But, I love it. I love this show! I love the characters, I love the storylines, I love the depth and the growth and the humor and the sorrow and the grieving and the depression. I love Nate Fisher as the relatable righteous moral authority and brother David as the uptight, conservative, religious moral authority (who just so happens to be gay) and sister Claire who's the angst-riddled artist continuously fucked over by the losers she attracts and mother Ruth as the widow stay-at-home who's wound up tighter than a coil.
Seeing them interact and react and try to cope and survive and lead healthy lives in spite of all the fucked up death that surrounds them (the family business is a funeral home) is the one singular joy derived from this show.
And yet, I wouldn't put it in my top 5 all-time TV shows. Right now, I'm not even positive it's in my top 10, but I've still got one and a half more seasons to pound through before I can make a definitive judgment. For a show that's so well-acted, with characters you believe in and want to see do well in life, it's hard to sit back and watch all the tragedies that splash on their shores like a series of tsunamis.
I mean, right off the bat the show starts off with the dad being killed in a bus accident. From there, to the numerous break-ups among all of their relationships to the mysterious death of Lisa, Nate's wife, to the fact that in every single episode somebody's dying within the first five minutes, guaranteed, it's just this heavy fucking entity that you're forced to wade through. For every episode that makes the viewer chipper with glee (pretty much anything with Kathy Bates, but that's like a three-episode run), there are eight or nine that will completely shatter you.
The latest one I saw is no different.
Nate's still grieving over his wife's death, Claire is facing a temporary setback in the poor reception of her submission to that day's art class, Ruth and new husband George are embroiled in the sensitive issue of his long-lost bastard son, and David's boyfriend Keith is touring as a security guard for some singer and it's the first time they've been apart (aside from the breakups they've endured).
Then, as David is driving a body back from the morgue, he decides to be a Good Samaritan and pick up a hitchhiker.
Now, things like that will instantly raise a red flag (like whenever you see that the creator of a series just so happens to have written and/or directed an episode ... you know shit is GOING down within the next hour), but this is Six Feet Under, so you can't necessarily expect your first instinct is going to be true. And, for a while, as they're going to get the gas can from the station, things are looking kinda OK (really, the only danger at this point is David fantasizing about a possible fling with this maybe-gay stranger, which isn't a rarity in this show).
And then out comes the gun from the satchel, and the entire last half of the episode is devoted to the ensuing kidnapping (leaving completely forgotten all the other storylines this episode started out with). Just, some of the most riveting television you're ever going to see. David takes the guy to buy crack, David's forced to smoke it at gunpoint, David gets tied up while the guy robs a liquor store and frees himself, escapes, runs off and hides, and gets caught when his phone goes off. David driving the guy to Long Beach where he's promised that he'll be let go. Finally, the entire episode culminates with David in an alley being doused with the gasoline they bought before and being threatened with a gun and a lighter. The guy ends up sparing him, though, steals the van, and leaves David soaking, beaten, in a dangerous neighborhood, finally happening upon a passing police officer as he walks back toward civilization.
I'll find out what happens in the next episode tonight, but I can't say I'm necessarily looking forward to it. Watching Six Feet Under isn't like popping a frozen pizza into the oven; it's like single-handedly cooking a Thanksgiving dinner for 12 people. There's a lot of shit involved, you can't help but feel overwhelmed and distressed the entire time, and when it's over you're a complete wreck, wasted in emotional fatigue.
In that sense, Six Feet Under achieves what no other show has that I've ever seen. To elicit that kind of response from the viewer can mean only that the sheer power and talent in writing with this show isn't matched by The Wire or The Sopranos or anything else. When all is said and done, I wouldn't be shocked to see this show scratch and claw into my top 5; but you'll have to give me a week to recover before I can make such claims.