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Case Number 07738: Small Claims Court

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Six Feet Under: The Complete Fourth Season

HBO // 2005 // 720 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // October 10th, 2005

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All Rise...

This show made Judge Patrick Naugle cry. Ha-ha.

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 Third Season (published June 8th, 2005), and Six Feet Under: The Complete Fifth Season (published April 19th, 2006) are also available.

The Charge

Every day above ground is a good day.

The Case

The fourth season of HBO's Emmy award winning comedy/drama continues with radical changes happening in the Fisher household. On par with the last three seasons, the Fisher & Diaz Funeral Home (once Fisher & Sons) finds itself in the midst of about half a dozen midlife crises.

Prodigal son Nate Fisher (Peter Krause) is still struggling with the death of his wife, Lisa (Lili Taylor), whose body washed up on a shore miles from Los Angeles. Now Nate must come to terms with the death of his wife, his role as a single parent to their daughter, and his work at the family business. David (Michael C. Hall) and his stable lover, Keith (Matthew St. Patrick), struggle with the complexities of their relationship as David recovers from a major incident (not to be named in this review) in his life. Claire finally tries to move on from Russell (Ben Foster, Big Trouble), her sexually confused ex-boyfriend, and meets new friends (including Mena Suvari, American Beauty) at the art college she's attending while exploring her interest in photography. Federico Diaz (Freddy Rodriguez) deals with the aftermath of having an affair on his wife Vanessa (Justina Machado, Final Destination 2) and his growing role as a partner the funeral home business. Nate's ex-girlfriend Brenda (Rachel Griffiths) moves into a new apartment while dealing with her overbearing mother (Joanna Cassidy, Ghosts of Mars), unstable brother Billy (Jeremy Sisto, Wrong Turn), and a new, submissive beau, Joe (Justin Theroux). Finally, patriarch Ruth Fisher (Frances Conroy) speeds ahead into a new, mysterious marriage with George (James Cromwell, Star Trek: First Contact) but finds that the second time down the altar isn't everything she was hoping for.

The episodes are broken down on five discs:

Disc One:
• "Falling Into Place"
• "In Case of Rapture"

Disc Two:
• "Parallel Play"
• "Can I Come Up Now"
• "That's My Dog"

• Disc Three:
• "Terror Starts At Home"
• "The Dare"
• "Coming And Going"

• Disc Four:
• "Grinding The Corn"
• "The Black Forest"

• Disc Five:
• "Bomb Shelter"
• "Untitled"

I am washed. I am utterly, emotionally spent. Being hooked on Six Feet Under is not good for my health. After I finished watching the fourth season of the show I felt compelled (by otherworldly forces, or so it seemed) to watch the fifth and final season of the show. Since the fourth season has just been released on DVD, I knew that it would be at least a few months—if not much longer—before we'd see the final season on DVD. Wait until after Halloween? Christmas? No way!

I just couldn't wait.

Foregoing sleep and a sense of personal hygiene, I found a friend who'd kept the final season on his Tivo box—God bless modern technology. I called him and pleaded with him to watch it. I knew I was asking a lot—it meant spending 12 hours at this poor soul's house watching one of the most complex, funny, and depressing shows every to air on television. When the final episode rolled I wept like a little girl whose puppy had just been found dead in the road. It was, to say the least, heartbreaking. When the final credits rolled after what I will always consider to be one of the most complete and finite endings in TV history, I went home and contemplated life, death, my place in the universe and just how short a time we have on this earth (if you think I'm kidding, make sure to watch the last few episodes of Six Feet Under's final season when they come to DVD).

Ah, but as I started watching Six Feet Under: The Complete Fourth Season, tears were months away. Before I watched the Fisher's final episode, I was able to witness what led up to the tag line "Everything. Everyone. Everywhere. Ends." As the fourth season begins we're left wondering what has happened to Lisa and watching, frustrated, as Nate's mental health begins to crumble. Then we watch as David's mental health crumbles. And then Ruth's. Then George's. In fact, this whole show seems to be one long commercial for well-needed therapy. The writers of this series—as well as granddaddy Alan Ball (who also penned the dysfunctional Oscar winner American Beauty)—seem to be trying their best to make the Fishers' lives (and anyone around them) a living hell. It's hard to watch, but it makes for great TV.

Each character this season is given an ample storyline. The most compelling is watching Nate unfold as he tries to sort out his feelings about Lisa's death. It's no secret that the two of them were together for daughter Maya's sake, but the guilt, pain and frustration he feels makes for an emotional and well penned arc. When we finally do learn about the circumstances surrounding Lisa's fate, it's one of the series' only let downs—without spoiling it, I can say that I felt slightly cheated. Up until that point, however, the story is authentic and disturbing. It will be hard swallow Krause in another TV or film role; his performance as Nate is perfect, worthy of the multiple Emmy and Golden Globe nominations he's garnered. Other standouts of the season include James "that'll do, pig" Cromwell as Ruth's slightly (that's an understatement) unstable husband George, Michael C. Hall as the uptight David (who gets a meatier role this season struggling with personal victimization) and Frances Conroy as the repressed Ruth, who has become the backbone of the show.

I've come to realize that Six Feet Under works so well because it's a show about death with glimpses of hope and life peeking through the pine box cracks. Although horrible things happen to the Fisher family—and the worst is yet to come in the final fifth season—you still care for these folks and hope (that's the key word) that they find happiness. By the end of this season relationships are rocky and lives are torn asunder, but there's still that hope things will get better. It's a fine fictional reflection of how many of us feel in our day-to-day lives; just because we're surrounded by sorrow and sadness doesn't mean we don't have anything to live for. Here's hoping that each individual Fisher finds that in their futures.

Six Feet Under: The Complete fourth Season is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Much like the previous season, the transfers on this set are all excellent. The show has a very polished look to it, and it shows in the picture quality—the black levels are solid and dark while the colors are all well rendered (sometimes too much, like when we have to see some of the disturbing dead bodies brought into the Fisher & Diaz basement). Overall, fans of the series will be thrilled with how nice these episodes look.

The soundtracks for each of the 13 episodes are presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English. Once again this is a very front heavy show, though there are moments where the surround sounds kick in (mostly when the emotional background music kicks in). I don't have any complaints about the audio track—it's clearly heard and well recorded. Also included on this disc are Dolby Surround 2.0 sound mixes in English, Spanish and French.

Once again, HBO has included some well produced extra features on this set. Kicking it off are seven commentary tracks, as follows:

• "Falling Into Place," by writer Craig Wright
• "Parallel Play," by director Jeremy Podeswa
• "That's My Dog," by director/executive producer Alan Poul
• "Terror Starts At Home," by writer Kate Robin
• "The Dare," by director Peter Webber
• "Bomb Shelter," by writer Scott Buck
• "Untitled," by director/creator/executive producer Alan Ball

The commentaries shed some light on how each particular episode came to be. Obviously, discussions by the writers focus more on the stories while the chats with the directors are a bit more technical. The best is with Alan Ball, the creator of the show. Though these tracks are a fine listen for hardcore fans of the show, casual viewers may want to take a pass.

Next up is a featurette about the editing titled "Cut By Cut: Editing Six Feet Under." It includes interviews with Alan Ball, writer Jill Soloway, director Jeremy Podeswa, and others discussing the time consuming process of editing each episode (with focus on "Parallel Play").

A 15 minute exclusive interview with Bob Costas is the best supplement on the disc. Here actors Peter Krause, Frances Conroy, Michael C. Hall and Lauren Ambrose sit in a relaxed atmosphere and wax nostalgic about the show, discuss the meaning of life, and just generally shoot the breeze.

Finally, there are three deleted scenes (no commentary is available to give you an idea of what's going on), as well as a remixed version of the theme song by composer Thomas Newman.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 93

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)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 720 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Drama
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Seven Commentary Tracks With Various Cast and Crew Members
• "Cut By Cut: Editing Six Feet Under" Featurette
• Three Deleted Scenes
• Interview With Bob Costas
• Remixed Six Feet Under Theme

Accomplices

• IMDb








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