For the band, see Six Feet Under (band).
Six Feet Under
Six Feet Under title screen
Michael C. Hall
Mathew St. Patrick
Country of origin
No. of episodes
63 (List of episodes)
approx. 60 minutes (commercial-free)
June 3, 2001 – August 21, 2005
Six Feet Under is a critically acclaimed American television drama created by Alan Ball that was originally broadcast from 2001 to 2005. It was produced by Alan Ball, Alan Poul, Robert Greenblatt and David Janollari. The series centers on a family-run mortuary, Fisher & Sons Funeral Home, and explores the lives of the Fisher family following the death of the family patriarch (the title being a colloquialism/euphemism for death, six feet being the traditional depth at which a body would be laid). The series is set in modern-day Los Angeles.
Six Feet Under was produced by Actual Size Films and The Greenblatt/Janollari Studio. It first aired on HBO in 2001, and has been broadcast in syndication by basic cable channel Bravo as well as in dozens of other countries. The series ended its five year run on August 21, 2005.
The show has received critical acclaim from The Hollywood Reporter, Variety and The New York Times , among other media, and has garnered praise from fellow television producers and funeral directors . In total, Six Feet Under won three Golden Globe Awards and nine Emmy Awards. The series won the Golden Globe award for Outstanding Drama Series and Best Supporting Actress for Rachel Griffiths in 2002. Frances Conroy went on to receive the award for Best Actress in a Drama for the Golden Globes in 2004. The show also won the Screen Actors Guild award for Best Ensemble for a Drama series, two years in a row (2003–2004).
See also: List of Six Feet Under episodes
The show stars Peter Krause as Nathaniel Samuel ("Nate") Fisher Jr., the son of a funeral director who, upon the death of his father, reluctantly becomes a partner in the family funeral business with his brother David, played by Michael C. Hall. The Fisher clan also includes mother Ruth (Frances Conroy) and sister Claire (Lauren Ambrose). Other regulars include mortician and family friend Federico Diaz (Freddy Rodriguez), Nate's on again off again girlfriend and eventual wife Brenda Chenowith (Rachel Griffiths), and David's boyfriend and eventual husband Keith Charles (Mathew St. Patrick).
On one level, the show is a conventional family drama, dealing with such issues as relationships, infidelity, and religion. At the same time, it is a show distinguished by its unblinking focus on the topic of death, which it explores on multiple levels (personal, religious, and philosophical), rather than treating it as a convenient impetus for the solution of a murder. 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 black humor running throughout.
A recurring plot device consists of a character having an imaginary conversation with the person who died at the beginning of the episode. Sometimes, the conversation is with other recurring dead characters, notably Nathaniel Fisher Sr. They represent the living character's internal dialogue by exposing it as an external conversation. Casual conversations with the dead also reflect the genre of magical realism. A similar device is occasionally used where a real conversation between two living characters slips into the imaginary and becomes unrealistic. The shift cannot be clearly distinguished from the normal flow of the scene until an abrupt cut brings the audience back to a mundane conversation, which reveals through contrast the imaginary nature of the preceding moment.
Though overall plots and characters were created from Alan Ball, there are conflicting reports on how the series' concept was conceived. In one instance, creator Alan Ball stated that he received the premise to create the show after the deaths of his sister and father. However, in an interview , he intimates that HBO entertainment president Carolyn Strauss proposed the idea to him. The latter argument is supported by the statement of facts in an opinion by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in a copyright-infringement case involving the series, which HBO won: Funky Films, Inc. v. Time Warner Entertainment Co., 462 F.3d 1072 (2006).
The setting for many of the scenes is in the family owned and operated Fisher & Sons Funeral Home in Los Angeles. The family resides on the upper floors of the funeral home; with the main floor used for the business as viewing and chapel rooms and the basement for the embalming and body preparation areas. There is also a separate apartment with a garage adjacent to the funeral home.
Main article: List of Six Feet Under characters
Eldest son of Ruth and Nathaniel; co-operator of Fisher & Diaz; husband to Brenda Chenowith; widower to Lisa Kimmel; father of Maya Fisher (to Lisa) and Willa Chenowith (to Brenda). Succumbs to AVM in 2005 at age 40.
Michael C. Hall
Middle child of Ruth and Nathaniel; co-operator of Fisher & Diaz; husband (later widower) of Keith Charles; adopted father to Durrell and Anthony. Dies in 2044 at age 75 at a picnic in Echo Park.
Matriarch of Fisher family; former wife/lifelong partner to George Sibley and widow to Nathaniel; mother to Nate, David and Claire. Dies in 2025 at age 79 in a hospital surrounded by Claire, David and George.
Youngest child of Ruth and Nathaniel; artist of the family who worked temporarily as a secretary. The final montage of the show, and her obituary on HBO's website, suggest that she became a successful photographer and teacher. Wife, then widow, of Ted Fairwell. Dies at age 101 in 2085.
Daughter of Margaret and Bernard Chenowith; sister of Billy. Former shiatsu practitioner; then a cognitive therapist. Girlfriend, then wife, then widow of Nate Fisher. Wife to Daniel Nathanson (she is shown sitting with him in the finale's final montage, though he never speaks). Mother to Willa Fisher Chenowith and Forrest Nathanson (she is featured pregnant with him in the finale's final montage), and step-mother to Maya Fisher. Dies in 2051 at age 82. She didn't appear in four episodes of the third season due to Griffiths' 2002 pregnancy. Rachel Griffiths' second pregnancy in 2004 was written into the show. Brenda appeared in 59 of the 63 episodes.
Business partner and embalmer at Fisher & Diaz with Nate and David; husband of Vanessa; father to Julio and Augusto. He first started as an employee at Fisher and Sons later he became Founder of Diaz Family Mortuary in 2005. Dies at age 75 in 2049 on a cruise ship with Vanessa (suggested heart attack). He appeared in 62 episodes, missing one episode of the first season, Life's Too Short, due to Federico's storyline.
Mathew St. Patrick
Former Los Angeles police officer now in private security; husband of David; adopted father to Anthony and Durrell. Gunned down in 2029 at age 61 by a gang of robbers as he unloads an armored truck.
Geologist/professor; second husband to Ruth; father to Brian, Maggie and Kyle. George suffers from an undiagnosed paranoia which prompts him to receive electro-convulsive shock treatment.
Registered nurse; former employee at Bay Breeze Nursing Home in Sherman Oaks. Wife and high school sweetheart of Federico; mother to Julio and Augusto.
Nathaniel Samuel Fisher Sr.
Patriarch of Fisher family and owner of Fisher & Sons Funeral Home before his death in a car accident in 2000. Husband of Ruth; father of Nate, David and Claire.
Daughter of George Sibley; traveling pharmaceutical representative from Arizona. Tina Holmes originally auditioned for the minor role of "Marci", Bettina's daughter. She didn't get the job but was called back to read for George's daughter, Maggie.
Younger sister of Ruth Fisher, an artist who lives in Topanga Canyon.
Sarah’s friend and caretaker who becomes Ruth’s friend when Sarah undergoes withdrawal and further drug rehabilitation.
Lisa Kimmel Fisher
Nate’s former girlfriend and roommate while living in Seattle; she subsequently becomes pregnant with Nate's child Maya, and they marry in 2002. In 2003, she disappears while enroute to visit her sister, and her body later washes up on shore. Eventually it is revealed she was engaged in an affair with her brother-in-law. He commits suicide, and it is suspected but never proven that he murdered Lisa.
Brenda’s younger brother who has bipolar disorder; son of Margaret and Bernard Chenowith; one-time boyfriend of Claire Fisher; one time lover of Olivier.
Psychiatrist mother of Brenda and Billy; widow of Bernard; current lover to Olivier Castro-Staal.
Dr. Bernard Chenowith
Brenda and Billy’s psychiatrist father; husband to Margaret before his death in 2003.
Professor of Form in Space at LAC-Arts; lover to Margaret Chenowith.
A young intern from Cypress College mortuary school who works for the funeral home briefly.
Former boyfriend and classmate of Claire.
Free spirited lesbian artist and good friend of Claire. They shared a hesistant, non consumated night together with Claire realising she wasn't a lesbian immediately afterwards.
Former best friend and roommate of Claire Fisher; ex-girlfriend of Russell Corwin.
Best friend of Claire Fisher during her high school years.
Claire’s high school boyfriend who was a drug addict and robbed a convenience store. It is assumed he died a short while after he disappears.
Owner of Blossom d’Amour Flower Shop; boyfriend of Ruth Fisher when she worked as a florist.
Corporate attorney at Braeden Chemical Legal Department who becomes Claire's boyfriend when she is assigned as a secretary through her temp job (temporary employee). Marries Claire shortly after her mother's death.
Adopted older son of David and Keith; older brother of Anthony. He plans on working as a firefighter but later becomes a funeral director like his father.
Adopted younger son of David and Keith; brother of Durrell.
Brenna and Bronwyn Tosh
Nate and Lisa’s toddler daughter.
Nathaniel Fisher Sr.
Lisa Kimmel Fisher
Willa Fisher Chenowith
The following is a timeframe which features the year the particular episode is set in, which is distinct from the year the episode actually first aired.
According to creator Alan Ball, music plays an integral role in Six Feet Under, as it depicts the moods of the Fishers.
The following songs were played during the teaser trailers for the seasons following the first:
The song played during each episode recap is a 1995 single called "Nothing Lies Still Long" by Pell Mell.
Previews for upcoming episodes feature the Six Feet Under theme. The first and fifth seasons feature the original version of the song while the second, third and fourth seasons feature the Rae & Christian remix.
Main article: List of Six Feet Under DVD releases
Two soundtrack albums, featuring music that had appeared in the series, were released:
In March 2005, HBO announced that the final season of Six Feet Under would be moved to Monday evenings starting June 6, the reason being to add an additional night of programming to the HBO lineup for their upcoming summer season which included Entourage and The Comeback. This was a huge adjustment for regular viewers as the series had traditionally been scheduled for Sundays. The Monday night experiment ultimately failed due to decreased ratings and complaints. HBO chairman, Chris Albrecht admitted the move was a mistake since the network has always been committed to airing programs on the weekends. Six Feet Under returned to its old timeslot on July 10, 2005 after having been in the "new" timeslot for only five episodes.
In Australia, the Nine Network infuriated fans by consistently delaying and rescheduling episodes past midnight during the broadcast of seasons 1 to 5.
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The creative talent of the show — actors, writers, and directors — have interconnections within and apart from the show. Freddy Rodriguez had a recurring role on Alan Ball's earlier ABC series, Oh, Grow Up!; the program aired in 1999, two years prior to Six Feet Under. Actors Lauren Ambrose, Freddy Rodriguez, Eric Balfour (Gabriel Dimas) and Peter Facinelli (Jimmy) were all in the 1998 movie Can't Hardly Wait. Peter Krause had a recurring role in the 90's Sit-Com Cybill, which was co-written by Ball. Additionally, actor Kathy Bates, who was a director during the first three seasons, went on to pursue a recurring role on the series as Ruth's friend, Bettina.
Six Feet Under had various real-life Los Angeles connections. Many of the sculptures and paintings seen on the show are the works of local sculptor and artist Bruce Gray. There are many stills from several episodes on his website that feature his work. The Fisher & Sons Funeral Home was located at 2302 West 25th St. in the West Adams section of Los Angeles, which was actually the location of The Filipino Federation of America. Caskets for the show were made by a local company, ABC Caskets.
After the series ended in 2005, several actors from the series have moved on to lead and supporting roles on several present-day network television programs and several notable films
Six Feet Under is broadcast on the following channels around the world: