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Tube Talk With John T. Forde - Death Becomes Them

Royal funerals, Alliance party bitch-slapping, Rhys Morgan wearing denim in The Strip.... This week's TV has truly been a cornucopia of delights

Before I launch into a rave on Six Feet Under, indisputably the best show on televsion (sorry, Good Morning With Mary Lambie, but you're day-old bread), I have to ask... Did anyone else notice TV2's searingly well-timed screening of Fargo in the same week as the Mark Lundy verdict? For the uninitiated, Fargo is a black comedy about a dweeb salesman who has his wife abducted to collect insurance, but gets caught. You do the maths

I called my friend Paula Pistol to discuss whether TV programming should comment on public issues more regularly. She and Wanda Martini were busy handing out fried chicken to malnourished models at the art gallery, but they agreed we should rescreen Little House on the Prairie until the Alliance learns to get on better

Right then. If you haven't already sampled Six Feet Under's dark brilliance, or if you're still addicted to the stiletto-sluts of TV3's Sex and the City, make the switch - or buy a VCR

SFO follows the fortunes and sex lives of the Fishers, a family of undertakers in suburban Pasadena. The opening titles alone - supercool sunbleached stills of corpses, embalming fluid, toe tags, and the odd raven - sets the show's Gothic, darkly humorous tone. Scripted and executive-produced by Alan Ball, the Academy Award-winning scribe of American Beauty, SFO shares that film's witty observations of the trash lurking beneath suburban family life

In Episode One, Daddy Fisher gets killed when a bus runs into the new family hearse. At the same time, runaway eldest son Nate is shagging a stranger in an airport cupboard, and teenage daughter Claire is high on crystal meth. The Waltons, this 'aint

Daddy's death lets lose an avalanche of family neuroses. Mrs Fisher (the brilliant Frances Conroy) has been having an affair with a florist. "I'm a whore!" she screams at the funeral, one of several hysterical meltdowns she makes through the series. And David, the "good" son who gave up his law school ambitions to work with Daddy, is revealed to be gay and banging a hunky African-American cop. Things get progressively more twisted. Nate, a handsome but ambitionless drifter, decides to stay around and become an undertaker. His free-spirited "let's talk about our feelings" philosophy soon rubs up against the family's code of silence . "If there's something you don't want to talk about in front of me, I can leave the room," Mrs. Fisher sniffs. Meanwhile, Nate keeps shagging airport girl Brenda, a former child genius who may or may not be crazy

SFO's brilliance lies in harnessing soap opera conventions with Addams Family-like weirdness, and a playful obsession with the creepier aspects of death and decay. When Claire's boyfriend tells the school she sucked his toes, she swipes a foot from home and leaves it in his locker. You go, girl! The writing is crisp and bitingly funny, the acting uniformly brilliant, and there's a refreshing sexual candour than rivals even Sex and the City

Pick out your favourite funeral veil, and start watching

Six Feet Under, TV1, Tuesdays @ 9.30pm

tubetalk@nzoomail.com

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