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Case Number 06966: Small Claims Court

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Six Feet Under: The Complete Third Season

HBO // 2004 // 780 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // June 8th, 2005

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All Rise...

Judge Patrick Naugle wonders where the tradition of burying a casket six feet underground came from.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of Six Feet Under: The Complete First Season (published February 10th, 2003), Six Feet Under: The Complete Second Season (published August 4th, 2004), Six Feet Under: The Complete Fourth Season (published October 10th, 2005), and Six Feet Under: The Complete Fifth Season (published April 19th, 2006) are also available.

The Charge

"You know what I find interesting? If you lose a spouse, you're called a widow, or a widower. If you're a child and you lose your parents, then you're an orphan. But what's the word to describe a parent who loses a child? I guess that's just too f***ing awful to even have a name."—Brenda Chenowith (Rachel Griffiths), Six Feet Under

The Case

In the third season of HBO's acclaimed series, the Fisher family faces more crises in their lives, the lives of their friends and loved ones, and at the Fisher Funeral Home. Over the course of the season, all of the characters will go through transformations; prodigal son Nate Fisher (Peter Krause, Sports Night), previously diagnosed with dire health issues, will dodge death's cruel hand as he attempts to raise his new daughter, Maya, with his new wife hippie wife, Lisa (Lili Tyler, High Fidelity); Claire Fisher (Lauren Ambrose, Can't Hardly Wait) will continue her education at a local art college while beginning a new relationship with Russell (Ben Foster, Six Feet Under); Rico (Freddy Rodriguez) finds himself not only an employee but also a partner at the newly christened Fisher & Diaz Funeral Home while struggling with his wife, Vanessa (Justina Machado, Final Destination 2) and her pain-in-the-butt sister. David (Michael C. Hall) and his long time boyfriend Keith (Matthew St. Patrick) continue to struggle with their relationship, while Fisher patriarch Ruth (Frances Conroy, The Aviator) attempts to find love and keep her family from falling apart. Everything is a struggle when you live your life Six Feet Under.

I had friends and relatives who watched Six Feet Under up until around the third season—for some reason, this is where many of them became disenchanted with the series. I wholeheartedly disagree; though the series has had its fair share of ups and downs in character, creative storytelling, and writing, I think that as a whole the series has weathered well. It was announced not long ago the that fifth season of the show will be its last—it seems that creator Alan Ball has told all the stories needed through the Fisher clan. While I think it is time to lay HBO's critically lauded series to rest (pun intended) on a high note, I will most certainly be sad to see the Fishers go.

By the third season, I felt, the show had completely grown into its skin. The characters are finally fleshed out, warts and all, and the Fisher family and company have a great many warts to deal with. The crux of the show is the moral dilemmas and personal crises the characters must deal with that make the folks from Desperate Housewives look downright well adjusted. Some characters do drugs and others experiment with sex at the expense of their significant other. These are people who are struggling to find a moral compass and a world where happiness can be a substitute for despair and, well…bad luck (of which there is a lot of in this series). The plots are propelled by interesting storylines (I especially enjoyed watching Claire find her way through art school) and, of course, those opening death scenes that have become the show's hallmark.

The cast is as sharp as ever. My favorite couple, uptight David and his lover Keith (played wonderfully by Michael C. Hall and Matthew St. Patrick), are truly the heart of the series. Through all of the characters' romantic entanglements, infidelities, and heartbreaks, these two characters seem to be the most likely to stay together and stay happy. Hall brings a sweetness to a very flawed man who doesn't know what he wants, or where to find it. Other cast member highlights include Peter Krause's Nate Fisher, who is also struggling with the adjustment of having a new child and a wife who seems almost thrust upon him, and Frances Conroy as Ruth Fisher, who plays repressed batty terseness better than any other actor/actress working in Hollywood.

Alan Ball's left-of-center family drama has been, for this reviewer, one of the highlights of television the past few years. I have found the show to be the most compelling series on either cable or network television—it's a show that has ensnared me in its trails and tribulations. Here's hoping that the fifth and final season of Six Feet Under brings some much-needed closure and happiness to the lives of the struggling Fisher family.

Finally! Viewers will be thrilled to see that the old full frame transfers are gone and Six Feet Under: The Complete Third Season is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Overall HBO has made sure that the transfers on each of these 13 episodes look clear and brightly rendered. There is hardly any scratches or dirt in the images. Fans of the series can only hope and pray that the studio continues to do the same with the last two DVD seasons.

The soundtracks for each of the 13 episodes are presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English. Most of the sound here is front heavy, though there are some directional effects to be found at various points in the show. The biggest boost comes from the music (including Thomas Newman's haunting main theme). Also included on this set is Dolby 2.0 soundtracks and subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.

Though this five-disc set isn't packed with extra features, fans of the series will be happy to find HBO's inclusion of a few well produced supplements. Spread across the discs is five commentary tracks on the following episodes:

• "The Eye Inside" with director Michael Engler
• "Nobody Sleeps" with executive producer/director Alan Poul
• "The Trap" with writer Bruce Eric Kaplan
• "Death Works Overtime" with writer Rick Cleveland
• "I'm Sorry, I'm Lost" with director Alan Ball

While these commentary tracks aren't overly exciting (many of the participants just kind or drone on and on), there are nuggets of information about the series to be found in each track. The best, not surprisingly, is Ball's insightful commentary on the show, the writing, stories, and characters.

The final two supplements can be found on the fifth disc. The first is "Living on the Ledge: A Bird's-eye View of the Third Season," a 15-minute featurette that takes a look back on the last season and includes interviews with Alan Ball, Alan Poul, and others, as well as a few deleted scenes that don't add up to very much in the scope of the third season. Also included are some short promo spots for the third season of the series.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 91

Perp Profile

Studio: HBO
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 780 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Drama
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Commentary Tracks on Five Episodes
• "Living on the Ledge: A Bird's-eye View of the Third Season" Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• Third Season Promo Spots


• IMDb

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