kottke.org posts about Six Feet Under
Now that I've caught up on True Detective, I have to agree with Emily Nussbaum's take on the show and finale: a stylish well-acted show with a "hollow center".
To state the obvious: while the male detectives of "True Detective" are avenging women and children, and bro-bonding over "crazy pussy," every live woman they meet is paper-thin. Wives and sluts and daughters -- none with any interior life. Instead of an ensemble, "True Detective" has just two characters, the family-man adulterer Marty, who seems like a real and flawed person (and a reasonably interesting asshole, in Harrelson's strong performance), and Rust, who is a macho fantasy straight out of Carlos Castaneda. A sinewy weirdo with a tragic past, Rust delivers arias of philosophy, a mash-up of Nietzsche, Lovecraft, and the nihilist horror writer Thomas Ligotti. At first, this buddy pairing seems like a funky dialectic: when Rust rants, Marty rolls his eyes. But, six episodes in, I've come to suspect that the show is dead serious about this dude. Rust is a heretic with a heart of gold. He's our fetish object -- the cop who keeps digging when everyone ignores the truth, the action hero who rescues children in the midst of violent chaos, the outsider with painful secrets and harsh truths and nice arms. McConaughey gives an exciting performance (in Grantland, Andy Greenwald aptly called him "a rubber band wrapped tight around a razor blade"), but his rap is premium baloney. And everyone around these cops, male or female, is a dark-drama cliche, from the coked-up dealers and the sinister preachers to that curvy corpse in her antlers. "True Detective" has some tangy dialogue ("You are the Michael Jordan of being a son of a bitch") and it can whip up an ominous atmosphere, rippling with hints of psychedelia, but these strengths finally dissipate, because it's so solipsistically focussed on the phony duet.
I enjoyed the show and am seated in the McConaissance cheering section, but True Detective is far from TV's best thing evar. And Nussbaum hits the nail right on the head: the lack of good women characters is to blame.
Something I've noticed about my favorite TV shows: they are mostly testosterone fests where the women are more interesting than the men. Mad Men is the perfect example. Game of Thrones is another. And Six Feet Under. Even in Deadwood, which I am rewatching now and is loads better than True Detective, women more than hold their own against the men. It's fun to watch the men on these series generate bullshit, but it's much more interesting to watch the great actresses who play these women navigate and elevate through the predictable male privilege.
I don't know if I'm interested in watching the show or not, but we might have a new leader in the best TV show main title sequence: True Blood. By the same folks who did the Six Feet Under titles. Perhaps NSFW. (via quips)
Update: Maybe Digital Kitchen was influenced by a documentary called Searching for the Wrong Eyed Jesus in making the True Blood titles?
Patrick Pittman makes a good case for Homicide: Life on the Streets being the best TV show ever. I loved Homicide and am convinced it would have found a great audience in this age of TiVo and quick-to-DVD (it was a difficult show to catch on Friday nights). Re: best TV ever, The Simpsons, Seinfeld, The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, and M*A*S*H have to be near the top of the list...what are your favorites?
Fans of Six Feet Under will want to get their hands (and arms) on a Narm! tshirt. Narm. Narm!
Season four of Six Feet Under is now available on DVD. Watch as Nate and George and David and, well, everyone really, goes nuts.
Excellent little piece by Steven Johnson on the end of Six Feet Under: "I had a genuine feeling last night watching the finale that I was going to miss these people, which I can honestly say I've never had with a television show before." I'm still thinking about that last episode, three days later.
Just finished watching the final episode of Six Feet Under. Don't worry, there's no spoilers here in case you've got it TiVoed for later viewing. The show ended in a good way, I think, a sad happy ending true to the show's focus. Poignant, I think they call it. SFU always did poignancy rather well in a medium possessing little patience for it. Many people will probably disagree that it ended well, that it wasn't Six Feet Under enough for them, but it's difficult to do a "normal" show as a finale; that approach would have failed in a different way.
But what do I know? I've seen every single episode of the show, many of them twice, and at this point I'm not sure how much objectivity I have in talking about it. Somewhere along the way, Six Feet Under became a soap opera for me. In many ways, this is the viewer's goal in seeking out entertainment, to stop the analysis of everything and just let go and enjoy the experience. To relax. As some have argued, the show may have gone downhill after the first two seasons, but I don't regret not noticing those flaws and just enjoying the ride.
Season premiere of Six Feet Under, 9pm tonight. Can't wait, can't wait, can't wait, can't wait, can't wait, can't wait!