Review: Death has delicious dominion; TELEVISION: HBO's sitcom proves that humour can travel well.
Six Feet Under C4, Monday
LET'S face it, we're all going to die. And so are our loved ones, our friends, our pets and even the people we despise.
The uncomfortable truth is that someday we will all end up in a 6ft x 2ft coffin, although up until now, it's largely been a taboo subject.
Add gay sex to that mix and you couldn't think of anything more likely to unhinge the apple-pie-eating, cheerleading, Brady-bunch styled middle America.
Enter the appropriately named Six Feet Under, HBO's smash hit black comedy which is breaking new ground - even if most of it is with the use of a spade.
The series explores the relationships of the Fisher family, owners of the Fisher and Sons Funeral Home.
When father Nathaniel dies in a freak accident he bequeaths the business to his son David (Michael C Hall), who gives up plans to go to law school, and to David's rebellious brother Nate (Peter Krause), who had fled the family home to live in Seattle. The often awkward reunion of the two brothers is hardly helped by their mother, Ruth (Frances Conroy).
Refreshingly straight-laced in a sea of warped humanity, Ruth views her husband's death as permission to finally embrace life again.
The only thing keeping the apron strings tied is her angst-ridden 16 year-old, rebellious daughter Claire (Lauren Ambrose), who is constantly waging a war against society and its norms, albeit with the help of a plethora of decidedly strange love interests.
If that wasn't enough, then there's the mysterious Brenda (Rachel Griffiths), girlfriend of Nate, whose surreal life opens up like a Pandora's box as each episode passes.
For one thing Brenda is emotionally burdened by her part-psychotic, part-photographer brother Billy (Jeremy Sisto).
OK, are you up-to-date now? Last week's episode began with the customary death that inevitably seems to cause problems for the family, in this case a woman having beaten her husband to death with a saucepan.
The only exception this time was that the death wasn't the focus of the storyline, although it did bring temporarily into the equation the funeral parlour's new embalmer, Angela (Illena Douglas) whose hilarious frankness and ability to put her foot in it eventually leads to her demise.
``I've never worked in a funeral parlour that is so depressing,'' says Angela after informing Ruth for the first time that her son is gay.
Six Feet Under is as funny and challenging as it is addictive. The normally straight-laced, church-going David, surfing gay porn sites while building up to a frenzy on a gay telephone chatline only serves to underline the hilariously compelling nature of this series which takes us through myriad human emotions.
It has broken the mould in the normally conservative US, and Channel Four should be applauded for revolutionising our Monday nights.
The days of British TV continuing to claim the best drama and sitcoms are over - move over Aunty Beeb, Uncle Sam is here in all his glory.
THE QUICK AND THE DEAD: A scene from Six Feet Under which uses the funeral business as a departure point for witty observations on life and and its quirky cast list of characters