I’m late coming to this series about a fractious family and the funeral home they run. These are the first episodes I’ve ever seen, so I’m not going to pretend I have the faintest idea what’s going on here. All the various plot lines are clearly working to a conclusion, and for the benefit of those who know these characters, some of the things that are dealt with are James Cromwell’s depression and the difficulty in treating it, and the imminent arrival of a baby (which sets up the final epi…ode’s variation on the opening: instead of starting the show off with a death, it begins with a birth).
Lacking a proper context (i.e. being able to compare these episodes to earlier ones), I will cheerfully admit to being a bit of a follower when it comes to the star rating. For what it’s worth, however, I will say that I was struck by the show’s sure-footed and rather remarkable balancing of drama and mordant comedy. The scenes or corpse preparation are plenty graphic and unflinching, and yet the humour manages to be graveyard without being morbid, if that makes any sense. At an rate, impressive work.
The 5.1 sound if a collection of hits and misses. The score comes off very well, and is the highlight of the track. Dialogue is always perfectly audible, but does distort on occasion. As for the surround effects, there aren’t many to speak of. The sound is generally low key, and the same goes for the environmental effects. They are there if you listen closely, and there are instances where they stand out more (such as scenes in the hospital or a background hum in the room where the corpses are prepared).
The picture is much more of an unqualified success. The colours are naturalistic and strong, with good contrasts, flesh tones and very fine blacks. Grain isn’t an issue, nor is edge enhancement. The image is sharp, and generally just a pleasure to look at. The widescreen picture is anamorphic, but not when it comes to the trailers and documentaries.
So many TV box sets are woefully short of extras, particularly when it comes to commentaries. But here there are no less than six commentaries (in other words, for half the season), usually by the director and/or writer of the episode in question, but also in some instances with cast members. Creator Alan Ball comes in for the final episode, and his discussion is quite personal as well as informative. “Six Feet Under: In Memoriam” is a 2-part (30 minutes each) look back, which, though interesting, does feel a bit like promotion for a series now defunct. “Life and Loss: The Impact of Six Feet Under” nominally addresses how the show dealt with death, but is also promotional in nature and goes over a lot of ground already dealt with by the other doc. Apart from some HBO ads, there is also a remix of the theme music (serving as an ad for the soundtrack album). The menu’s main screen, intro and transitions are animated and scored.
A handsome send-off to the series, appropriately packaged in a box that resembles a coffin (though not quite as completely as the box for the Blind Dead collection does).
Special Features List
- Audio Commentaries
- “Six Feet Under: In Memoriam” Documentary
- “Life and Loss: The Impact of Six Feet Under” Featurette
- Theme Music Remix