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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: Six Feet Under - The Complete First Season (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED).

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#1 of 21 OFFLINE   Herb Kane

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Posted December 16 2003 - 08:20 AM

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Six Feet Under – The Complete First Season

Studio: HBO
Year: 2001
Rated: Not Rated
Film Length: 780 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 4:3 Standard
Audio: DD 5.1
Color/B&W: Color
Subtitles: Spanish
MSRP: $99.98
Package: 5 panel Digipak in a hinged top box

The Feature:
There are four ways of dying in this bizarre world; homicide, suicide, death by natural causes and death by misadventure. The Fisher family has seen it all. The Fisher’s run a small independent funeral home in the Los Angeles area and they’re as dysfunctional as any other family (and then some). Truth be told, we’re all part of dysfunctional families… it’s just that the level varies from family to family.

Six Feet Under is a unique drama with a hint of dark comedy which features Nate Fisher Jr. (played by Peter Krause) who is the happy go lucky son who fled to Seattle to escape from the family business and his younger brother David (played by Michael C. Hall), who is a rather solemn and conservative man who unofficially, runs the family business. David is gay and has difficulties with his friends and family due to his trepidation of expressing his sexuality. Claire (Lauren Ambrose) is the youngest sibling who is a typical generation “X” teen who is fiercely independent and equally as radical. Ruth Fisher is mom (played brilliantly by Frances Conroy) and dad is Nate Sr. (played by Richard Jenkins). Nate’s girlfriend is Brenda Chenowith (played by Rachel Griffiths) who is the daughter of two psychiatrists and is an enigmatic figure who specializes in mind games.

Interestingly, each episode starts with the death of an individual and the progression of the show deals with the family’s ability to cope with their loss and how the Fisher family helps them through the process. Ironically, the Pilot episode deals with a member of the Fisher family who’s killed in a car accident. As a result, the episode chronicles the grief (and sometimes guilt) of the family while coping with their loss and the struggle to carry on with the family business.

The show embarks upon many difficult topics such as death (on a business and personal level), homosexuality, drugs, and adultery. I had never seen the show prior to the arrival of this set. It was interesting to learn that the creator, Alan Ball, who was also responsible for American Beauty, brought with him a style similar in nature to this show which included a magnificent score by Thomas Newman. The show is a quirky drama with a mixture of dark humor which offers up an interesting and different look at the rarely discussed real life topic of death and the bizarre way it can rear its inevitable head. The show is also rich in symbolisms in a manner of the dead who appear regularly to impart their wisdom and advice.

As for the set, the four discs are packaged in a 5 panel Digipak that fits in an oversized cardboard box which lifts as the lid of the outer box is lifted, presumably to be “coffin like”. It is as nice and unique as any other box set I have encountered.

As for the episodes for the season, they are as follows:

Disc One:
Episode 1. The Pilot
Episode 2. The Will
Episode 3. The Foot
Episode 4. Familia

Disc Twp:
Episode 5. An Open Book
Episode 6. The Room
Episode 7. Brotherhood

Disc Three:
Episode 8. Crossroads
Episode 9. Life’s Too Short
Episode 10. The New Person

Disc Four:
Episode 11. The Trip
Episode 12. A Private Life
Episode 13. Knock, Knock

Typically when reviewing such a set I try to select three or four episodes and base the review on the randomly selected episodes. In this case, I watched the entire series.

Similar to most TV shows to disc, each episode is unique with its own look and feel. For the most part, the series shows up quite nicely. Shown in its correct full frame aspect ratio, most of the series is shot somewhat soft with some definite exceptions. A good example of such an exception can be located on Episode #11. Some of the image detail is exquisite, but for the most part, expect the series to appear slightly soft. And, as I emphasize this, I’m not criticizing it, just noting the observation.

Colors, again, vary to some degree between episodes but would generally describe them as nicely saturated with an almost warm feel to them. I noticed that much of this series appears to be shot slightly darker (with a warm look) than what we’re used to, but the colors looked natural. Black levels were certainly adequate and conversely, whites looked crisp and clean.

Unfortunately, there were obvious signs of compression artifacting particularly in the earlier episodes of the series but most notably during the opening title sequence. Also present were occasional signs of light instability however, neither of these issues were overly bothersome.

Edge enhancement could be seen occasionally and as we might expect there were no signs of any scratches or dust etc.

To sum things up, I would give the video transfer a pretty good grade. I would have preferred an image with greater detail, and I’m assuming it was shot that way.

Interestingly enough there is an entire special feature pertaining to the show’s theme score. I can’t think of a TV show that has a theme which is as equally evoking and fitting as this one is. Thomas Newman’s brilliant theme music draws you in to this show and captures perfectly the mood and the atmosphere of the show. All of which is delivered beautifully on this 5.1 track. The opening credits really sounded great with some help in the rears to render a great sense of envelopment.

Much of this series is dialogue driven and it is delivered quite effectively and cleanly. Rarely (other than the music score of the credits sequence) is there music or filler so most of the information is center driven.

While there wasn’t an abundance of rear support information, when it was called upon, the rears were tactfully employed to assist during a few school hallway scenes, casino background noise, passing cars etc. They were never overly abundant but present when necessary. As for LFE, nothing stuck out in terms of any LFE use nor did I find I had made any notes regarding its use, other than the opening theme.

Nothing flashy, but it did was it was required to do in a pleasing manner.

Special Features:
There is a decent spattering of special features offered on this set. The first are:
[*] Commentaries for the Pilot and the final episodes of the season. Alan Ball does an admirable job of keeping these relatively interesting. These are informative, entertaining and worthy of a listen.
[*] Deleted Scene from episode one with/without commentary which offers very little.
[*] Under The Main Titles – Opening Credits. This is a great little featurette showing many of the crewmembers and how the formation of the opening title credit sequence was formed. Thankfully, Thomas Newman is included. For those not familiar with the show, this opening sequence is perhaps the best I have ever seen for a TV intro. The music is hauntingly fitting and lends itself perfectly to the feel of the show. This is my favorite feature and is one that shouldn’t be missed for fans of movie/TV scoring and theme music. Duration: 15:47 mins.
[*] Behind the Scenes is a featurette which cast and filmmakers.
This featurette has a number of interviews with cast members. Duration: 21:37 mins.
[*] Cast & Filmmakers is a multi-page listing of the members of the show with mini bios included.
[*] Series Index is a text listing of each episode complete with a brief synopsis about each one.
[*] Music Tracks There are two music tracks of the theme song and the Kid Loco remix – no video, music only.
[*] Finally there is a DVD-ROM link which I didn’t get in to.

Final Thoughts:
Simply put, this is not your typical mainstream TV drama fare. It is a unique drama with a quirky flair which relies heavily on great acting and subject matter that is a different from what we’re used to seeing. Admittedly, the show is somewhat more “serial-like” for my tastes but that is not to say I didn’t enjoy it. I did indeed. And having said that, I would go on to say it’s better than most of what’s on TV today. Considering the subject matter, I was left with each episode offering an introspective look at some of life’s little complications.

I have become increasingly impressed with HBO’s recent offerings. It seems as though they are committed to delivering a product that differs from the rest of mainstream TV and equally as impressive is the quality of the set itself. Six Feet Under is no exception. The Complete First Season Set is sure to leave fans of the series eager for the arrival of Season Two.

To be honest, the hardest part of this review was whether to give this set a “Recommended” or “Highly Recommended” grade. I was reluctant initially due to some of its “soapy like” material but ultimately, I opted for the higher grade due to the show’s originality.

Highly Recommended..!!

Release Date: Already Released
My Top 25 Noirs:

25. 711 Ocean Drive (1950), 24. Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), 23. Desperate (1947), 22. Pushover (1954), 21. The Blue Dahlia (1946), 20. The File on Thelma Jordon (1949), 19. He Ran All the Way (1951), 18. The Asphalt Jungle (1950), 17. The Killing (1956), 16. I Walk Alone (1948),...

#2 of 21 OFFLINE   todd stone

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Posted December 16 2003 - 08:26 AM

when is season 2 due on DVD?
Lo, there do I see my mother, and my sisters, and my brothers, Lo, there do I see the line of my people, back to the beginning, Lo, they do call to me, they bid me take my place among them, In the halls of Valhalla,where the brave may live...

#3 of 21 OFFLINE   Kai Zas

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Posted December 16 2003 - 10:14 AM

Weird... just orderd this two days ago. And here HTF comes with the review Posted Image

#4 of 21 OFFLINE   Bryan_Bortz


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Posted December 17 2003 - 03:06 AM

Yes, Yes, it is awesome.

But where is season 2?!?!

I am one of those without HBO and have only seen it on DVD.

I wanna see Season 2!


#5 of 21 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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Posted December 17 2003 - 10:43 AM

I want season two too!

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#6 of 21 OFFLINE   Chris Hopper

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Posted December 20 2003 - 07:59 AM

What really stinks is I have HBO now, but I did not while season 2 was running. I have the first season on DVD and it is painful to see listings for season 3 episodes Posted Image Good review, by the way.

#7 of 21 OFFLINE   Matt Stone

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Posted December 20 2003 - 08:11 AM

What really stinks is I have HBO now, but I did not while season 2 was running.

Same here. I actually got HBO (and HBO-HD) on the day of the Season 3 premiere. I thought, "what the hell, it's HD" and watched it anyway. Last month I did catch the S2 season finale on HBO-On Demand though.
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#8 of 21 OFFLINE   GarySchrock


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Posted December 20 2003 - 02:36 PM

Man I love tivo. I've been stockpiling the season 3 episodes when I noticed them starting, so I'll have them available whenever season 2 comes out on dvd.

#9 of 21 OFFLINE   Robert Ringwald

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Posted December 21 2003 - 05:36 AM

I'm sure that before season 4 starts (I think summer 2004?) HBO will rerun seasons 1-3. It's only like 39 episodes... if they did one a night, it'd take a month.

Don't they usually do this with their original series?

#10 of 21 OFFLINE   Justin Bauer

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Posted December 21 2003 - 06:56 AM

I have never really been a fan of Six Feet Under. I enjoyed some first and second season episodes, but Season 3 had its moments, but that show is just not for me.

I understand the frustration with HBO's DVD releases...They kill me with the Sopranos releases.

It has taken them this long just get the first season of Curb Your Enthusiasm on DVD.
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#11 of 21 OFFLINE   Angel Pagan

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Posted December 21 2003 - 01:54 PM

I think summer 2004?
I think 6FU has it's season premieres in the spring. I know that season 3 began in March or April (remember seeing the ads on the city buses) and the same may have been true for season 1.

Expect HBO to repeat seasons 1-3 before the start of season 4.

One of the better shows on television today.

#12 of 21 OFFLINE   Robert Ringwald

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Posted December 21 2003 - 02:16 PM

Well, season 1 premiered in June. Season 2-3 were spring.

This season Sopranos starts in March... wouldn't that mean SFU couldn't start until at least the end of May?

#13 of 21 OFFLINE   Nick Totoro

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Posted December 21 2003 - 11:44 PM

This season Sopranos starts in March... wouldn't that mean SFU couldn't start until at least the end of May?

Not necessarily. At least on HBO-E, they play on two different time slots. I can't remember if current seasons of The Sopranos and SFU have played the same evenings, but I'd wager yes.


#14 of 21 OFFLINE   Michael St. Clair

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Posted December 22 2003 - 02:30 AM

When will they learn that squeezing four episodes onto a disc is a bad idea? It only works well with short shows (like 'The Shield', at about 42 minutes per episode). 6FU is an hour per ep.

#15 of 21 OFFLINE   Lew Crippen

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Posted December 22 2003 - 09:06 AM

Good review Herb. I think that the acting on this show is consistently the best on TV. All of the family members are excellent, as are those with whom they are involved. Even the non-recurring characters are portrayed by first-rate actors (e.g. Kathy Bates played a role in a few episodes in the last series).
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#16 of 21 OFFLINE   Jamie Cole

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Posted December 23 2003 - 08:46 AM

I rented these discs expecting them to be widescreen (like Sopranos). What's the deal? Are they showing 6FU in windowboxed fullscreen on HBO-HD? That would seem strange. If they're widescreen there, why not on DVD?
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#17 of 21 OFFLINE   Shane Martin

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Posted December 24 2003 - 02:39 AM

I don't think they started filming in widescreen for it until last year. Season 2 for me was a mild let down but I watched Season 3 from start to finish and was more than hooked.

Anyone else feel Season 2 was a mild let down especially if you have seen Season 3?

#18 of 21 OFFLINE   Robert Ringwald

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Posted December 24 2003 - 06:00 AM

Haven't seen season 3 yet.

Six Feet Under was filmed 4:3 until the third season.

It's the correct aspect ratio.

#19 of 21 OFFLINE   Angel Pagan

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Posted December 25 2003 - 01:58 AM

Anyone else feel Season 2 was a mild let down especially if you have seen Season 3?

#20 of 21 OFFLINE   Aaron SC

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Posted December 29 2003 - 11:43 AM

Just FYI, Alan Ball confirmed at a recent signing for the new tie-in book that the fourth season won't start until June, which means the second season DVDs won't be out until April or May (I got this info off of the SFU message boards on the HBO site).

As for the second season vis-a-vis season three, I think the third season was, by far the best, most consistent yet, but it doesn't reflect poorly on season two -- they were tonally quite different.

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