On Christmas Eve, 2000, funeral-director Nathaniel Samuel Fisher is involved in a hearse-accident with a bus and is killed. Ruth Fisher has a hard time coping, so can't bring herself to identify her husband's body at the morgue. David, the secretly gay younger son who remained at home to help with the family business, feels nothing but dismay at the prospect of now continuing his hated job for good, and focuses on keeping everything in order for the newest funeral. Claire Fisher gets the news just after smoking crystal at a party, and is forced to hide it. Nate Fisher returns home just in time to learn of the death after making out with fellow plane passenger Brenda Chenowith in an airport supply closet, and is forced to keep Claire's secret, console Ruth when she confesses she'd been cheating on Nathaniel, and take abuse from David for conversing with embalmer Federico Diaz, not helping him or forcing the others to swallow their grief, and insisting that David unleash his own. Then, ...Written by
Eric Balfour was only supposed to be introduced as "Claire's Meth Date" for the show's pilot, but the director found his chemistry so satisfying with Lauren Ambrose that his role was developed into the character Gabe Dimas. Similarly, Dina Spybey-Waters's and Gary Hershberger's roles were only listed as "Chatty Mourner" and "Kroehner Representative (though the latter was already identified by the name Matthew Gilardi in the episode). See more »
The hearse in the opening credits has a Washington state license plate. See more »
[David is covering his father's wounds with wound filler, as he looks on disapprovingly]
Oh, no. You're doing me? You're the worst one we've got.
It's Christmas morning. He's with his wife and kids. He'll be in later.
Ooh, couldn't this wait? I don't want you ruining my face.
It's a little late for that.
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A superb pilot episode that strikes a fine balance between drama and comedy, both of which revolve around the subject matter of death and mortality
Before I go any further, I must state two things. One, I have never before seen 'Six Feet Under' so the task of reviewing a pilot to a show that I have never been exposed to is difficult for me. And secondly, I have given this episode a distinguished star rating that I very rarely give to movies or TV shows/episodes and for this episode, a pilot, to earn it must say something about how much of an immediate impression the series has made with this one episode.
The opening credits is the viewer's first glimpse into this series and right here, I was glued to this show. The hypnotic, mildly dark and gloomy score combined with the elegant, stylized cinematography that invites the viewer into the world of the show completely spoke to me. By the end of the opening credits, I was invested into the series before a moment of 'actual' footage began. There's only one other pilot to a show that accomplished a similar feat for me personally and that was 'Twin Peaks'.
To combine such contrasting tones of humour and drama around the sensitive and deeply personal subject matter of death is a risky endeavour to put it simply and the end result could have very easily been a disaster. But because of realistic characters at the forefront as well as a restrained use of black comedy within the script, Alan Ball has created a wholesome work.
All the characters introduced here are simply fantastic and I mean no hyperbole. Among all, my favourites were Peter Krause and Michael C. Hall as brothers Nate and David Fischer respectively. There's immediately such high tension between the two characters that I cannot wait to see play out during the show and both Krause and Hall are simply magnificent here. I hope the quality level of their performances do not drop because they translate such wonderful humanity to the characters from script to screen.
The cinematography deserves another mention outside of simply the opening credits. This is a beautifully shot episode, superbly framed (many great uses of high angle shots and tight framing) and beautifully lit (whether it's having the camera bask in the warmth of the daylight or immersing the camera into gloomy scenarios) and the direction is equally fantastic. The cinematography serves the direction and the direction does a stellar job of bringing the material to life.
I absolutely adore this pilot episode. It's one I was hoping to enjoy but for it to have made such a high immediate impression was not something I was necessarily expecting. The world that is created here by Alan Ball is one that I find totally immersive once this first hour ends and the pacing within the hour is perfect. It's an episode that hits the nail on the head for both the drama and the comedy, an uneasy task and in doing so, creates such a uniquely engaging world. The characters all feel so sincere, credit to excellent writing and wonderfully honest lead performances. I cannot sing praises enough for this episode and am curious how it holds up in the context of 'Six Feet Under' as a whole.
Cannot recommend highly enough.
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