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Mindhole Blowers: 25 Facts You Might Not Know About HBO's "Six Feet Under"

By Dustin Rowles | Seriously Random Lists | August 12, 2013 | Comments ()


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This post was inspired by, and some of the information below was pulled from Brett Martin’s fabulous new book, “Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad.” If you’re into modern television, and especially “The Sopranos,” “Six Feet Under,” “The Sheild,” “Mad Men,” and “Breaking Bad,” it is a must read.

1. Alan Ball, who created “Six Feet Under,” lost his father at a young age, and his sister when he was 13, when she was driving him to piano practice and a car crashed into the driver’s side door, killing her on her 22nd birthday and leaving him mostly unscathed. The accident was the inspiration for Nathaniel’s death in the pilot.

2. Whenever Ball felt sad, his sister and father’s death would overcome him. After his sitcom Oh, Grow Up was cancelled, Ball walked around in this traumatic state, visited his dead sister’s old room, and came up with the idea for Six Feet Under. He wrote the script in a few weeks, sent it to HBO, which received it a day after Ball’s Academy Award was announced (for American Beauty), and HBO bought the pilot and an entire series commitment, an unusual gamble at the time.

3. After reading the first draft of Alan Ball’s pilot, the head of HBO’s programming remarked to Ball, “You know, this is really, really good. I love these characters, I love these situations, but it feels a little safe. Could you just make it just a little more fucked up?” To address the note, Ball had Claire steal a leg from the morgue and put it in her boyfriend’s locker in episode three.

4. Often considered a show steeped in magical realism, Rodriga Garcia — the son of the patriarch of magical realism, Gabriel Garcia Marquez — directed several episodes of “Six Feet Under,” including the second and third season premieres.

5. Juliette Lewis auditioned for the role of Brenda, and actually would not have been a bad choice.

6. HBO didn’t want to fly Rachel Griffiths out from Australia to audition for Six Feet Under, but Griffith’s was so enamored with the role, she struck a deal with the network: She’d pay to fly herself out, and they’d pay her back if she landed the role.

7. Anna Faris auditioned for the role of Claire, but according to Faris, she was laughed out of the audition.

8. Nikolai’s flower shop is not only real, it was once the gas station that James Dean used to fill up on the day that he crashed his car and died.

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9. Among those who appeared in “Six Feet Under” before they were stars are Rainn Wilson, Jenna Fischer, Zachary Quinto, Ben Foster, Kevin Rankin, Adam Scott, Molly Parker, Bobby Cannavale, Michelle Trachtenberg, and Emily Deschanel’s husband, David Hornsby.

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10. According to David Fisher’s obituary (included in the DVD set, or on the HBO website), David Fisher remarried after Keith died. He met a man named Raoul Martinez. He also performed in dozens of local theater productions after he retired.

11. Likewise, Brenda remarried a man named Daniel Nathanson, with whom she had a child, Forrest.

12. Also, in case you missed it because you were bawling like a goddamn child during the epilogue, Claire actually married Ted Fairwell, the character played by Chris Messina, the Republican with whom Claire had developed a relationship for in the final season. They broke up at the end of the series, but found each other again at Ruth’s funeral in 2025.

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13. “Six Feet Under” was really the first television show — or at least, major one — to depict gay relationships casually, as any other relationship, straight or gay.

14. There were only three episode of “Six Feet Under” that didn’t begin with a death: 1) Because it was a two-parter that continued with the death from the previous episode; 2) because the lack of deaths was a plot point in the episode, and 3) the finale, which began with a birth.

15. Only one episode didn’t feature the face of the deceased in the teaser; it was a baby who had died of SIDs. One writer objected to the fact that a baby was killed in the episode, noting that you couldn’t kill a baby on TV without losing your audience. Alan Ball fired that writer at the end of the season.

16. After several seasons as Brenda, Rachel Griffith’s began to feel the strain of the character, particularly during his sexual downward spiral. During that time, she would demand private rehearsals before each of her scenes, putting the cast and crew on hold. Oftentimes, however, she expended herself so much during these scenes that she had nothing left for when the cameras were rolling.

17. Likewise, Peter Krause was at odds with his character near the end of the show. He didn’t like how unflattering a person the character had become, and often complained about being unlikable. He wanted to be the hero.

18. Nathaniel’s death in the pilot was the only one in the series not to be announced by an obituary. Instead, there was a fake funeral parlor ad, which was meant to be a running gag in the series. It was scrapped after the pilot, however.

19. Eric Balfour played “Claire’s Meth Date” in the pilot, and that was all he was meant to do in the series, but the chemistry worked out so well that he was elevated into Claire’s boyfriend, Gabe Dimas.

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20. In a cleverly morbid piece of foreshadowing, in episode 10 of the second season, Lisa (Lily Taylor) makes a comment that when she dies, she would like it to be a messy death and not all neat like the funerals at the Fisher’s. This is precisely Lisa’s fate at the end of Season 3.

21. Remember Rico’s father, who died falling off a roof? That was based on the neighbor of “Six Feet Under” writer Jill Soloway, who is an awesome lady. Soloway, in fact, was hired as a writer by Alan Ball on the strength of her short story, “Courteney Cox’s Asshole.”

22. Remember the traumatic, agonizing scene in which David is carjacked and has a gun forced into his mouth? Because of time and budgetary constraints, Michael C. Hall had to impressively pull that scene off in one take.

23. In season five, episode 7, “The Silence,” a man has a heart attack while watching a play, which is something that the writer of the episode had actually seen happen. Ironically and unfortunately, the actor who played the man who died of a heart attack died in real life less than a month after the episode aired.

24. In the penultimate episode of the series, a woman named Amy Spanger played a dead soldier’s sister. Amy Spanger was Michael C. Hall’s wife at the time, which is the first I’ve heard that Hall was married to anyone before Jennifer Carpenter.

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25. In an episode of Alan Ball’s “True Blood” this season, he made a sly reference to “Six Feet Under,” when Arlene and Sheriff Andy arrange a funeral at “Jenkins and Sons.” The funeral home in “Six Feet Under” was Fisher and Sons, although the Fisher was played by Richard Jenkins.




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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • e jerry powell

    My favorite straight porn star of all time did a guest spot! MY FAVORITE STRAIGHT PORN STAR OF ALL TIME DID A GUEST SPOT!

    Okay, so it was a vaguely fictionalized version of herself, but still...

  • graceb

    I think I made it through the first season when I re-aired on Bravo while I was in high school. Now I REALLY don't think I could handle it. Too sad for me. Just watching FNL once a year is enough for the boyfriend and I.

  • e jerry powell

    Also, Amy Spanger was Sally in the Showtime version of Reefer Madness, kind of the anti-Kristen Bell there.

    Spanger and Hall were on Broadway together in Chicago around the time they got married. He was Billy Flynn, she played both Roxie Hart and June; as of today, Spanger is back to playing Roxie in the Broadway company.

    #25 might be pushing it a bit, since Ball isn't at "True Blood" anymore.

  • The Other Julie

    Hard to believe Dustin missed the existence of Spanger, as when Hall and Carpenter got together on Dexter, it was a major scandal since he was still married to Spanger. They divorced and he turned right around and married Carpenter.

  • e jerry powell

    I remember being stunned simply because I thought Amy Spanger was AWESOME. The more I find out about Michael C. Hall, the less I like him, and I hate that.

  • e jerry powell

    Gah, Dustin. You could at least link to the Soloway story. There's no way I could continue living without reading a story called "Courtney Cox's Asshole." The title alone is completely irresistible. Now I feel fulfilled.

    And much amused. The story's a riot, and anorgasmia shouldn't be funny.

  • Andrew

    I've never seen Six Feet Under, but I have watched True Blood. It seems, based on reviews of the show, that Six Feet Under is really good, but True Blood is clearly the television equivalent of junk food. Entertaining junk food, but junk food.

    So, people who have seen both: is it like two different people ran these two shows, or are there parallels and connections that you can see. Was it like the first season of True Blood which was very leisurely and character based?

  • Jiffylush

    Six Feet Under is one of those shows that I think could be the best show on television during my lifetime. I watched it the whole way through even though it was extremely hard to do at times.

    I started watching True Blood because Alan Ball was involved and it was absolutely ridiculous. Unfortunately I watched just a little too much and after dramatic pie I was hooked on the cheesy crap. Fortunately the show got noticeably worse every year and I was able to stop watching.

    It seems to me that Alan really poured himself into SFU and True Blood was just a paycheck. I couldn't see any similarities between the shows.

  • VohaulsRevenge

    The shows are so incredibly different, IMO--in addition to the fact that one is based on a written series and the other is original--that I see no connection. Then again, one with a broader appreciation of Ball's besides two series (unlike myself) would give a better answer.

  • Uriah_Creep

    I just find it hard to believe that Six Feet Under and True Blood came from the same show runner (at least in the earlier seasons).

  • IngridToday

    This is the first thing I saw Michael C Hall in. He does such a great job of playing a gay character, I figured he was gay in real life. When a friend told me he was amazing as straight serial killer Dexter Morgan; I didn't believe her.

    *Anna Faris and Juliette Lewis (who always looks a little slow) should never be anything but friends of main characters.

  • apsutter

    I didn't think that David remarried just that he had a new partner but not husband. And I'm so glad that Anna Faris didn't get the part of Claire.

  • Meli_V

    I have been wanting to revisit this series for a while I think it's time.

  • VohaulsRevenge

    I absolutely love the show, but SFU is kind of like "Saving Private Ryan", only stretched out to 60-odd hours. I always look at my box set with a mixture of awe and dread...

  • apsutter

    Every once in a while when I'm not sure what I want to watch but I know I'm in the mood for a good drama I'll revisit SFU and it's always just as good as I remembered.

  • Meli_V

    I have a feeling I'm going to love it as much if not more because I haven't watched it since it aired on HBO and I've always looked back on the series fondly. I also want to introduce the series to my daughter who was way too young to have watched it at the time.

  • apsutter

    I watched it for the first time alone and then made my whole family get involved. I can never bring myself to watch the whole David car-jacking story line though. It's too traumatic and I can't stand to see Michael C. Hall so vulnerable and sad.

  • Is it really Alan Ball making the Six Feet Under reference on True Blood this season since he's no longer the showrunner?

  • guest

    Fact 9 - How could you leave out Zachary Quinto who appeared in season 3 as a student in Claire's art class.

  • Some Guy

    26) Rumor has it that the family on the show was based off of the family that owned/owns the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in L.A.. True or not, the members of the family were in a lot of shit with the Federal Govt for embezzling millions from potential plot buyers. One of them owned a house in the neighborhood where I grew up and my parents still live. The house was recently seized by the Gov't and sold off.

  • mswas

    My father died suddenly a month before this series ended. The finale stayed in my queue for probably six months or so before I could bring myself to watch it. Instead, I found Mythbusters to be just about the only thing I could watch. Explosions make Mswas happy? Confirmed.

  • hippyherb

    When my mother died, I could only watch documentaries about the history of the U.K. Nice way to pass the initial stages of grief.

  • Nicole

    When my mom was dying and for a while after I only wanted the comforting presence of Gilmore Girls in my life. I'm sure the mother-daughter focus was a big reason too.

  • hippyherb

    I actually wanted to watch the Gilmore Girls when mum died (big favourite in my house), but unfortunately Mum HATED the Gilmore Girls with a fiery passion. Couldn't stand the quick way the spoke. I think she actually referred to them as 'those annoying bitches'. Good old mum.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    this might need to be a comment diversion (or maybe it already was?) because I noted in the poster thread that the only reason I knew anything about Princess Di's death was because it coincided with a major breakup and I could barely get myself off the couch.

  • hippyherb

    If it has already been a comment diversion, maybe we could do it again. Lots of new people on Pajiba lately.

  • Drake

    My last big personal trauma I binged on "Phineas and Ferb".

  • Yehudit Hannah Cohn

    Have you all considered hiring a proofreader? I see at least 10 serious spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors, which is a lot for an article of this length.

  • Wōđanaz Óðinn

    Tread lightly...

  • Yehudit Hannah Cohn

    Thank you. You are right, and I apologize. I did look for contact information, and then I just sort of lost it.

  • Wōđanaz Óðinn

    I secretly agree. However, I fear that your love of the Oxford comma indicates that we can never be grammar friends :(

    Warmest regards,
    A fellow pedant.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Oh gods, that fucking comma. Good thing I've recently discovered that it is optional.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    the head of HBO’s programming remarked to Ball, “You know, this is really, really good. I love these characters, I love these situations, but it feels a little safe. Could you just make it just a little more fucked up?”

    THAT is the difference between HBO and the twerpy comment cards the big 4 networks pass on to their shows.

    Reading these mindblowers I'm coming across some plot points I don't remember...I'm going to have to rewatch this all. Including the last season, which I could never bring myself to. (oh, the sads)

  • Lot of things didn't knew about! Totally loved this show.

  • $65530708

    9. Among those who appeared in “Six Feet Under” before they were stars are ... Molly Parker ...

    Molly Parker was a star (in Canada and my heart) long before Six Feet Under and is criminally under appreciated by you Yanks. Look at HER! She is f*cking GORGEOUS (and talented and awesome).

    Also how does Lauren Ambrose not have full time employment on a show somewhere?

  • apsutter

    Seriously, Lauren is freaking gorgeous and was so good as Claire. I miss seeing her but she's probably busy with theater and singing.

  • The Other Julie

    She was in Sleepwalk With Me recently... wish she'd do more!

  • Wednesday

    "5. Juliette Lewis auditioned for the role of Brenda, and actually would not have been a bad choice."

    You have a mistake here. Juliette Lewis is always a bad idea.

  • Return of Santitas

    I binge-watched this show a few years ago, and loved it even more than I had the first time around. I was slightly older and found myself identifying with Nate, which was of course quite disturbing, since Nate sucks.

  • VohaulsRevenge

    I've never felt such a heel-face turn with a major character as I did with Nate; I groaned every time he opened his mouth by the end.

  • Mythra Sun

    #24- "David" C. Hall? New castmember, perhaps?

  • Ofir Fishkin

    loved that show, but i don't think i could ever re-watch it.
    its too damn sad, and Gabe Dimas scared the hell out of me.

    but i loved how the charters progressed and changed,i'm pretty sure it was the first time i've seen anything like that.

  • Ofir Fishkin

    forgot this song that still brings me to tears:

    Craig Armstrong: Let's go out tonight

    http://youtu.be/tWj1AboQZU0

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