I am currently trudging my way through Season 3 of Six Feet Under. Yes, I know, I am unfashionably behind, since I do not have cable and my local video store sucks. Thankfully, I recently switched over to Netflix. I am once again back in the land of the living and what do I do? I go straight for the depression, death and despair of Six Feet Under.
I had rented the first two seasons, years ago and was enthralled. It was the first series since Twin Peaks that I felt an affinity to. TP was the best thing to happen to network television and I was sorely disappointed when ABC decided to cancel it. Of course, back then the networks weren't as competition savvy as they are now. See, when the cable series' started to take off, cable channels had the luxury of showing the episodes over and over again, so audiences could keep up. Now, of course, ABC is back with two hit shows, LOST and Desperate Housewives, and they are smart enough to repeat episode twice a week, so we don't have another Twin Peaks situation. Of course, my schedule is so maddeningly unpredictable, I missed almost all of Lost and DH in their first season. But thanks to DVD, I am catching up. I finished Desperate Housewives Season 1 recently and was in the mood to watch another series. I thought Six Feet Under would be a perfect one to pick back up. Like I said, I am trudging through. I am in a strange state of shock.
While there are similarities between the two shows (this has been commented on by many a reviewer). I find the differences more disturbing. SFU is much more grounded in reality. Sure people die on Desperate Housewives, but not in every single episode. But it's not the body count that bothers me at all, it's the living. These characters are all so incredibly fucked up and I relate to them. No one in the Fisher family seems capable of being happy. It's painful to watch how they manipulate each other and allow themselves to be manipulated. I think the women of Wisteria Lane are smarter than the Fishers. They are certainly happier. The housewives are all resourceful enough to manage their lives. I do not want to look at the hard realities of my own mortality. I would rather make cookies with Bree, or get drunk with Edie, or have a sleepover with Susan and Julie...or do a little gardening. Truth be told, I prefer the primetime desperation of Housewives to the inevitable gloom of the Fisher clan.
I guess I should think of Six Feet Under as a cautionary tale, how not to live...
Now, I know that I will keep watching SFU because I just will. Even though I am seasons behind and much has been spoiled for me. I remember driving down La Brea and glancing over at the city bus next to me, reading: RIP Lisa Fisher with the dates of her birth and death. Boom! Spoiler, on the side of a friggin' bus. And the hoopla surrounding the series finale was too hard to avoid. Yeah, Nate finally dies. All I can do is wait...and watch.
It's interesting to me that these shows were both created by middle-aged gay men, Alan Ball (Six Feet Under) and Mark Cherry (Desperate Housewives). Again, despite the similarities, here we have two vastly divergent points of view. I hope that someday, when I myself reach middle-age, I will be able to create a series that will be as critically and commercially successful as these men have. I cannot say what tone or aesthetic my own show would have, but I imagine that it would reek of genius. But that's just a self-educated guess.