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Six Feet Under: Season 2 Review

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The dysfunctional life of funeral directors the Fisher family continues in this second series.

★★★★★

TV shows, more often with comedies than dramas, hit their stride in their second series and tend to furrow a particular groove that they’ll follow for the rest of their run. The second season of Six Feet Under maintains the quality of the first series, but as a show it tends to shed its skin after each season and return as intriguing and fresh as before.

The sophomore year is certainly funnier than the first, but it also delves into darker recesses, so that episodes which see Nate accidentally taking ecstasy and tripping his way through a family dinner, or the now out-and-trying-to-be-proud David launching into an imaginary musical number, are tempered by Nate’s burgeoning brain tumour and the spectacular emotional collapse of his on/off girlfriend, Brenda — who, in the hands of Rachel Griffiths, steals the entire show.

The credibility of the first series attracted a cavalcade of respected character actors, prepared to take small but juicy cameos. Patricia Clarkson and Illeana Douglas are wonderfully tart as matriarch Ruth’s spirited sister and a tactless mortician respectively, but Lili Taylor is lumbered with a thankless role as Nate’s humourless ex-girlfriend.

There are moments when Six Feet Under’s darkness is grimly oppressive, but this is intelligent, challenging television, and nothing on the British networks can hold a candle to it.

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