24 January 2003 | Victor Field
We're not talking "In Loving Memory" here, people.
"Six Feet Under"'s second season was a notch below the first, but only a notch.
The story of the lives and loves of the Fisher family, Alan Ball's creation (and sometimes writing) is certainly dark, but at the same time very layered, thoughtful, moving - by the end of the second season all the main characters have changed somewhat from what they were, and that's not meant as a criticism - and very funny. These are all qualities found in Ball's earlier script for "American Beauty" (who'd have thought he used to write for "Cybill"?), but there are people who can't abide the film while loving the series. Maybe it's the HBO connection... labels, who needs 'em?
The closest the show ever gets to formula is the obligatory scene where the week's dead person is unveiled (the temptation to play spot-the-corpse-to-be is unavoidable, though the writers often wrongfoot the viewer); the understandable desire to give all the main players something to do meant season 2's impact was diluted a bit, mostly due to Mathew St. Patrick as Keith (did we HAVE to get his family involved?).
Otherwise, the series is well nigh impossible to fault - the acting and writing are top of the range, the humour never gratuitously tasteless (and the fake commercials shown in the first episode have never returned, an early indication that this show may know when to quit), the series intriguingly inverts the usual male/female nudity ratio, as well as seeing homosexuality and drug use as aspects of life that are neither good nor ill (though no one will ever confuse this for "Queer As Folk" - Channel 4 or Showtime versions), and the title sequence illustrating the journey to the grave combined with Thomas Newman's sublime Emmy-winning theme music never fails to draw you in. For a show that's basically about death, this is full of life.
"In Loving Memory," in case you're wondering, was a 1970s British sitcom set in a funeral home. The difference between this and "Six Feet Under" is the difference between, say, Avril Lavigne and Reba McEntire.