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

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Herb Kane, Jul 10, 2004.

  1. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    [​IMG]

    Six Feet Under
    The Complete Second Season





    Studio: HBO
    Year: 2002
    Rated: Not Rated
    Film Length: 780 Minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Standard
    Audio: DD 5.1
    Color/B&W: Color
    Languages: English, Spanish & French
    Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
    MSRP: $99.98
    Package: 5 disc set in a 5 panel Digipak in a cardboard case





    The Feature:
    After an excruciatingly long wait, HBO has just released the highly anticipated Complete Second Season of the hit television series, Six Feet Under. The Fisher’s, who run a small independent funeral home in the Los Angeles area, are back for another season. As a family in the business of death, they are surrounded by tragedy on a daily basis. Regardless of the cause of death, the Fisher family has seen it all.

    The show is a unique drama with a glut of dark comedy which features Nate Fisher Jr. (played by Peter Krause) who is the happy go lucky son 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 (played by 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), who left the show rather expeditiously after a mishap with a city bus... 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. They’re as dysfunctional as any family you’ll ever meet.

    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. If you remember, the Pilot episode dealt with the death of Nate Sr. who was killed in a car vs. bus accident. As a result, many of the episodes demonstrate grief (and sometimes guilt) of the family members 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. The show’s 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. Six Feet Under 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.

    Just a word on the packaging. This season is comprised of five discs in a five panel gatefold in a rather hefty cardboard box (similar to a cigar box) which also comes with a single Limited Edition Trading Card (minus the chewing gum) which is loose in the box. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from being a packrat-like-collector of sorts; don’t change things that are likely to be collected in a series. This year’s set is virtually identical in size and shape to most of the TV sets that are released. It’s approximately 1.5 inches shorted than last years set, which, when placed together as a series set is going to look rather goofy. Not a big deal, but for the sake of continuity, they should have left well enough alone.

    The set is comprised of the following episodes:


    Disc One:

    Episode 1. In The Game (aired March 3rd, 2002) **Commentary with Rodrigo Garcia**
    Directed by Rodrigo Garcia
    Episode 2. Out, Out Brief Candle (aired March 10th, 2002)
    Directed by Kathy Bates


    Disc Two:

    Episode 3. The Plan (aired March 17th, 2002)
    Directed by Rose Troche
    Episode 4. Driving Mr. Mossback (aired March 24th, 2002)
    Directed by Michael Cuesta
    Episode 5. The Invisible Woman (aired March 31st, 2002)
    Directed by Jeremy Podeswa


    Disc Three:

    Episode 6. In Place of Anger (aired April 7th, 2002)
    Directed by Michael Engler
    Episode 7. Back to the Garden (aired April 14th, 2002) **Commentary with Dan Attias**
    Directed by Dan Attias
    Episode 8. It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (aired April 21st, 2002)
    Directed by Alan Taylor


    Disc Four:

    Episode 9. Someone Else's Eyes (aired April 28th, 2002)
    Directed by Michael Cuesta
    Episode 10. The Secret (aired May 5, 2002) **Commentary with Alan Poul**
    Directed by Alan Poul
    Episode 11. The Liar and the Whore (aired May 12th, 2002)
    Directed by Miguel Arteta


    Disc Five:

    Episode 12. I'll Take You (aired May 19th, 2002) **Commentary with Jill Soloway**
    Directed by Michael Engler
    Episode 13. The Last Time (aired June 2nd, 2002) **Commentary with Alan Ball**
    Directed by Alan Ball

    The Feature: 4.5/5
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    Video:
    I hadn’t revisited Six Feet Under since my previous review for the first season, and I had forgotten how nice this show is to look at on the big screen. As is the case with 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 of 1.33:1, most of the series is shot with a better than average level of detail with some definitely positive exceptions. While I noticed some of the wide shots to be slightly soft, some of the close-up image detail is exceptional - certainly better than most TV to disc efforts.

    Colors were always vibrant and I 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 adequate and whites looked crisp and clean. Skins tones were always real looking.

    Unlike the first season, the amount of compression artifacting seemed to be less prevalent in this season, although the opening sequence is still rife with noise as are some of the outdoor shots, but all in all a superior effort to the initial season. Edge enhancement could be seen only occasionally and as we might expect there were no signs of any scratches or dust etc.

    I’ve gotta say, this set looks pretty darn good. I can name dozens of big budget motion pictures that don’t look nearly as good. Very nice.

    Video:4/5
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    Audio:
    I know I said this last year during The Season One review, but this bears repeating. I can’t think of a single TV show that has (or has ever had) 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 Dolby Digital 5.1 track. The opening credits really sounded great with some help in the rears to render a greater sense of envelopment.

    Similar to the previous season, much of this series is dialogue driven and it is delivered quite effectively, always bold and intelligible. Rarely (other than the music score of the credits sequence) is there music or filler so most of the information is center driven.

    As is evidenced by the magnificent score, the soundstage is much wider than you’d ever anticipate for a TV series and the overall dynamic range is also better than average. The track sounded clean and was free of any hiss or other distractions.

    Again, similar to the previous season, there wasn’t an abundance of rear support information. When it was called upon, the rears were tactfully employed to assist with ambient noise more in terms of envelopment than in directionality. Surrounds 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.

    A solid presentation that bests many of the current TV show sets that have been released recently.

    Audio: 4/5
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    Special Features:
    There is only one special feature with the set as well as a number of commentaries. The lone feature can be located on disc five;
    [*] The only dedicated feature is Anatomy of a Working Stuff: Life as a Dead Body which is an informative documentary which takes an interesting behind-the–scenes look at the process of creating the extremely realistic body parts used in the series. Featured is Todd Masters of MastersFX who takes us through the varying steps of the process. Though, we’ve seen this type of feature before on other discs, it’s very thorough and adds a lot of insight to the show’s production. Duration: 20:36 minutes.
    [*] Commentaries. Several of those associated with the show participate and it’s great to get a number of varying perspectives, but it also results in a mixed bag that, for the most part, is rather lackluster. The series consists of five audio commentaries (which I have also bolded on the episode listing), starting with Rodrigo Garcia's commentary for “In the Game” which isn't very good as he spends the vast majority of time praising everyone with superlatives not to mention a ton of dead time that exists. Next up is Dan Attias' commentary for “Back to the Garden” which unfortunately isn’t any better as he spends the majority of time narrating what we are already watching.

    “The Secret”, also comes with a commentary which features Executive producer director Alan Poul contributes. This is a slightly more informative than those of the previous two in that Mr. Poul spends time actually discussing some of the hurdles he was faced with during the shoot. The next commentary features writer Jill Soloway for “I'll Take You”. At the start of her commentary Jill questions whether those listening to the commentary actually have a life or not. With a list price of almost $100 bucks, it amazes me that HBO would allow this type of arrogance (and or stupidity) to ruffle the feathers of their faithful followers. If Ms. Soloway came with any resemblance of a résumé or credentials similar to those of the Coen brothers (or the like), then I might be inclined to dismiss her flippant remark (even if it was tongue in cheek), but frankly her lack of accomplishments don’t allow for such comments. Ya know those two arrows on the remote that point to the right… use ‘em.

    The final commentary in a series of disappointments features series creator Alan Ball, who also directed the season finale “The Last Time”. A great deal of time is spent on his praising the cast members which also includes plenty of dead time throughout the feature. These commentaries are all very disappointing – don’t waste your time.

    The anatomy feature is decent but don’t waste your time on the commentaries.

    Special Features: 1.5/5
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    **Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**



    Final Thoughts:
    Perhaps only second to The Sopranos, due to the quality of writing and the performances of its cast, it should come as no surprise that when Six Feet Under made its television debut in 2001, it was an instant success. And from having spent many hours with The Complete Second Season, nothing has changed. This is still one best shows television has to offer. Admittedly, the show is somewhat soapier than I like but I still thoroughly enjoyed it. Season two offers up a number of quality episodes that are sure to leave you chuckling from its deep and dark humor and many that’ll have you gritting your teeth in an attempt to stifle the tear ducts.

    While I was absolutely underwhelmed by the lack of any real substantive special features, my only real put-off of this set is the price. Comparatively speaking, it is much pricier than other TV sets to disc, but you know what? It’s far better than most too! Besides getting one of the best shows on TV presently, HBO has once again delivered the goods with a presentation that is sure to please even the surliest necrophiliac.

    Overall Rating: 4.5/5 (not an average)
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    Highly Recommended…!!!





    Release Date: July 6th, 2004
     
  2. Mark_Johnson

    Mark_Johnson Stunt Coordinator

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    Is it better than the first season in terms of entertainment value? I felt the first season dragged in parts. I'm looking forward to checking this one out though.
     
  3. Kyle**S

    Kyle**S Stunt Coordinator

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    "Claire (played by Lauren Ambrose) is the youngest sibling who is a typical generation 'X' teen who is fiercely independent and equally as radical."

    Not to be too nitpicky, but I think you mean Gen Y. Gen X starts with people born in the 1960's.

    "...it amazes me that HBO would allow this type of arrogance (and or stupidity) to ruffle the feathers of their faithful followers."

    Don't they have that disclaimer, saying any opinions expressed are not HBO's.
     
  4. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    And from what I've read, aside from their fondness of the revival of "folk" music and other than a graduated scale up in the alphabet, there's very litle difference. But you're right, no need to get nitpicky...



    Let me ask you this, if you were running a studio, wanting to keep your fan base relatively happy, expecting them to pay almost twice the amount of money for one of your TV shows, would you allow this... disclaimer or not...?
     
  5. Gord Lacey

    Gord Lacey Cinematographer

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    So is this highly recommended based on the show, or the DVD set? I think it's a good show, but bad set (high price, lack of extras).

    Gord
     
  6. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    Gord... The quality of the show, which I rated high and the presentation which exceeds most of what I have been sent recently (at least from a TV to disc standpoint). The extras are among the worst I have ever encountered - other than those sets or films that haven't included any.

    But as I've said in the past, while I might be inclined to bump (slightly) up a recommendation based on great extras, I won't hold back a terrific set with poor extras, as is the case with this set. As for the MSRP - agreed, it is excessive.

    Herb.
     
  7. Gord Lacey

    Gord Lacey Cinematographer

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    Cool Herb, that's what I figured you were rating it on.

    Gord
     
  8. Seppo

    Seppo Stunt Coordinator

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    Real Name:
    Seppo
    My favourite show on television right now. [​IMG]
     
  9. Kai Zas

    Kai Zas Second Unit

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    Well... I flew through this one way too fast. It realy is like crack.

    So what's up with the trading card? Am I supposed to buy another set in the hopes I get the same card and then trade it with somebody else who did the same?

    Ah, never mind, there's a website on the back. I can buy 81 more if I like... Weee!
     

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