Six Feet Under is an HBOEnsembleDramedy created by Alan Ball that originally ran from 2001 to 2006, comprising 5 seasons and 63 episodes.The show follows the life of the Fishers, a family who runs a mortuary in Los Angeles. After family patriarch Nathaniel Fisher Sr. is killed in a car accident, his three children and widow take up running the family's funeral home business. Each episode begins with a death, which sets up that episode's funeral.Six Feet Under received widespread critical acclaim, particularly for its writing and acting, and consistently drew high ratings for the HBO network. Six Feet Under has frequently been described by critics as one of the greatest television series of all time as well as having one of the greatest series finales ever. It won numerous awards, including 9 Emmys, 3 SAGs, 3 Golden Globes, and a Peabody Award.Has a Character Page under construction, any contributions would be appreciated.
This show provides examples of:
Aborted Arc: Keith and David during one season go through an entire storyline about taking in Keith's niece, Taylor, as their own, and going through lengths to get her mother into rehab. A few arguments later, Keith allows his parents to take her. The entire season has been exploring David and Keith's relationship as potential parents, making this a clear Aborted Arc, perhaps because it became clear that their relationship was not strong enough yet to sustain a family dynamic.
All Bikers Are Hell's Angels: Averted. The Biker funeral is wild but not dangerous, and the "guest of honor" died on his way to be a mall Santa (in full getup).
All Gays are Promiscuous: David, Keith, every single character that is attracted to the same gender seem to have no self control over where they put their genitals. Somewhat diluted because this is also true for the straight characters, especially Brenda and Nate, which is not surprising considering how they originally met.
In 2003 the series' official companion Six Feet Under: Better Living Through Death was released. It contains among others the main characters' family trees until season 4, documents from the Fisher kids' childhoods, Nathaniel's letters to Ruth from Vietnam, Claire's and Billy's chat history, excerpts from Charlotte Light and Dark, Nathaniel and Isabel and Brenda's unfinished book and many of Claire's photographs. Plus a fan letter written by 11-year-old David Fisher to Matt Dillon.
The complete series DVD set includes a small booklet with all the main characters' obituaries, providing lots of extra information to complete the epilogue from the series finale.
Anyone Can Die: In a way. The idea that any person can die at any time is a major theme in the show, but at the same time, only two major characters die young in the entire series, and there are only a couple other times important characters even come close to dying.
Keith cheerfully mentions to David, "I loved fucking women!" mid-series. A rare example of a true Bi the Way when the person is assumed 100% gay.
Big Brother Instinct: Both Nate and David look out for Claire whenever possible. In return, eventually, Claire starts looking out for them.
Bittersweet Ending: In the distant finale most of the characters appear to have a happy life, except for David and Keith, who is killed on duty in 2029. Death is a logical consequence of life, but watching the on screen deaths of the familiar characters is very heavy hitting no matter if they are old and grey or happy. The return to a young Claire with all the life ahead of her alleviates it somehow.
Black Sheep: Nate. A deconstruction in the sense that life alters his plans and he becomes the prodigal son and a family man without trying, but he is not cut out for this and snaps.
Body of the Week: Every episode begins with a death, and the epitaph faded into the credits in a manner reminiscent of "going into the light" associated with death.
Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie: When Lisa dies, Nate remembers her wishes to be buried without embalming or a coffin, out in nature. Nate manages to grant this request, although it means deceiving her family and breaking the law.
But Not Too Gay: Probably among the first TV-shows to casually avert it, that is portraying homosexual sex and relations in the same light as straight ones, without making it its central message or theme. It helps that the show's creator is also gay.
Brother Chuck: Played straight with Claire's best friend Parker; Averted with Claire's college friends who appear again in the last season.
Brother-Sister Incest: Brenda has a... bizarre relationship with her brother, who openly states that he is in love with her. There was even a scene where she fantasizes about actually sleeping with him. Ever since Season 1 there was the question of whether they actually did it. It was not confirmed until a later season that they did not.
Bystander Syndrome: In "That's My Dog", David gets carjacked. He suffers terribly and actually doesn't have many opportunities to ask for help because that might get him killed. However, when the psycho lets him go, he's seen going along a road, badly beaten and looking awful. He tries to stop somebody, but all cars just ignore him and keep going. Luckily, a police car appears at the end.
Camp Gay: David when alone with Keith. He actively represses this around other people, especially in the beginning, and much of his character development is about accepting himself and allowing himself to stop worrying about every little mannerism.
Also Robbie, from the florist.
Character Development: It's jarring to see the Fishers in the early episodes compared to the latest ones.
The Chew Toy: David, from getting kidnapped and beaten to catching an STD from a prostitute.
Cliffhanger : The end of Season 2 with Nate's operation, apparently lethal but then subverted.
Clingy Jealous Girl: Lisa. To be fair, she has a reason to be, as Nate actually loved Brenda (and obviously still loved her) whereas he only married Lisa to please his mother and provide a stable home for the baby.
Club Kid: Played straight with a dance instructor David dates briefly in the early seasons. David tries it out for awhile, which surprises several other characters, and he eventually decides isn't for him. Keith, though without the drugs and apparently without the promiscuity, as he is only ever seen with the man he is dating.
Crazy Jealous Guy: Brenda's brother took this to crazy stalkerish levels over her relationship with Nate, and Russell's behavior bordered on this at Claire's art exhibition at the end of season four. Nate showed a (potentially justified) example of this while stoned, though the situation involved meeting a naked Australian man in Brenda's house and then discovering they were sleeping in the same bed.
Dead Person Conversation: Nathaniel's frequent chats with the Fisher children, and occasionally Ruth. This also happens with the people that the Fisher's are embalming. David in particular seems prone to this in the beginning, when he represses his emotions much more, and has to process his reactions in a more internal way.
Death of the Hypotenuse: Nathaniel Fisher, Sr. (triangle with Ruth and Hiram); Lisa (triangle with Nate and Brenda); subverted with Nate, whose death breaks up both possible relationships with Brenda or Maggie.
Defrosting Ice Queen: Let's just say that the Fisher household is a microwave and the start button was the death of Nathaniel Sr.
Divorce Is Temporary: Played straight with the Chenowiths. The Díazs have it prevented by the successful Foot Dragging Divorcee variety and George and Ruth have something in between as they remain "social" but do not remarry.
Downer Beginning: The series start with the death of the patriarch of the family, on Christmas eve.
Everyone Can See It: It's plainly obvious that during the entire time Nate was married to Lisa he still loved Brenda (even though he denied it), and that Brenda still loved him (even though she denied it).
Everyone Has Lots of Sex: Played outlandishly straight. In one episode, Nate's mother literally can't even leave a room for five minutes when having Brenda over for dinner without Nate and Brenda going at it right there.
Possibly a foreshadowing to Brenda's sex addiction.
Executive Meddling: An oddly positive example: During the making of the pilot, the HBO executives commented that the show felt "too safe" and asked Alan Ball (the writer) if he could make it "a little more fucked up". He gladly complied, after he "picked his jaw off the floor".
Eye Scream: The fifth season premiere starts off with an accidental one of these.
Fade to White: A series staple. Used after the death of the week, and to transition between acts and the ending credits
Gaydar: Nate jokes about his, David doesn't like the word.
Gayngst: Played straight in the beginning with David's intense shame over being gay, but eventually subverted as he learns to accept himself, and his relationship with Keith becomes stronger and healthier over time.
Honest Corporate Executive: The Fishers are very fair with their clients and attempts to overprice are usually frowned upon; there is also a tradition in the family of pro-bono funerals.
Hospital Paradiso: Subverted when Brenda chooses the easier way. In a moment of idealism, Brenda refuses her mother's offers for placement as psychologist in a high-class hospital and chooses to work in a public centre as councillor instead. The people working there are good people and they appreciate Brenda's presence because they're overworked and understaffed. But Brenda can't take the conditions and the cynicism permeating the place and leaves after a day, returning to her mother for the cushy job.
Housewife: Ruth. Subverted, deconstructed, and everything else.
I Am Not My Father: Several of the characters spend considerable time trying to be unlike their parents, only to realise that they are exactly like them.
Nate refuses to join the family business and moved away when he was seventeen. After Nathaniel Sr died he came back and reluctantly co-ran the business with David.
Brenda resented her parents and therapists in general and so became a shiatsu masseuse to avoid following in their foot-steps. Eventually when she decides to get her life together she ironically trains to become a therapist.
Imagine Spot: Used constantly, to the point the audience gets to second-guess the writers and occasional subversions of the trope are very effective and shocking. The characters frequently indulge in socially awkward thoughts or desires.
In SPACE: Lampshaded with "Nathaniel and Isabel: In Space!"
Nate and Brenda get interrupted twice, first by Nate's mother, then Brenda's brother. Later, after they get married and try to conceive a baby, they get interrupted by Maya, who thinks they're just jumping up and down.
Federico thinks Vanessa is having an affair so he walks in to Ramón, trying to surprise them. it turns out his cousing Ramón is having sex with another man. Federico flips out.
Intoxication Ensues: First Ruth and later Nate unintentionally get high on some ecstasy that David hid in an Aspirin bottle.
Ironic Echo: Watch the last few episodes of the Fishers mourning after Nate's death. Then watch the first few episodes after Nathaniel's death. Familiar, but different, wouldn't you say?
Jerkass: Most of the characters try to be decent human beings but still have their dark moments,Federico is a bit pushy, and (initially at least) a homophobe; Brenda and her mother tend to be uppity, condescending and self-centered. Nate tries to be an amiable and empathic Nice Guy but eventually Took a Level in Jerkass ensues, he gets tired of doing what others expect him to and goes back to his more narcissist tendencies, moments before he dies the last thing he ever says to his wife is they are done, beyond repair . Can also be seen as Fallen Hero, Nate started out as The Everyman but by the end of the series he became the least likeable member of the main cast. Everyone changed for the better by the end, but Nate returns to his old The Casanova ways after the family man role doesn't work for him.
Law of Inverse Fertility: Nate's first child ensues under inappropriate circumstances from a single infidelity, and is unplanned, the second one takes a lot of time and effort.
Lady Drunk: Margaret Chenowith. Rarely does one see her without a drink in her hand.
Megacorp: Kroner, the commercial funeral home from the early seasons.
Mistaken for Cheating: Played with. Federico has a foolhardy and odd affair with a stripper, but the relationship is not sexual after the first contact, and she takes advantage of him. Federico's wife discovers the relationship and naturally assumes it's sexual. After Rico is thrown out of the house, actual sex ensues and Federico tries to move with the stripper, but he is unwelcome.
The Missus and the Ex: Brenda and Lisa don't get along well, they feel uneasy and overshadowed by the other, and Brenda is haunted by Lisa's memory after Lisa's death, a void impossible to fill in Nate's life.
Obnoxious In-Laws: Federico can't stand his sister in-law, who overstays her welcome in the house. The contempt is mutual. When Vanessa finally tells her to leave, she blames Rico but he's so happy she's leaving that he doesn't care.
Once an Episode: Every episode begins with the Death of the Week except on three occasions: The third-to-last episode, which continues on the death that occurred at the end of the previous episode; an earlier episode where the lack of deaths is something of a plot point; and the finale, which begins with a birth.
One Steve Limit: Averted, seeing as there are two characters named Nathaniel: Nathaniel Fisher Senior and Nathaniel Fisher Junior. Though it doesn't really matter seeing as Jr. is usually referred to as 'Nate'.
A third Nathaniel is the character from the Book Within A ShowNathaniel and Isabel. Shortly after meeting Brenda, Nate gets a bit freaked out by the tattoo of his name on her back. (It actually refers to Billy, because the two siblings could identify very well with the book characters.)
Open Minded Parent: Nathaniel Fisher, Senior. Brenda's parents are open-minded to a fault.
Subverted in the case of Nathaniel since his kids had no idea how open-minded he was. The only version of Nathaniel we ever see are hallucinations of what the characters think he'd say in the situation.
Porn Stash: A Crowning Moment of Funny when Keith and David's adopted sons find their porn, they decide to toss the whole collection of it away. It's enormous, taking up several full garbage bags. The two of them begin arguing at the dumpster about which titles are too good to throw away.
Pro Bono Barter: Nathaniel Fisher Sr., being sympathetic to low-income clients, was willing to accept a lifetime supply of marijuana from one client as payment for services, and use of a private room above a restaurant from another.
Proscenium Reveal: "In the Game" opens with a young girl home alone when a slasher-killer breaks into her house. The girl screams...then cut to inside a movie theater where we realize it's only from a horror movie that is playing.
Billy creates one deliberately for Nate's benefit after Brenda demands that he return his key to her house. ( Brenda did this because when she and Nate went on a 'romantic' weekend to Las Vegas, he broke into their hotel room while they were sleeping and took photographs of them in bed.)
George also made one after his dormant mental illness reared its head and he became convinced the apocalypse was coming. He moved into the Fisher family's bomb shelter, and there are later scenes of him in it with the walls covered in papers and magazine pages, pacing and talking to himself.
Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Not spoken, but implied by the fact that no one brings up the legal implications of Kroehner's bully tactics against Fisher & Sons, which would most likely run afoul of U.S. antitrust laws.
Shotgun Wedding: Nathaniel Fisher, father and son. In the case of the son, the unwanted child and subsequent marriage derails his life as he half-heartedly commits to doing what is expected of him instead of doing what he feels in his heart (as he had previously done).
Keith is so straight that he occasionally has sex with girls...but apparently that doesn't make him bi.
Suddenly Sexuality: Claire had a brief relationship with a lesbian, but realized her attraction was aesthetic, not sexual, and ended the relationship. The woman in question felt Claire was grossed out by her vagina, which Claire denied.
Anita: Because you were a lesbian for about two whole minutes. And then suddenly, you weren't. On top of that, she said you got all, like, grossed out by her pussy. That's totally not cool. Claire : "Okay, for the record, I was not grossed out by her pussy. Okay, pussy, per se, does not gross me out. I just didn't know what exactly to do with it. It wasn't personal; it just didn't do it for me, you know?" Anita: "I'll pass that along."
Take Back Your Gift: Lampshaded. During an argument with Brenda, Nate takes his engagement ring off. She is upset.
Brenda: (tearfully) Don't you throw that ring at me. It's such a cliché, I'll barf. (Nate throws it)) Brenda: There. Barf.
Claire: Who do you think plays Parker in the movie of her life? Sandy Bullock or Julia Roberts?
Boy: Oh, please, she'd never rate that high. She'd get like one of those Buffy or Dawson's Creek chicks, top.
Trevor (Brenda's high school boyfriend)'s wife mentions being on a panel show with Kobe Bryant, that emaciated chicknote Lara Flynn Boyle from The Practice and some twelve-year old rappernote Lil Bow Wow.
There Are No Therapists: Inverted, there are too many, and the characters complain several times about therapy being the answer for everything. Brenda was a psychiatrists' guinea-pig during her childhood, and loathes the upbringing received from her parents, who are both shrinks.
Ironically when Rico's wife is suffering from depression she goes to a doctor to get medication instead of actually going to talk to someone.
The Teaser: Every episode begins with the death of a person - some kind of tasteful discretion shot is often used - and then a card displays the name and birth and death dates of the deceased.
True Art Is Angsty: In-universe, averted with everyone but Claire. Claire attains some moderate artistic success with a more upbeat portfolio, but keeps trying to pitch her own work, which is all gloomy shots of gravestones. No one is interested.