Sunday, August 24, 2014

Six Feet Under and Cautionary Lessons for Writers

DH and I are always behind the rest of the world when it comes to viewing popular TV series and movies. We watch little live television (and that is mostly sports) and go to fewer movies. So there you have it. For our limited series viewing time, we watch DVDs and more recently streamed stories.

That explains why we were the last on the block to enjoy “The Sopranos”. We were more current viewing “Breaking Bad”, but we were always a year or more behind since we had to wait for the DVD release. Do you know how hard it is to avoid articles about the ending of such a popular show? I made a page of links so we could read them after we viewed the last season. Whew! What a pain!

We began “Six Feet Under” with very high expectations. After all, we had loved the later series, “Dexter”, with Michael C. Hall who was part of the ensemble cast for “Six Feet Under”.

Our expectations were well-deserved for that first season. What a quirky premise. Set an emotionally distant and dysfunctional family in a funeral home and see how each copes with life’s vagaries. For side servings, run through different casket-eers each week.

Of course, first thing we noted were similarities to the Dexter opening credits stuff like all the blood, dead bodies displayed, and knives featured. Okay.

Then there was the ghost dad who appeared and guided each family member like, yet not like, Harry in “Dexter.” Okay.

Even with similarities, we thoroughly got into the characters and stories. Some characters were more likeable than others, but that is standard fare for stories. Writers want to show growth and how crises affect the core of a person.

Second season had more convoluted plot lines and fewer satisfying resolutions. Some characters began to wear.

During season three we almost abandoned the series. Had we not already purchased the videos for the entire series, I think we would have. Will Nate EVER grow up? Will Brenda always be so self-absorbed and selfish? Get a life, Ruth! Stop being a whiny brat, Clair. And, David! Who are you???

We are finishing season four this week. One more season to go. While season four is better than season three (how not?), it is still not as compelling as we like our shows to be. There is little complexity to the characters. We just don’t care so much whether they figure out their lives. How sad is that? But I think I figured out why.

It is common for series to have multiple writers and directors, but I am wondering if this show has an above-average number of writers and directors. I think Alan Ball’s series got hijacked by using so many different folks.

But whose fault is that? He is the creative brain behind this series. It is his job to keep control, to exert focus, to keep story lines plausible, interesting, and consistent. Or if not always consistent--because, let’s face it, humans aren’t very consistent--so if not consistent, make the plot point plausible in its inconsistency.

When Rico demanded money from the Fisher’s to buy a house, I was like, Whoa! Where did that come from? Never a hint before that that he felt entitled. When Ruth started sleeping around and even pursuing men who were just nice to her, you wondered how that reconciled with this uptight lady who dressed as if she were 30 years older. And there was more. Too much more.

Authors, keep control of your story and your characters. Don’t go off after every bright and shiny object you see dangling. Just because you COULD make a happily married man unfaithful, what’s the point in the bigger picture? Do you really want to make the teen so disaffected there is nothing sympathetic about her to anchor her character? Just sayin’.

On a positive note, season four did end with a literal and several figurative bangs. But I will be watching them alone. DH opted out. He told me to recap once I finish season five, the final season. Sigh. That’s just a shame.

No comments:

Post a Comment