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Six Feet Under: two decades of the series that treated death with mastery

Starring at the eventful Oscars in 2017, filmmakers Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) and Damien Chazelle (The the land) each continued their careers with a movie and television series after raising the statuette. The first debuted in the serial format with the recent The underground railroad (Amazon Prime Video) and the second directed two chapters of the musical and French The Eddy (Netflx). A movement assumed more and more naturally in the era that has been configured in Hollywood in recent years.

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Two decades ago, the twist seemed like a rarity in the industry, even for a TV guy like Alan Ball. The screenwriter and producer had just won the Oscar for American Beauty (1999) when HBO told him that they wanted him to write a series about a funeral home. A dose of fortune helped him not to reject the opportunity in pursuit of keeping his previous commitments: comedy Oh, grow up, which he created for ABC, had only one season in 1999 before being canceled by the station due to poor reviews and low ratings.

Ball’s combination of success and misstep at the end of the 90s allowed him to eventually give rise to one of the most appreciated television productions of the 2000s. In June 2001 Six feet under (available today on HBO GO, at the end of the month on HBO Max) presented the Fishers, initially struck by the death of the patriarch of the family played by Richard Jenkins, and portrayed in the troubles that they live around the unusual experience that They have to deal with it, as the owners of a business consisting of taking in corpses, sarcophagi and everything necessary to say goodbye to the loved ones of the inhabitants of Los Angeles.

La serie Six Feet Under, de HBO

The risky bet of fiction came to reinforce the serious and prestigious character of HBO, which already had three seasons of The Sopranos and the following year would welcome The wire, two of the mainstays of the status that remained unchanged until recently. The power of the signal might not be reflected with such forcefulness at the Emmys (only Tony Soprano’s series was recognized as Best Drama, in 2004 and 2007), but that is another story.

Despite the critical phenomenon generated by the ups and downs of the Fisher family, the production never achieved historical ratings in its five seasons. A trend recalled by Alan Ball in dialogue with Collider. When in 2012 he wanted to end True blood, HBO invited him to help them find an ideal replacement because the vampire drama metrics were particularly good. On the other hand, years before, by suggesting that it was time for the Six feet under, the channel yielded without question.

By the way, the station allowed the story to have the natural conclusion that your brain imagined and to pave one of the most remembered aspects of the series: how to design a goodbye at the height of the previous cycles and faithful to the essence of the story. The last episode of the fiction aired on June 10, 2007 and still moves its fans, witnesses to the circumstances of the deaths of each of the surviving members of the main family.

“It hit me, and I think just like when people saw it, how surprising and obvious it was at the same time. It felt like an unexpected wave crashing into you, but while you were there drenched, you say, ‘of course, of course it ended this way,’ ”Michael C. Hall (David Fisher) told The Hollywood Reporter in 2015.

His words were as a key member of Six feet under but also as an actor who was at the center of a story that had a disappointing closing in 2013, Dexter, which this year will try again to remedy its original ending somewhat.

Hall is one of the few names in the original cast who brushed against the phenomenon achieved with HBO fiction. In fact, some of the best careers have been completed by rather sporadic or supporting actors in history. In addition to having established actresses like Kathy Bates and Patricia Clarkson (who won an Emmy for her performance) in supporting roles, he also cast supporting characters as Justin Theroux, Ben Foster, Bobby Cannavale and Rainn Wilson.

Except True blood, Alan Ball has not re-conceived something of the impact of his fiction that reflected on life and death. But he keeps creating. He released a few months ago, without making much noise, the film Uncle Frank on Amazon Prme Video and aspires to make you forget that your last television production was canceled Here and now (HBO, 2018), with Tim Robbins and Holly Hunter. Without advancing the plots, he told Collider about the new productions he is preparing, “suffice it to say that both are series that he would see.”

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