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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Six Feet Under is a well-executed drama that deals with mature subjects like sex, intimacy, abortion, death, drugs, and violence. Each episode begins with a death, sometimes violently depicted, and later we often see the corpse being prepared for the funeral. Both adult and older teen characters have sex in and out of healthy and/or committed relationships, and though we don't see genitals, scenes are sometimes explicit. Drug use is common and only sometimes portrayed negatively.
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What's the story?
SIX FEET UNDER is a darkly funny drama centering around the Fishers of Pasadena, a family that runs a funeral home while struggling with various existential and practical crises, including the tragic death of their patriarch. There's Nate (Peter Krause), the oldest son who returns from Seattle; David (Michael C. Hall), who's now in charge of the family business and in the closet about his sexuality; tortured teen artist Claire (Lauren Ambrose); and Ruth (Frances Conroy), the traditional, frustrated mother. Against the backdrop of death, relationships blossom and stutter, identities are examined, embraced, and discarded, and emotions peak and flatten. And all the while this imperfect family supports its members through loss, confusion, and the search for meaning. Nate gets engaged to Brenda (Rachel Griffiths), a bright yet psychologically troubled massage therapist. David comes out and struggles to maintain his relationship with Keith (Matthew St. Patrick). Claire completes high school, goes to art school, and dates a handful of complex characters. And Ruth attends personal growth workshops and begins to break out of her shell.
Is it any good?
Created by Alan Ball, who won an Oscar for writing American Beauty, the show (which ran for five seasons on HBO) features a stellar group of actors, writers, and directors. Out of this talent pool emerges a series dearly loved by its fans for the depth of its characters, its complex plots, and its impeccable writing.
Though Six Feet Under is of exceptionally high quality, its mature themes make it inappropriate for younger viewers. Older teens may enjoy the series, though parents may want to preview episodes before deciding if they feel comfortable with the content. What's refreshing about the adult elements -- sex, drug use, etc. -- is the lack of the glamour and gloss that accompany these subjects in so many other TV shows and films. It all seems very real and very human, for better or worse.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about death and funerals and how they play into Six Feet Under. What would teens like to be remembered for? How would they like their life celebrated? What are parents' beliefs about the afterlife, cremation, open caskets?
What makes the characters on the show so rich? What are their traits and flaws? How do the characters change and grow through the seasons, and why is it sometimes hard to break out of established patterns?
How do the deaths that begin each episode relate to the main characters' experiences during the show?
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