"Six Feet Under" Is Back, Looking Almost Alive

Salt Lake City Weekly | June 7, 2004

The bad news: The fourth-season premiere of Six Feet Under (HBO; Sunday, June 13) is every bit as maudlin and humorless as most of last season—heretofore know as 13 Hours of Your Life Sucked Away—was, save for maybe David and Keith’s super-gay paintball outing and Lisa finally just dying already.

The good news: Subsequent episodes in the weeks to come are as lively (as much as a drama set in a family funeral home can be, anyway) and darkly funny (ditto) as anything from that wondrous, so-long-ago-and-Lisa-free summer of Season 1.

The best news: The Only TV Column That Matters™ once again has that perennial window in which to justify its existence amongst the hipster cliques it hangs with. And Lisa’s still very much dead—we even get to see a bit of what’s left of her stupid body. Ah, closure.

Explanatory sidetrip: Of my friends, acquaintances and casual enemies who’ll even admit to owning a TV, most belong to the Cult of HBO. “Network television is insipid; I only watch The Sopranos and Curb Your Enthusiasm—so what if I’m also buying 78 showings of Cradle 2 the Grave?” Occasionally, they’ll cop to watching non-pay-cable fare like FX’s The Shield and Nip/Tuck because they’re just an F-bomb shy of HBO (true), or pretend they found “great new” shows like Bravo’s Significant Others and IFC’s Dinner for Five all by themselves even though I’d recommended them months before (happens waaay too often), or even extol CBS’ Survivor because it’s so “strategic” and “smart” (no, it’s a soap opera with chiggers and armpit hair—just admit it).

What I most often get, however, besides the sneering “I can’t believe you watch [insert any television show here]” and the incredulous “True TV is your actual job? I thought you [insert any food service or male escort occupation here] for a living,” are the Six Feet Under questions: When’s the season finale, when does the next season start, when will last season be available on DVD, when-oh-when will my life be complete again, blah blah freakin’ blah. They’re almost as bad as the Family Guy geeks (returning summer 2005 on Fox—tap it into the PDA and we’ll talk then).

When we left Fisher & Diaz Funeral Home last June, Nate (Peter Krause) was—for some reason—mourning the just-confirmed death of weeks-missing irritant/wife Lisa (Lili Taylor) by getting his drunk ass handed to him in a bar fight and sleeping with ex Brenda (Rachel Griffiths), mom Ruth (Frances Conroy) was caught up in a whirlwind wedding to new stud George (James Cromwell), Claire (Lauren Ambrose) had just aborted a baby she conceived with kinda-gay boyfriend Russell (Ben Foster), definitely-gay David (Michael C. Hall) and Keith (Mathew St. Patrick) were on the outs, and Rico (Freddy Rodriguez) was so sick of his Prozac-marinated wife and leech sister-in-law at home that he hit a strip club and received some extra parking-lot servicing from one of the dancers.

And yet they still somehow found the time to bury bodies and most of the goodwill built up over the first two seasons.

Sunday’s season-opener finds Nate dealing with Lisa’s equally annoying family (they demand cremation for her ocean-decayed remains, he wants to honor her wish to be buried anonymously/illegally in the ground, you probably know who’ll win this one), while Ruth is enjoying some very vocal post-nuptial sex with George (grossing-out even family who’ve handled ocean-decayed cadavers) and Brenda gets chummy with her new neighbor (Justin Theroux, somewhat resembling an ocean-decayed cadaver). Glimmers of hope, but that Season 3 hangover still lingers.

By the second installment on June 20, though, almost everything begins clicking again; the sex and humor ratcheted up so much you’d think HBO was making up for giving Sex and the City away to basic cable. Sure, Nate’s still a mess, but it’s nothing that airborne porn dolls, blood-gushing plumbing, random fellatio surprises, guilty stripper charity, Persian tables, naked apartment-hopping, postmarked dookie and Mena Suvari as wacky lesbian art student can’t overcome—and that’s just one episode.

Did I mention that Lisa remains dead for at least the next two? Summer’s looking up.

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