scorecardresearch Skip to main content

‘Six Feet Under’ the latest HBO series to pop up on Netflix

Michael C. Hall (second from left), Lauren Ambrose (third from left), Frances Conroy (second from right), and Peter Krause (right) in "Six Feet Under."Tracy Bennett/HBO via AP

A few HBO series have made it to Netflix in recent months, including “Insecure,” “Ballers,” “Band of Brothers,” “The Pacific,” and “True Blood.” On Wednesday, one of HBO’s best shows — and one of my all-time favorites — will show up on the massive streaming service, for first-time viewers and re-watchers: “Six Feet Under.”

The fearless drama, which ran from 2001 to 2005, is one of TV’s most honest portrayals of death and grief, as it portrays the Fisher family and their funeral home business. It’s mordantly funny, too, particularly when we see the death of the week in the opening segments, so random and surprising and often just plain odd. From Alan Ball, the show, set in LA, is never far from irony. But it stays focused on the roles that death plays in our lives as it hangs over our heads, our fate and that of those we love.


The characters, both the regulars and the guests, are psychologically complex, each of them tangled up in idiosyncratic webs of fear, self-contradiction, artistic frustration, sexual compulsion, and/or drug use. From Rachel Griffiths’s Brenda, the brilliant masseuse, to Michael C. Hall’s David, a gay Christian fighting against his own doormat issues, they are originals. Lauren Ambrose’s Claire brings depth and mystery to teen angst, and, the family matriarch, Frances Conroy’s Ruth, is simultaneously endearing and fierce, a mouse learning how to roar. If any of these characters has been seen on TV before, they haven’t been constructed and played with such rich layering.

Looking back, I recall disliking the first episodes, then eventually falling in love with its story rhythms, its frank perspective, and its imaginative camerawork, which is evident right from the stunning title sequence. Certainly some episodes were better than others, but I think of “Six Feet Under” as a fascinating whole, and one that, unlike most shows, managed to end on exactly the right note. The finale is among TV’s most fitting and impressive endings.


Matthew Gilbert can be reached at Follow him @MatthewGilbert.