Six Feet Under is an American drama television series created and produced by Alan Ball. It premiered on the premium cable network HBO in the United States on June 3, 2001, and ended on August 21, 2005, spanning five seasons and 63 episodes. It depicts the lives of the Fisher family, who run a funeral home in Los Angeles, and their friends and lovers.

The ensemble drama stars Peter Krause, Michael C. Hall, Frances Conroy, Lauren Ambrose, Freddy Rodriguez, Mathew St. Patrick, and Rachel Griffiths as the central characters. It was produced by Actual Size Films and The Greenblatt/Janollari Studio, and was shot on location in Los Angeles and in Hollywood studios.

Six Feet Under received widespread critical acclaim, particularly for its writing and acting, and consistently drew high ratings for the HBO network. It has been included on TIME magazine's "All-TIME 100 TV Shows",[1] as well as Empire magazine's "50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time" list.[2] It has also been described as having one of the finest series finales in television.[3] It won numerous awards, including nine Emmy Awards, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, three Golden Globe Awards, and a Peabody Award.

Show synopsis

The show stars Peter Krause as Nathaniel Samuel Fisher, Jr., whose funeral director father (Richard Jenkins) dies and bequeaths to him and his brother, David (Michael C. Hall), co-ownership of the family funeral business. The Fisher clan also includes widow Ruth (Frances Conroy), and daughter Claire (Lauren Ambrose). Other regulars include mortician and family friend, Federico Diaz (Freddy Rodriguez), Nate's on-again/off-again girlfriend, Brenda Chenowith (Rachel Griffiths), and David's long-term boyfriend, Keith Charles (Mathew St. Patrick).

On one level, the show is a conventional family drama, dealing with such issues as interpersonal relationships, infidelity, and religion. At the same time, the show is distinguished by its unblinking focus on the topic of death, which it explores on multiple levels (personal, religious, and philosophical). Each episode begins with a death – the cause of which ranges from heart attack or murder to sudden infant death syndrome – and that death usually sets the thematic tone for each episode, allowing the characters to reflect on their current fortunes and misfortunes in a way that is illuminated by the death and its aftermath. The show also utilises dark humor and surrealism throughout its seasons.

A recurring plot device consists of a character having an imaginary conversation with the deceased; for example, Nate, David, and Federico sometimes "converse" with the deceased at the beginning of the episode, while the corpse is being embalmed, or during funeral planning or the funeral itself. Sometimes, the characters converse with other, recurring deceased characters, most notably Nathaniel Fisher, Sr. The show's creator, Alan Ball, avers that this represents the living characters' internal dialogues expressed in the form of external conversations.[4]



Although overall plots and characters were created by Alan Ball, there are conflicting reports on how the series was conceived. In one instance, Ball stated that he came up with the premise of the show after the deaths of his sister and father. However, in an interview,[5] he intimates that HBO entertainment president Carolyn Strauss proposed the idea to him. In a copyright-infringement lawsuit,[6] screenwriter Gwen O'Donnell asserted that she was the original source of the idea that later passed through Strauss to Ball; the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, proceeding on the assumption that this assertion was true, rejected her claim. Ball stated in an interview:[7]

Major themes

The show focuses on human mortality, the symbiotic nature of life and death feeding off of each other and the lives of those who deal with it on a daily basis. When discussing the concept of the show, creator Alan Ball elaborates on the foremost questions the show's pilot targeted:[5]

Six Feet Under introduces the Fisher family as the basis on which to explore these questions. Throughout its five-season, 63-episode run, major characters experience crises which are in direct relation to their environment and the grief they have experienced. Alan Ball again relates these experiences as well as the choice of the series' title, to the persistent subtext of the program:[8]


Exteriors for the Fisher home were shot at 2302 West 25th Street and the intersection of Arlington Avenue, in the West Adams neighborhood of Los Angeles.[9] In Season 5, episode 1, Rico mentions that he grew up "in West Adams, near where I work."


The series was created by Alan Ball, who also served as executive producer and showrunner for the entire series run. Robert Greenblatt and David Janollari executive produced the series, as The Greenblatt Janollari Studio was one of the production companies. The other producers were Lori Jo Nemhauser and Robert Del Valle.[10]

The writing staff consisted of creator Alan Ball, who wrote nine episodes over the series run, including the pilot episode and the series finale. Writers who were on staff for the entire series run included Rick Cleveland, who wrote eight episodes and became an executive producer in the fifth season; Kate Robin, who wrote eight episodes and became a supervising producer in the fifth season; and Bruce Eric Kaplan, who wrote seven episodes and became an executive producer in the fourth season. Christian Williams was just on staff for the first season, writing two episodes. Both Laurence Andries and Christian Taylor wrote three episodes each during their run on the series for the first two seasons, and they also served as producers. Scott Buck and Jill Soloway joined in the second season staying on staff for the rest of the series, and each wrote seven episodes. Buck became a co-executive producer in the fourth season, and Soloway became a co-executive producer in the fifth season. The last set of writers to join the staff were Craig Wright and Nancy Oliver in the third season. Wright wrote six episodes and became a producer in the fifth season and Oliver wrote five episodes and became a co-producer in the fifth season.[10]

Creator Alan Ball also directed the most episodes, directing the pilot and each of the season finales. Dan Attias also directed six episodes, from season two to five. Kathy Bates (who also played Bettina on the series), Michael Cuesta, Rodrigo García, and Jeremy Podeswa each directed five episodes. Michael Engler, Daniel Minahan, and Alan Poul (who also served as an executive producer for the series) each directed four episodes. Miguel Arteta directed three episodes and Nicole Holofcener directed two episodes. Single-episode directors included Peter Care, Alan Caso, Lisa Cholodenko, Allen Coulter, Adam Davidson, Mary Harron, Joshua Marston, Jim McBride, Karen Moncrieff, John Patterson, Matt Shakman, Alan Taylor, Rose Troche, and Peter Webber.[10]


The series' main theme, written by composer Thomas Newman, won a 2002 Emmy Award for Outstanding Main Title Theme Music and two Grammy Awards in 2003 for Best Instrumental Composition and Best Instrumental Arrangement.

The production sound from seasons three through five was mixed by Bo Harwood, and was nominated in 2004 for a Cinema Audio Society Award.

Seasons two through five featured a promotional teaser trailer prior to the premiere of that season. The songs featured in each season's trailer were "Heaven" by Lamb for season two; "A Rush of Blood to the Head" by Coldplay for season three; "Feeling Good" by Nina Simone for season four; and "Breathe Me" by Sia Furler for season five, which is also used for montage in the series finale. All these songs are included in either of two soundtracks for the show.

The episode recaps for the first two seasons feature the song "Nothing Lies Still Long" by Pell Mell. The episode previews for the first and fifth seasons feature the Six Feet Under title theme, while the other seasons feature the Rae & Christian remix version of the title theme.

Music supervision for the entire run of the series was provided by Gary Calamar and Thomas Golubic, who were also credited as producers for the two soundtrack albums.

Cast and characters

Main cast

The main characters of Six Feet Under in the first season. From left to right: Federico; Keith; David; Claire; Ruth; Nate; Nathaniel, Sr; and Brenda.

Recurring cast

Family tree

Nathaniel Fisher, Sr.
Ruth Fisher
Bernard Asa Chenowith
Margaret Chenowith
George Sibley
prior wife
Keith Charles
David Fisher
Claire Fisher
Nate Fisher
Brenda Chenowith
Billy Chenowith
Lisa Kimmel Fisher
Maggie Sibley
Brian Sibley
Anthony Charles-Fisher
Durrell Charles-Fisher
Willa Fisher Chenowith
Maya Kimmel Fisher



Critical reception

Six Feet Under was met with critical acclaim. The first season holds a rating of 74% at Metacritic based on 23 reviews.[11] Early reviews of the series were positive, prior to the screening of the pilot episode; Steve Oxman of Variety stated that "Six Feet Under is a smart, brooding, fanciful character-driven ensemble piece about a family in the funeral biz."[12] Following the series premiere, Barry Garron of The Hollywood Reporter commented that the series' "examination of family life through the prism of a mortuary business, combines sardonic humor with poignant drama and comes up with a unique tone and style, in itself quite an accomplishment for any TV series. It is fearless in its approach to storytelling and, far more often than not, succeeds in the risks it takes" and "there is much to admire about this series, including top-notch performances, artful direction and creative storytelling that employs various techniques, including dream sequences and parody commercials. Best of all, though, is Ball’s introspection and the insight he provides about society, the funeral industry and family relationships."[13]

Bill Carter of The New York Times wrote that "Six Feet Under certainly got enthusiastic reviews, almost universally glowing notices about the rich characterizations and quirky humor shaped by the show's celebrated creator, Alan Ball, the Academy Award-winning writer of the film American Beauty."[14] In an early response from HBO executive Chris Albrecht, he announced in regards to the viewers, that they are "totally thrilled with the series."[14]

The series finale is considered one of the greatest endings in television history. In a 2015 interview with Alan Ball, Peter Krause, Michael C. Hall and Lauren Ambrose for The Hollywood Reporter, to mark 10 years since the show's ending, they described it as the "finale that would not die". Megan Vick of The Hollywood Reporter said that "The idea of flashing forward to depict how each member of the Fishers and their loved ones would pass on seemed revolutionary in 2005, but Ball — who created the series and would write and direct its final episode — uses another word for it — inevitable."[15]


Season Episodes Premiered Ended Average Viewers
(in millions)
Date Viewers
(in millions)
Date Viewers
(in millions)
1 13 June 3, 2001 4.97[16] August 19, 2001 7.06[17] 5.3[17]
2 13 March 3, 2002 6.24[18] June 2, 2002 5.49[19] 5.6[20]
3 13 March 2, 2003 5.09[21] June 1, 2003 5.78[22] 4.7[23]
4 12 June 13, 2004 4.20[24] September 12, 2004 3.73[25] 3.7[26]
5 12 June 6, 2005 2.62[27] August 21, 2005 3.89[26] 2.5[26]

Awards and nominations

At the 2002 Primetime Emmy Awards, the series received 23 nominations for its first two seasons, including a nomination for Outstanding Drama Series. Series creator Alan Ball won for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series for the pilot episode and Patricia Clarkson won for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series. The rest of the ensemble cast, including Michael C. Hall, Peter Krause, Frances Conroy, Rachel Griffiths, Freddy Rodriguez, and Lauren Ambrose all received acting nominations. Guest actors Lili Taylor and Illeana Douglas received nominations in the guest acting category. The series received 16 nominations at the 2003 Primetime Emmy Awards for its third season, including a nomination for Outstanding Drama Series. Peter Krause, Frances Conroy, Lauren Ambrose, Rachel Griffiths, James Cromwell, and Kathy Bates all received acting nominations. Alan Poul was nominated for directing for the episode "Nobody Sleeps", and Craig Wright was nominated for writing for the episode "Twilight". The series received 5 nominations at the 2005 Primetime Emmy Awards for its fourth season, including Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for Frances Conroy. The series received nine nominations at the 2006 Primetime Emmy Awards for its fifth and final season. Patricia Clarkson won for the second time for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series, and Peter Krause, Frances Conroy, and Joanna Cassidy received acting nominations. Alan Ball was nominated for writing and directing for the series finale episode "Everyone's Waiting".[28]

For the Golden Globe Awards, the series won for Best Drama Series in 2001, and received nominations in 2002 and 2003. Peter Krause was nominated for Best Actor in a Drama Series in 2001 and 2002. Rachel Griffiths won for Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Miniseries, or TV Film in 2001, and received a nomination in 2002 in the Lead Actress category. Frances Conroy won for Best Actress in a Drama Series in 2003.[29]

For the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the cast won for Outstanding Ensemble in a Drama Series in 2002 and 2003, and received nominations in 2001, 2004, and 2005. Peter Krause was nominated for Outstanding Male Actor in a Drama Series in 2001 and 2003. Frances Conroy won for Outstanding Female Actor in a Drama Series in 2003.

The series won a Peabody Award for general excellence in 2002 "for its unsettling yet powerfully humane explorations of life and death".[30]

Home media


All five seasons are available on DVD in individual box sets and in a collected volume.[31]

Season Release date Episodes Discs Additional information
Region 1[32] Region 2[33] Region 4[34]
1 February 4, 2003 July 7, 2003 February 11, 2004 13 4
  • Two audio commentaries; "Under the Main Title" featurette; "Behind-the-Scenes" featurette with cast and filmmaker; deleted scenes; cast and filmmaker bios; two music tracks
2 July 6, 2004 June 21, 2004 July 14, 2004 13 5
  • Five audio commentaries; "Anatomy of a Working Stiff: Life as a Dead Body" featurette
3 May 17, 2005 April 4, 2005 May 11, 2005 13 5
  • Five audio commentaries; "A Birdseye View of the Third Season" – An in-depth interview with show creator Alan Ball including the original HBO trailer
4 August 23, 2005 September 5, 2005 November 16, 2005 12 5
  • Seven audio commentaries; "Cut by Cut: Editing Six Feet Under" featurette; deleted scenes; Exclusive Bob Costas interview with the cast
5 March 28, 2006 April 10, 2006 October 4, 2005 12 5
  • Six audio commentaries; "Six Feet Under: 2001–2005": two 30-minute retrospectives; "Life and Loss: The Impact of Six Feet Under" featurette
1–5 November 14, 2006 April 10, 2006 August 13, 2014 63 24
  • Same special features as individual releases
  • Bonus disc 25 included on Region 1 (not available on regions 2 and 4)
  • Re-released on Region 1 on October 6, 2009 in slimmer packaging


Two soundtrack albums, featuring music that had appeared in the series, were released:


  • Ball, Alan (2003). Alan Poul, ed. Six Feet Under: Better Living Through Death. ISBN 978-0-7434-8065-9. 
  • Akass, Kim; Janet McCabe; Mark Lawson (2005). Reading Six Feet Under: TV To Die For. I. B. Tauris. ISBN 978-1-85043-809-0. 


The complete series is available from various streaming sites including HBO Now,[37] and Amazon Video.[38]

See also


  1. ^ "Six Feet Under – The 100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME". Time. September 6, 2007. Retrieved March 28, 2010. 
  2. ^ "Empire Presents The 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time". Empire. Retrieved March 28, 2010. 
  3. ^ "The Ten Best Television Series Finales". Blog Critics. March 27, 2009. Retrieved March 28, 2010. [permanent dead link]
     • "50 Best TV Dramas Ever". TV Squad. March 11, 2009. Retrieved March 28, 2010. 
     • "Happy Endings: The 6 Best TV Finales". TV Fodder. August 22, 2005. Retrieved March 28, 2010. 
     • "TV's Best Finales Ever". TV Guide. Retrieved March 28, 2010. 
     • "TV's Best and Worst Series Finales". New York Post. Archived from the original on June 30, 2012. Retrieved March 28, 2010. 
     • "TV's All-Time Best Series' Finales". MSN TV. Archived from the original on March 25, 2009. Retrieved March 28, 2010. 
     • "5 Best TV Finales". Pop Vultures. March 14, 2008. Archived from the original on July 15, 2011. Retrieved March 28, 2010. 
     • "The Best Series Finales". UGO.com. June 11, 2007. Archived from the original on August 24, 2010. Retrieved March 28, 2010. 
     • "Top 10 TV Series Finales: The Sopranos, Friends, Cheers". Film.com. April 2, 2009. Retrieved March 28, 2010. 
  4. ^ Ball, Alan (writer). Six Feet Under — DVD audio commentaries (DVD). HBO Home Video. 
  5. ^ a b Ball, Alan. Six Feet Under: The Complete Series – "In Memoriam" featurette (DVD). HBO Home Video. 
  6. ^ "462 F3d 1072 Funky Films Inc v. Time Warner Entertainment Company Lp Lp". Open Jurist. Retrieved March 28, 2010. 
  7. ^ "Six Feet Under creator Alan Ball talks about the end of the HBO series". MovieWeb. May 25, 2005. Retrieved August 29, 2012. 
  8. ^ Ball, Alan (writer/director). Six Feet Under: The Complete Fifth Season – "Everyone's Waiting" audio commentary (DVD). HBO Home Video. 
  9. ^ "Six Feet Under House / Fisher-Diaz Funeral Home ~ West Adams". L.A. Taco. Retrieved January 15, 2015. 
  10. ^ a b c "HBO: Six Feet Under: Cast & Crew". HBO. Retrieved October 28, 2010. 
  11. ^ "Six Feet Under – Season 1". Metacritic. Retrieved October 18, 2017. 
  12. ^ Oxman, Steve (May 25, 2001). "TV Review: 'Six Feet Under'". Variety. Retrieved October 18, 2017. 
  13. ^ Garron, Barry (August 21, 2015). "'Six Feet Under' First Episode: THR's 2001 Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 18, 2017. 
  14. ^ a b Carter, Bill (July 2, 2001). "On Television; 'Six Feet Under,' a morbid new comedy, tugs at HBO's evolving identity". The New York Times. Retrieved October 18, 2017. 
  15. ^ Vick, Megan (August 21, 2015). "'Six Feet Under' 10 Years Later: Creator, Stars on Finale "Bomb," Lasting Legacy". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 18, 2017. 
  16. ^ Downey, Kevin (June 13, 2001). "NBA jumpers lead NBC to a weekly win". Media Life Magazine. Archived from the original on October 25, 2006. Retrieved October 18, 2017. 
  17. ^ a b Downey, Kevin (August 29, 2001). "Summer fading, ABC grabs lead from NBC". Media Life Magazine. Archived from the original on October 25, 2006. Retrieved October 18, 2017. 
  18. ^ Downey, Kevin (March 13, 2002). "'Survivor' and '9/11' give CBS a boost". Media Life Magazine. Archived from the original on May 16, 2008. Retrieved October 18, 2017. 
  19. ^ Downey, Kevin (June 12, 2002). "'Spy TV' giving NBC a surprise goose". Media Life Magazine. Archived from the original on February 16, 2009. Retrieved October 18, 2017. 
  20. ^ "Development Update: November 8–10". The Futon Critic. November 10, 2004. Retrieved October 18, 2017. 
  21. ^ Fitzgerald, Toni (March 12, 2003). "Amid reruns, reality is still king". Media Life Magazine. Archived from the original on April 4, 2015. Retrieved October 18, 2017. 
  22. ^ Fitzgerald, Toni (June 11, 2003). "Tonys: not hardly a disaster". Media Life Magazine. Archived from the original on November 10, 2005. Retrieved October 18, 2017. 
  23. ^ Fitzgerald, Toni (June 4, 2003). "FX's big score with '44 Minutes'". Media Life Magazine. Archived from the original on April 4, 2015. Retrieved October 18, 2017. 
  24. ^ "Development Update: June 14–16". The Futon Critic. June 16, 2004. Retrieved October 18, 2017. 
  25. ^ Vasquez, Diego (September 15, 2004). "Don't KO reality boxing shows just yet". Media Life Magazine. Archived from the original on April 4, 2015. Retrieved October 18, 2017. 
  26. ^ a b c "Development Update: August 22–24". The Futon Critic. August 24, 2005. Retrieved October 18, 2017. 
  27. ^ Azote, Abigail (June 15, 2005). "'The Inside,' victim of summer reality". Media Life Magazine. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved October 18, 2017. 
  28. ^ "Six Feet Under". Emmys.com. Retrieved August 29, 2012. 
  29. ^ "Six Feet Under". GoldenGlobes.org. Archived from the original on April 15, 2013. Retrieved August 29, 2012. 
  30. ^ "Six Feet Under (HBO)". The Peabody Awards. May 2003. Retrieved September 29, 2014. 
  31. ^ "Six Feet Under on DVD, Release Info, Reviews, News". TVShowsOnDVD.com. Retrieved August 29, 2012. 
  32. ^ Region 1:
  33. ^ Region 2:
  34. ^ Region 4:
  35. ^ "Six Feet Under". Amazon.com. Retrieved October 18, 2017. 
  36. ^ "Six Feet Under, Volume Two: Everything Ends – Music from the HBO Original Series". Amazon.com. Retrieved October 18, 2017. 
  37. ^ "Schedule Results". HBO.com. Retrieved October 18, 2017. 
  38. ^ Amazon Video:

External links