An Ode To “Six Feet Under”

A recommendation is a funny thing. If it comes from a close friend or family member, it’s easier to decide whether you should accept or dismiss it. Coming from a professional critic, however, you should never be as quick to take his or her words to heart because you just don’t know them as a person. You don’t know what makes them happy or sad or what movies and books and shows they like and don’t like. But you do (hopefully) know these things about the people close to you.

So, to the people who know me, I’d like to use this post to recommend something to you all. I had an experience over the last seven months, and as I usually do when I have an Experience with a capital “E,” I write about it. I feel like I’m treading on thin waters here because while I want to talk about this experience, I also don’t want to offer too many words about it and therefore rob you of the opportunity to discover it as an Experience for yourself. So, let me choose the following words carefully:

Stop whatever you’re doing and watch HBO’s Six Feet Under.

Without reservation I can say it affected me more than any movie or TV show I’ve ever seen. I know it’s a risk to invest a lot of time into something just because I said so, but taking risks feels good. (As my animation teacher once said, you never grow when you only stick to what’s comfortable.) Nevertheless, what I will offer are two things to keep in mind while watching:

1. In the beginning, don’t analyze the shit out of it. Sometimes when you hold things up in a mirror for analysis purposes, the magic of these things often goes away. (This reminds me of the David Lynch quotation I used in my first post last year: “Psychology destroys the mystery, this kind of magic quality. It can be reduced to certain neuroses or certain things, and since it is now named and defined, it has lost its mystery and the potential for a vast, infinite experience.”) So, start the show, let it breathe, and then let the emotional impact of it all hit you like a brick as the seasons progress.

2. Spread the show out over an extended period of time. Historically speaking, I’m known to cram a whole series into a week or three (LOST. Cough. LOST.) and to consequently skip over certain plot points or character details that really color in the show. I spread this series out over a period of seven months and am very glad I did so. I almost wish I would’ve saved the final episode to watch when I’m 30 or 40 or 70.

I think I’ll close this post with an email I wrote to my friend Ryan after finishing the last episode. It appears below as it appeared to him, but with a few less curse words peppered throughout. Some comments were in response to things he previously wrote to me, but I think you’ll still be able to follow along.

Ryan. I just finished. And I didn’t buy ice cream. I do have Spider-Man gummies Will bought me though.

For one, how could I even attempt to take what I just experienced lightly? I’m literally out of words. How do you reduce the experience of watching that show into little f-ing words??!!!!! I’ve never cried while watching a TV show or movie, but I just cried uncontrollably throughout that episode. My heart was literally racing. I was thinking of a line Alan Ball wrote in American Beauty: “Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world I feel like I can’t take it, like my heart’s going to cave in.” The beauty and magic of that episode and the whole series made my heart want to freaking burst. It made me want to live my life, you know? You know what I mean. I should probably stop now before I keep writing without actually saying anything because, as mentioned above, my feelings toward this show are indescribable. I can’t watch any other TV show now. Everything pales in comparison.

OK gotta go. I have to wipe my tears and go start again with Season 1.

Love, Jono

What I forgot to mention in the email is that I’ll also never be able to listen to Sia’s Breathe Me without crying. We’ll discuss this once you’ve watched the series. In the meantime, I’ll be working on my love letter to Alan Ball.

I wish you a wonderful viewing experience. Go feel things.

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