Monday, August 01, 2005

Alan Ball Must Die (Six Feet Under & Out)

(Photo courtesy hbo.com)

What on EARTH has Alan Ball done to HBO's "Six Feet Under" this year?! I'd like a do-over, please.

I've only encountered a few people who are addicted to "Six Feet Under" like myself. Usually, those people share the qualifying trait of being some of the coolest people I know. It's like a secret club that only hipsters and people I respect belong to or something.

But MAN has this show lost itself this season.

This is, in case you don't know, the final season for the groundbreaking HBO series. At this writing, there are (I think) 3 episodes left. In final seasons of TV shows, we expect closure... we expect things to wind up, then dramatically wind down. It's (appropriately enough) the closest thing to the 5 stages of grief that we can witness outside of feeling it ourselves.

I've invested a whole lotta time into "Six Feet Under." I've watched close to every episode from Day One. And here it is, the final season, and the show is now a full-on parody of what once made it so freakin' great.

This season, the writers seem to have ONE agenda: take every major character and completely flip-flop their personalities. Occasionally, it's worked to good effect; but for the most part, it's more laughably absurd than brilliant.

Take, for instance, the long-suffering Fisher daughter, Claire. When the show began, Claire was an interesting kid. Dark, deep, gloomy, a little messed in the head -- the archetypal Disaffected Artiste. Imagine Winona Ryder's character from "Beetlejuice" a little more detailed. For years, we've watched her weather the emotional storm of her family and her life whilst she's developed into a pretty cool artist. In short, she's become any girl I've ever wanted to date ever. This season, it all falls apart. Claire has a wake-up call, puts her art aside, and basically gets a stereotypical office job and falls for the stereotypical suit-wearing co-worker. The fact that she does a complete about-face as a character might be considered interesting if it were done well. It's not been. In last week's episode, for example, Claire takes her new Republican boyfriend to an art show thrown by her old friends (central characters in past seasons; barely seen since.) And her old friends, who once had defineable, compelling problems, were there... as caricatures of their former selves -- turned from visceral characters that you once CARED about into shallow art geeks having emotional blow-ups over little more than their own pretentiousness. It's like the writers are saying, "Yeah, we totally wasted your time with these people." If the moral of this show is to be that art types are little more than whiny deranged pansies, it's time for me to find a new show. I simply don't believe that anyone who is, at their core, deeply artistic can happily just seem to toss it all aside as youthful folly. And, if there's anybody out there who really HAS done that, it should be seen as more tragedy than triumph.

Then you've got Ruth, the matriarch of the Fisher clan. Once the solid rock of old-fashioned wisdom and charm, this season finds Ruth ditching her new husband because of his mental illness, then going on a crazy rampage for companionship of any kind. It's a joke. To hear Ruth yearning to live on a man-free commune and borrowing Claire's pot isn't just a character shift; it's a full-on meltdown of everything we've come to love about the woman.

David (the Fisher son) and Keith (his lover) have been an intriguing pair since the show's start. This year, their quest to adopt children has turned the two into little more than a parody of "Mr. Mom." They've almost turned into comic relief.

And the OTHER Fisher son, Nate... well, if you didn't see tonight's episode, I won't go into detail... but suffice to say he got his life-changing experience tonight as well.

Maybe Alan Ball's done a fantastic job -- maybe he's a genius. I mean, really, there's not much else on TV that would make me sit here in front of my computer and type such a nerd-centric blog entry. I must care about these characters to be this worked up about the writers screwing them over so badly this year.

I dunno... I'm just appalled, though. Not that I won't watch the final episodes in search of a little redemption. All I know is that a show that was once the most cutting edge thing on TV has become ridiculously weird and cartoonish. And that's just sad. RIP.

1 comment:

KY said...

You have stuck it out much longer than I could. The whole aftermath of David getting car-jacked was more than I could take. I have turned in my faithful SFU card.