hard sometimes, but beautiful.

I’ll try to keep that in my heart on the days I wonder what the fuck I’m doing with my life

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