July 20, 2004

It's Time to Bury the Corpse

I don't watch a lot of television. In fact, just about the only time I turn the teevee on is to watch Six Feet Under, which in its previous seasons somehow transcended its overwrought situations with musings on life, interrelationships and death. Now that I've caught up (thanks to insomnia) with this season, I've lost just about all hope for Six Feet Under. It can't be an accident that the last episode was called "That's My Dog." The show not only does not respect the integrity and intelligence of its characters (what happened to Keith's rage or the intricate relationship with his family?), but is content to rip off its plots from subpar movies like Training Day, though without even that film's nuances. I speak of the recent hitchhiking subplot, whereby David had several opportunities to run away or roar off with the van, but didn't. I speak of Michael C. Hall, a talented actor of understatements, reduced to cardboard histrionics. I speak of a situation in which characters are now spread across a wide expanse as opposed to being united in the funeral home, whereby the horrible plot device of coincidence will no doubt bring these people together. (Is this why Olivier is back? To keep Brenda's mom in the picture?) I speak of the stunt plot devices (seen with the shit packages, perhaps a clue from the writers that they're burned out?) and the cartoonish characterizations (the death of the religious lady seeing the balloon, the ogling security guards, and even Brenda's new boyfriend, Joe, a one-dimensional nice guy played by tin Theroux, an actor hindered by slipshod writing and thus not allowed to showcase his quirks). Even the opening deaths, with the "unexpected" person of the two dying, are as transparent as gauze.

We're now five episodes (i.e., five hours) and not only are the story arcs barely moving (slower than the recent HBO adaptation of Angels in America!), but they lack any of the vitality and meaning seen particularly in the show's first two seasons. If the current season continues in this vein, then I hope HBO will be kind enough to bury the corpse. Six Feet Under has become no different and no less dumber than network television. And it's a goddam shame.

Oh, and memo to Alan Ball: Beyond actually keeping your goddam characters consistent, if you're going to have crackheads and crack dealers, how about a little verisimilitude, you out-of-touch motherfucker? Crackheads are dingy, unwashed, unattractive, hopelessly addicted, and sad. They are not picked, as you presented them, clean with slightly used threads and about two days' stubble from the adjacent set of some failed MTV effort at streetcred.

Man, I knew I should have kept my boob tube off.

Posted by DrMabuse at July 20, 2004 03:11 AM

I hate to hear that. Because I'm HBO-less, I've had to rely on the DVD releases to discover Six Feet Under. I spent most of July 2003 falling in love with Season 1, and I'm now two episodes into Season 2. Already, I'm noticing a less successful balance of melodrama and character. But as soon as I start getting frustrated, Peter Krause comes back on screen and redeems the show. Nate, at least as he's developed/performed in the first two seasons, might be my all-time favorite TV character.

Posted by: Darren at July 20, 2004 06:32 AM

I have to agree with most of this rant; however, it's still the best show on TV.

Posted by: Jimmy Beck at July 20, 2004 08:27 AM

You're absolutely right--SFU seems to be going down the tube this season. But just as it taketh away, HBO giveth. If you didn't see it the first time around, try "Deadwood" when it returns. It's deeper, richer and stranger than anything I've seen on tv since the first season of "Twin Peaks" in the early 90s.

Posted by: Michael at July 20, 2004 09:39 AM

I agree with much of wrote you wrote. Brenda's boyfriend Joe, however, is played by Justin Theroux, not Peter Macissi.

Posted by: Tobey at July 20, 2004 09:59 AM

Darren: Stick with it. For my money, the first two seasons are the best. After that, it goes downhill.

Tobey: Thanks.

Posted by: Ed at July 20, 2004 10:17 AM

I finally got a chance to see this week's episode last night and found the whole hitchhiking ordeal ridiculous. I agree with most of what Ed has written as well - it seems as if Ball has run out of ideas and is recycling. I thought the character of David had moved beyond the hysterical, scared man. There were at least three or four times that he could have hit the gas and gotten away.

It was tough to stick it out to the end of the episode.

Posted by: Dan Wickett at July 21, 2004 04:09 PM