Raising the Dead

Six Feet Under resurrects the dysfunctional-family melodrama

Paradoxically, this show is entirely comfortable with discomfort. Painful dinners, fraught sibling relationships that inevitably drive someone to storm from the room--for Ball, they are always interesting, always worth following. And he uses the death of the week not merely as a sick gimmick, but as a way to prick each character's conscience. The gangbanger counsels Dave on pride and self-defense, the porn star on love. Even when it gives viewers the creeps, Six Feet Under repays their attention: It digs vitally into the most human of survival tactics, documenting how often, and how justly, we need to whistle past the graveyard to keep ourselves motoring through the day.

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