Called groundbreaking and life affirming as well as pretentious and insipid, “Six Feet Under” has certainly made an impression on HBO viewers. Having just begun its third season, now is the time for those who have never seen this controversial program to tune in.

Todd Weiser
Courtesy of HBO
You wanna have like 10,000 of his babies.

The new season addresses the results of choices made last season and is approaching what may be pivotal moments in each of the character’s lives. Lacking any major crisis to centralize the plot, such as the first season’s near-buyout of Fisher & Sons and Nate’s impending operation in the second season, the focus now lies more heavily on the individual members of the Fisher household.

Seven months have passed since Nate’s (Peter Krause) operation; he is now married to Lisa (Lily Tomlin) who has just left working as a live-in cook for a neurotic Hollywood producer (played to the hilt by Catherine O’Hara); the two are hard at work building a life together with their child Maya.

Ruth (Frances Conroy) has started a new friendship with Bettina (guest star Kathy Bates, who also directs a few episodes), while David (Michael C. Hall) and Keith (Matthew St. Patrick) struggle to maintain their relationship. Claire (Lauren Ambrose) is becoming more engaged in art school and has difficulties with a new boyfriend who likes to “see other girls” while Federico (Freddy Rodriguez) deals with the challenges of his new role as a full partner in the funeral home. With Nate’s troubled ex, Brenda (Rachel Griffiths), rumored to be making her reappearance soon, it should be interesting to see how things develop for the Fisher family.

The phenomenal writing of “Six Feet Under” keeps these various plotlines from spiraling out of control, managing to maintain the show’s unique flavor of drama, black comedy and quirky realism, with a dash of metaphysical meditation on life and death that elevates the series above the level of a mere soap opera for intellectuals.

Granted, the increased focus on family relationships may alienate some viewers, and the jarring resolution to last season’s cliffhanger might seem like too much of a cop-out, but the quality writing and performances keep audiences emotionally invested. As Olivier (Peter Macdissi), Claire’s unconventional new art teacher, says, good art must make us feel something, positive or negative, “otherwise, who gives a fuck?”

Rating: 4 Stars

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