Six Feet Under-The Complete Fourth Season (2001)
Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Ep.1-Falling Into Place, Ep.3-Parallel Play
Audio Commentary-Ep.5-That's My Dog, Ep.6-Terror Starts At Home,Ep.7-The Dare
Audio Commentary-Ep.11-The Bomb Shelter, Ep.12-Untitled
Featurette-Cut by Cut: Editing Six Feet Under
Interviews-Cast-Cast Of Six Feet Under
Bonus Track-From Six Feet Under Soundtrack
|Year Of Production||2001|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Multi Disc Set (5)
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||
Warner Home Video
Michael C. Hall
Mathew St. Patrick
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Hungarian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.75:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.78:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Smoking||Yes, Claire likes her pot and Brenda loves a fag|
|Annoying Product Placement||Yes, A certain brand of beer gets an obvious plug|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
For those unfamiliar with the morbidly charming world of Six Feet Under, the basic premise is uncomplicated, but the lives of the characters who inhabit it is far from simple.
The series revolves around the repressed Fisher family who own a funeral home located at 2302 West 25th Street in the West Adams district of suburban Los Angeles. There’s Ruth, the fragile matriarch, her two sons - the fastidiously gay David and emotionally laid-back Nate – and her troubled teenage daughter Claire. Over the course of the series Ruth is left a widow after her husband (and patriarch) dies in a tragic car accident (but who occasionally makes a guest appearance as Nate and David’s spirit guide), Nate continues to fall in and out of love with wayward genius Brenda, David finds security in the arms of police officer Keith, and Claire struggles with a string of bad boys and party dates who constantly turn her life upside-down.
Each family member (along with their partners) is frequently confronted by their own mortality. At the beginning of each episode a person is killed (often in bizarre circumstances) and the subsequent emotional aftermath involving the victim’s family and Fisher household is carefully woven into the narrative. The lessons learned are profoundly poignant and add another psychological layer to the characters the audience have now come to know so intimately.
The writing in Season four maintains the same wickedly dark humour and builds on the brilliant characterisations so judiciously set up over the course of the first three seasons. However, this time around, it seems the producers are trying to outdo themselves with situations bordering on the offensive (the controversial That’s My Dog episode, for example) and a certain level of predictability begins to creep into the storylines (Claire’s lesbian antics and Ruth’s new husband George, of course, has an unsettling flaw).
Nevertheless, the major factor overriding the spectacle and foreseeable actions is the binding strength of the characters carefully established throughout the series. Ruth, David, Keith, Nate, Claire, Brenda and Rico are now so familiar that many Six Feet Under connoisseurs will be prepared to look beyond the plot extravagances and continue to affectionately hold them centre-stage.
Season 4 contains the following 12 episodes spread comfortably over five discs:
Falling into Place (57:19)
After Lisa’s body is found, Nate struggles with the decision to honour her burial wish. Meanwhile, Rico tries to come to terms with his libidinous infidelity, Brenda finds comfort with her neighbour Joe, and Claire reveals to Russell something from their past that deeply disturbs him.
In Case of Rapture (49:16)
While Nate slides further into emotional turmoil, life takes a positive turn for Keith when he lands a job as a celebrity bodyguard. Claire is entranced by the beautiful and creative Edie (Mena Suvari from American Beauty) and Rico continues to lead a double life with exotic dancer Sophia.
Parallel Play (55:19)
Ruth becomes further distressed when she and George receive a gift basket containing more faeces. Meanwhile, Nate falls into the bed of a middle-class, single mother, Brenda discovers that her neighbour, Joe, has a particular sexual fetish she finds difficult to satisfy, Keith plays bodyguard to a teen pop sensation and Claire learns that the gorgeous Edie is a lesbian.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans will get a kick out of seeing Michelle Trachtenberg (Buffy’s sister Dawn) playing a b****y role as spoiled teen pop star Celeste.
Can I Come Up Now? (56:29)
David has mixed feelings when he receives a call from his former fiancé, Jennifer, who wants him to organise her father’s funeral. George realises who the phantom poo sender is and Ruth insists that the person be confronted.
That’s My Dog (56:27)
David’s life takes on a frightening turn when he gives a lift to a young man who appears in distress. Nate wrestles with the idea of grief counselling to cope with the loss of Lisa.
This episode caused quite a stir with a number of fans who were outraged over the storyline and the treatment of David. After watching the episode, I highly recommend listening to Director Alan Poul’s commentary.
Terror Starts at Home (53:42)
David tries to come to terms with his trauma and Nate finally takes the plunge and agrees to attend a bereavement support group.
The Dare (56:24)
Claire’s attraction to Edie strengthens, while Nate and Brenda’s on-again-off-again relationship is back on again. Rico decides he wants his wife and life back.
Coming and Going (52:35)
All the emotional tension from the previous episodes reach a climax – Rico is forced to move in with the Fisher family, Ruth disappears after an argument with George, David flips out after a quick sexual liaison, Claire’s drug taking spirals out of control and Brenda and Nate are caught in a compromising position.
Grinding the Corn (54:42)
Now living under the one roof, the three men George, Rico and Nate begin to bond. Keith returns to David after being fired from his job following an unlikely sexual liaison, Edie sinks into depression and avoids Claire, who continues to struggle with her sexual identity
The Black Forest (48:08)
Ruth returns home, but lays down some ground rules. Lisa’s relatives suspect that the ashes they interred may not actually be Lisa’s.
Bomb Shelter (48:55)
Ruth becomes increasingly concerned about George’s mental health, especially after she catches him talking to himself. Lisa’s relatives confront Nate about Lisa’s ashes and threaten a law suit.
Nate receives a photo of Lisa in a book sent to him by Lisa’s niece, Michaela. He realises the dress she is wearing in the picture is new and that she must have worn it on the day she died. He makes a shocking discovery when he goes to Lisa’s relatives to seek answers.
The opening death sequence in this episode is perhaps the most gruesome of the entire series.
Season 4 of Six Feet Under is presented in a glorious 1.75:1 aspect ratio complete with 16x9 enhancement. Thankfully, the series changed over to HDTV during the third season in 2002.
The transfer has a crisp, film-like quality that makes the most out of the tight, intimate framing. The images are generally razor sharp, although on occasion a slight softness can be detected. Black levels are deep and penetrating, while shadow detail clarity is very good, even in low-lit scenes.
Normally grain is an unattractive artefact, but here it is used to marvellous effect to deliberately enhance the age of certain sequences, like the drug induced hallucinatory sequence at the 70s party in Falling Into Place or when capturing a sense of urban realism as in That’s My Dog.
The organic colour palette, predominantly consisting of a myriad of yellows, browns, and soft pastels are purposely subdued to create an appropriately funereal sense of place.
The layer changes occur between episodes so there are no instances of pausing during play.
The unpretentious Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s) mix ranges from the boisterously immersive to the quietly moody.
At the beginning of each episode, all five channels (plus the subwoofer) are put to striking use by sending the seductive theme tune and its flourishes around the room, bathing the viewer in its sensual effect.
The surrounds are also employed sparingly but wisely to deliver ambient sounds like rain, thunder, disembodied voices and party music to the rear speakers. The subwoofer intermittently rumbles to life to enhance and complement the bass.
For a bit of fun, try sampling the French and Hungarian language options.
|Surround Channel Use|
A beautifully animated series of symbolic images involving the cast, flowers blooming and series of shots of Ravens set against a stark yellow sunrise. The images are complemented by the first few chords of the theme tune.
Before the start of each episode a text box appears briefly outlining the main plot points.
Shining through each of the following seven commentaries is the strong affection that the participants express for the characters and the actors who play them. However, I would liked to have also heard from the cast in a group commentary session with the writers and/or directors, as most of these solo contributions tend to suffer from being far too dry and scene descriptive.
Wright talks about how much he enjoyed writing the opening season episode, particularly the first death sequence (or “Cold Open” for those in the know) as it’s the most elaborate and the least restricted by production budgetary constraints. He goes on to reveal some interesting tidbits about the guest actors.
Like Craig Wright in the above commentary, Podeswa talks about how he delights in creating the “Cold Open.” In this particular episode, which starts out like a slasher film ala Scream, Wright says that his main inspiration was actually a little-known crime thriller called Bully by Larry Clark. This was the fourth episode he directed for the series.
I found this the least interesting of the commentary tracks. Podeswa seems to run out of steam very quickly and falls into the trap of simply describing what’s happening on the screen.
This is a highly engaging commentary track. Poul concentrates on the controversy surrounding the episode. Evidently fans were outraged over the situation between David and the hitchhiker. Poul explains both his and the writer Scott Buck’s intention.
A fairly lacklustre effort from Writer Kate Robin, who also wrote seven other episodes for the series. Although she reveals a few insights about what’s going on behind the scenes at the start of the episode, she falls into the trap of simply offering a scene-by-scene breakdown.
A very modest Webber talks about how nervous he was when asked to direct this, his first episode. He offers his own particular British slant on why he thinks the series has such a loyal following and provides plenty of interesting behind-the-scenes insights into the cast, crew and production.
Although Buck reveals how the “Cold Open” sequence was achieved, much of his commentary is a fairly dull listen – far too descriptive and too many extended pauses. It’s a shame Buck wasn’t coupled with Alan Poul on the That’s My Dog commentary track.
Ball apologises straight off by explaining that he’s in the middle of writing the final episode of season five and hasn’t seen this particular episode in over a year. Regardless, he offers a few behind-the-scenes facts and interesting bits of trivia.
The normally hidden world of editing receives its day in the sun in this surprisingly engaging featurette. Alan Ball (Creator/Executive Producer), Jill Soloway (Writer, Parallel Play), Alan Poul (Executive Producer), Michael Ruscio (Editor), Jeremy Podeswa (Director, Parallel Play), and Gary Calamar and Thomas Golubic (Music Supervisors) explain and demonstrate how important the cutting and pasting of frames/scenes is in determining the rhythm and impact of the final outcome.
Noted American Sportscaster Bob Costas was hired by U.S. cable network HBO to interview the Six Feet Under family cast members for this DVD release. Although it’s fantastic to see Peter Krause (Nate), Michael C. Hall (David), Frances Conroy (Ruth) and Lauren Ambrose (Claire) talking off-the-cuff, I was slightly disappointed in that their mysterious tele-character qualities unravelled while I watched and listened to them in “real-life”. Also, where’s the extended family - Rachel Griffiths (Brenda), Freddy Rodriguez (Rico) and Mathew St. Patrick (Keith)?
A club-friendly, re-worked dance version of the Six Feet Under Title Theme (Fila Brazillia Mix) by Thomas Newman.
Also included is a complete track listing for the new Six Feet Under: Everything Ends soundtrack.
The following three scenes were kicked from the Can I Come Up Now episode:
• Claire waxes poetic with Ruth and George (0:42);
• Rico and David discuss fidelity (0:50); and
• Nate makes a house call to a psychic (1:34).
Without the benefit of a commentary to explain why the above scenes were removed, I can only assume they were left out for pacing reasons.
In comparison to the Region 1 release, the Region 4 misses out on:
• A Spanish language and additional English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround mix
• Episode previews and recaps.
The UK Region 2 release appears identical to our own.
Unless you must have a English or Spanish 2.0 language track and/or suffer from short-term memory loss, there is really no need to import.
Another sublimely perverse season of Six Feet Under makes its way to DVD. Although presented with excellent picture and sound quality and a modest array of bonus features, this season may stretch fan loyalty with its predictability and over-the-top plot contrivances.
|DVD||Yamaha DVR-S200 (it came free with the plasma), using S-Video output|
|Display||Yamaha 106cm Plasma. Calibrated with Sound & Home Theater Tune Up. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built into amplifier. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.|
|Amplification||get a marshall stack, and crank it up.|
|Speakers||2 x Bose Speakers and 4 NX-S200 Yamaha mini-speakers.|