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Topic: Death on Prime Time TV, The Big Chill is suddenly quite hot!
Columbine
Mortal


Posts: 798
Joined: Feb. 2001
Posted: Mar. 02 2002,10:02 am

From yesterday's Boston Globe:

Cold flesh is hot topic on 3 popular TV shows

Death becomes a ratings winner

By Matthew Gilbert, Globe Staff, 3/1/2002

Television is famous for exploiting the body. Along with commercials, series from ''General Hospital'' and ''Temptation Island'' to ''NYPD Blue'' are forever finding excuses to bare belly buttons, biceps, and maybe even a pair of buttocks. Any producer worth his salt seriously considers setting his sitcom in a tropical climate - before reason sets in, of course.

And, as the poets like to remind us, sex has a best friend, and its name is death. In the past two years, TV has begun to exploit another kind of body - the kind that isn't exactly warm or supple. Cadavers may be ice cold in the morgue, but they've become rather cool on TV, as three popular shows display them with an almost fetishistic glee. On ''CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,'' ''Crossing Jordan,'' and HBO's extraordinary ''Six Feet Under,'' which returns Sunday at 9, dead bodies have taken center stage, board-stiff but filled with gruesome plot clues and spiritual inspiration, not to mention embalming fluid.

Organizing a series around dead weight and blue skin is a bold proposition, but it has paid off for TV outlets - both creatively and financially. ''CSI'' is an inventive crime drama that has become a ratings monster for CBS - one with more staying power than ''Survivor.'' It's the perfect vehicle for our age of scientific investigation driven by DNA. ''Six Feet Under,'' a character-driven family drama set in a funeral home, won more viewers for HBO last year than ''The Sopranos'' did in its first season. It brilliantly transforms death into a thematic device against which its characters are trying to live their lives to the fullest. And ''Crossing Jordan,'' the weakest of the three, is nonetheless a modest hit for NBC, as Jill Hennessy sweetens up the ''Quincy'' medical-examiner formula with a bit of eye candy.

Not that death is a new subject for television. Indeed, TV has long been obsessed with fatality, as shows such as ''ER,'' the ''Law & Order'' franchise, and ''Providence'' revolve around illness, murder, and grief. But in American pop culture, death is generally presented with a soupcon of denial, as if it isn't part of ordinary life. While the genre shows do take a gritty approach to homicide, they are whodunits, first and foremost, and as such they focus on finding the reason behind the death, and not the cold, hard fact of it. They imply that the death shouldn't have happened in the first place.

The characters in ''CSI'' and ''Crossing Jordan'' are looking for reasons, too, but they're also looking directly at corpses. The emphasis on lifeless bodies in these shows takes the viewer closer to the simple reality of mortality, and into the realm of the undeniable. It's one thing for the righteous Detective Sipowicz to search the city for the scum who threw the baby out the window on ''NYPD Blue''; it's quite another to travel with the camera into the entrails of a bullet-ridden corpse, as we do on ''CSI.''

And it's yet another thing to watch the vivid ''Six Feet Under,'' which presents an unpredictable death at the start of every episode, then casually gazes at the corpse as if it were a sculpture. The bodies on ''Six Feet Under'' are objects of gross fascination as David Fisher and young mortician Federico work their cosmetic magic on them, mending a woman whose head was smashed, or restoring a man mauled by a cookie-dough machine. And the bodies stick around for the hour, sometimes rising into ghostly form, but always ending up back on their backs on the slab. They remind us that death is unchangeable and mundane.

Setting a family drama in a funeral home was an obvious symbolic stroke on the part of the show's creator, Alan Ball, and yet it works in subtle ways. The stiffs have come to represent the sense of death that each character is struggling against: Brenda (Rachel Griffiths) is a cerebral woman afraid to feel; she is prone to emotional death. David (Michael C. Hall), a gay man who no longer wants to suppress his feelings, is trying to emerge from his coffin of self-loathing. Meanwhile, Nate (Peter Krause) is trying to dodge physical death, as the season continues to explore his hidden illness.

And yet, ''Six Feet Under'' is one of TV's most creatively alive series. The first four hours of the new season show the writers and actors in top-notch form. The characters are written to be highly self-aware, and yet the actors pull off the cleverness without seeming precious. Griffiths's Brenda may be the most intriguing person on the show, as she effortlessly tosses off lines such as: ''The thing about depression is that if you allow yourself to feel it, it gets very boring very fast.''

You don't often come across TV that is so blackly comic, dramatically sound, and artfully filmed as ''Six Feet Under.'' Even the color scheme functions beautifully on this series, as the sequences fade to a searing white that can only be called Go Into the Light White. Notice the burnished sunset at

the end of Sunday's episode, and the way it informs the dialogue
between Brenda and Nate. It's the dying of the light, and the beginning of a very promising season.

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Sunspot Designs - beauty from the inside


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THE DARK ANGEL
Necrophile


Posts: 2275
Joined: Feb. 2001
Posted: Mar. 02 2002,5:08 pm

Thank you for sharing that with us Columbine.  Lotsa shows focusing on death lately...and I say it's about time.  SIX FEET UNDER Sunday night @ 9 P.M. on HBO....first episode of the new season.  Don't miss it !!!  CSI is about forensics...also very good.

Love,
 darky

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KEEP IT DARK......
dark angel...~O~.....


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Leilah
Lady Death


Posts: 6081
Joined: Feb. 2001
Posted: Mar. 25 2002,5:50 pm

I guess this is as good a place as anywhere to post this.

Westgate was on TV again...in the UK, but don't worry, the show was sold to (of all places) Comedy Central. It is a UK tongue in cheek travel show called "Travel Sick", and the New Orleans episode will air on C.C. on May 26th at midnight EST (check your local listings for time in your area. It's a funny show where the host is issued a set of "challenges". I won't give it away, but check it out! It's only a half hour and it quienessential New Orleans.

I know it's a tad early to post this but I figured I can bump the thread later on. Besides, I didn't want to forget this time.

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"Death stands above me whispering low, I know not what into my ear; Of His strange language all I know is, there is not a word of fear."


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Mofoquer
Beast of Xvim


Posts: 1254
Joined: June 2001
Posted: Mar. 25 2002,7:53 pm

:laugh: glad to see you using the board as an agenda :laugh:

Anway, thanks for the news!!:beer:

--------------
In a way, not way....

The sun, the sister | of the moon, from the south
Her right hand cast | over heaven's rim;
No knowledge she had | where her home should be,
The moon knew not | what might was his,
The stars knew not | where their stations were.


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Leilah
Lady Death


Posts: 6081
Joined: Feb. 2001
Posted: Mar. 25 2002,8:19 pm

Hey! That's what some of it is for, Huh? Everybody's always yelling at me for NOT telling them when stuff on us is airing, so this time I get the jump :2bounce:

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"Death stands above me whispering low, I know not what into my ear; Of His strange language all I know is, there is not a word of fear."

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Mofoquer
Beast of Xvim


Posts: 1254
Joined: June 2001
Posted: Mar. 26 2002,4:43 pm

:laugh:

You got ahead of time :biggrin:

--------------
In a way, not way....

The sun, the sister | of the moon, from the south
Her right hand cast | over heaven's rim;
No knowledge she had | where her home should be,
The moon knew not | what might was his,
The stars knew not | where their stations were.


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Isa Black
Black Magician


Posts: 1118
Joined: Dec. 2001
Posted: Mar. 30 2002,12:13 am

:cry: what about me?! I'll not be able to see... :cry:

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The grace of Death shall bless us all.

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THE DARK ANGEL
Necrophile


Posts: 2275
Joined: Feb. 2001
Posted: June 02 2002,5:10 pm

Tonight is the SIX FEET UNDER season finale...kinda getting too soapy...TOO much sex....way too little time spent in the funeral home and embalming room...What afterall IS what SIX FEET started out being about.  But I still won't miss it.  Amorte.

Love,
 darky

--------------
KEEP IT DARK......
dark angel...~O~.....


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Isa Black
Black Magician


Posts: 1118
Joined: Dec. 2001
Posted: June 03 2002,12:50 am

:laugh:
That was funny! Lotsa sex, not much attention to the funeral...

We don't get Six Feet Under over here, just CSI... and I LOVE it!!!


--------------
The grace of Death shall bless us all.


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Mike frm Tallahassee
Azraelite


Posts: 272
Joined: April 2001
Posted: June 09 2002,3:12 pm

This afternoon (Sunday, June 9) the Discovery Channel has hour-long specials on the Mutter Museum (which we just missed, shucks) and Mortuary School. Check 'em out if you get the chance... (Those on the Central or Western time zones might catch the Mutter show.)

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