Friday, January 19, 2007

Friday Feedback

I've seen and liked this feature on other blogs, and mostly I really want to talk about Six Feet Under right now, so I thought I'd initiate a weekly update on what I'm watching, reading, and listening to. I'll offer a "buy or don't buy" recommendation on each. It's like a mini-Consumer Reports.

Without further ado, here's what English Major is

watching: Last night, K and I watched the finale of Six Feet Under, thus completing our sprint through the series made possible by his parents' gift of the full-series gift set. Seriously, if you have any way of getting your hands on this--Netflix, your local video store, the public library, whatever--please do so today. Watch every episode in order. There are two television shows that I really feel have added to my life--not in the contexts of watching them with friends or making jokes about them, but in and of themselves--and Six Feet Under is one of them. (The other is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and any nonsense about "guilty pleasures" or "teenybopper television" will earn an overacademic diatribe in the comments, so I wouldn't, if I were you.) I love this show. I love it. I've never seen anything that really resembled life on television before, and that's a cheesy thing to say, but also true. I feel like I learned something from this show when it was at its most brilliant, but even when it wasn't, I enjoyed watching it. The acting is superb, the writing sparkles, and the direction is remarkable. Watch it. I suggest watching it with one of the cost-effective methods above before making the purchase leap (because it's worth it to buy the gift set if you like the show, but it's a big purchase), but if none is available to you? Yeah, go ahead and buy it. It's worth it. I promise.

reading: The new ninth edition of A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton Malkiel, for a book review on Get Rich Slowly. Naturally, this means I can't tell you anything about it except that it's the first book about investing I've ever read, and I find the experience both interesting and confusing.

listening to: Dave Ramsey podcasts & the Six Feet Under soundtracks. K is a big fan of Sia--he owns an import copy of her first album, which never got U.S. distribution--and feels vindicated by the use of her song "Breathe Me" in the finale's final moments. I wouldn't go out and buy these albums or anything (ours came with the gift box) because no one will like everything that's on there, but there are some great songs. If you're a fan of the show, I'd recommend checking Wikipedia's episode lists, which list the music in each episode, and purchasing via iTunes any of the songs that really grabbed you. The Dave Ramsey podcast is also available (free!) (though it's just one hour's worth, which without commercials is about 40 minutes) through iTunes.


ispf said...

I love six feet under too! I watched the whole series (all seasons!) back-to-back in the break after my graduation, before starting work. For a couple of days out there, during the darkest episodes, I walked around feeling vaguely depressed! The characters are that real!

The reruns are playing on bravo these days.... so if someone wants to know what the hoopla is about, that should be a good place to start (tonnes of ads, though). More info here: For ad-free viewing, I would recommed blockbuster or netflix.

Be warned though, its very addictive!

Chris said...

Teeny-bopper TV, guilty pleasure, junk food, etc. :-)

I'm actually curious, though. I enjoyed Buffy as well, but it seems like we enjoyed it for very different reasons, and I don't think I've ever known anybody who claimed to like it for "serious" reasons.

English Major said...

chris, perhaps a story will help: I watched the first season of Buffy when it originally aired ('96, I think) and lost track of it. Then I picked it up again my freshman year of college and found it extraordinarily comfortingmostly I love it because it's an incredibly caring and accurate depiction of how hard it feels to be a teenage girl. I think the use of metaphor is just brilliant in that show—the way the metaphorical transition of normal problems (your boyfriend dumps you after you sleep with him) into metaphysical problems (your boyfriend turns evil and tries repeatedly to kill you after you sleep with him) raises the stakes in a way that makes issues resonant without being too obvious about them. It's hard to make a show about being a teenager, without getting all "poooor meeeee" about it, you know? But Buffy managed to make you care about the issues that the Scoobies faced without ever taking them too seriously or dismissing them, and I think that's a tremendously difficult line to walk, and one the show successfully walked for most of its tenure.

I also thought the show's treatment of gender issues was consistently thoughtful and conscious. You may or may not have heard about how the concept for the show occurred to Joss Whedon—he describes it as playing around with reversing the gender role in common horror-movie conventions. The first scene of Buffy shows a cute blonde girl (it's Darla, but of course we don't know that at the time) being coaxed by a jocky guy into Sunnydale High after hours to make out. She keeps saying she's scared, he keeps up the usual "c'mon, baby" stuff. This is a trope we know: girls resist sex, boys demand it; girls are scared, boys are reckless. We expect him to kiss her, kill her, or both, possibly after she runs around the school, losing her clothing en route. Then it flips: she vamps out and bites him (why, hello, penetration metaphor!). She's suddenly the aggressor (sexually and just physically). I think Buffy confronted issues of gender on a regular basis, and did it well.

The show got bad in the last couple of seasons, after it was sold to FOX, and I think we sort of lost track of the real issues (or got slammed over the head with them, Willow's-magic-addiction-style), but I still love the show, not because it was cute and sassy and had a cute girl in a miniskirt kicking ass, but because for me, it was the most realistic depiction that television had to offer of being a young woman in a world that can feel hostile in general and hostile to young women in particular.

It shares a few important characteristics with Six Feet Under, most notably a sense that the worst thing you can do, to other people and to yourself, is behave cruelly, but also importantly, the ability to have beloved characters do terrible things without sacrificing their relatability—what that means to me is that there's ambiguity. Good people do bad things, & vice versa, and you don't stop relating to the character because they've done something bad, but you also don't excuse what they've done.

Again, I think the show suffered with Joss Whedon's absence and from generally unsubtle writing in its later years, but really, I think it's brilliant television, and much underappreciated because of its light banter and young female protagonist.

I bet you're sorry you asked!

S/100/30 said...

You should definitely check out The Wire, which wins a vote from this SFU/Sopranos/Arrested Development fan as the best television show ever.

Lauren said...

I got all caught up in Six Feet Under on DVD too, and when I watched the finale last spring, it completely destroyed me. I was a sobbing mess, and I don't usually cry at movies or TV! It really was a feat of the writers, directors, and actors on that show to be able to make so many viewers feel like they were part of the Fisher families' lives. Sometimes I catch the reruns on Bravo, but there's nothing like watching the series all the way through for the first time.

I'm really enjoying your blog, by the way. I just found it last week, and I'm catching up on your archives. I was an English major too (graduated in '02).

DEBTective said...

Kid, just wanted to say I'm big-time proud of you for keeping tabs on Dave Ramsey and for spreading the word about him. Good luck on deep-sixing your debt. Here's looking at you, kid.

Stephanie said...

Buffy and Six Feet Under are two of my very favorite shows. I lost track of SFU since we stopped getting HBO somewhere in the second season, so I'm just catching up now.

Plus, I was told that they shot part of an episode in the restaurant that I worked in over the summer, so now I'm scouring every episode, trying to find it...