Picks and Pans Review: Six Feet Under

updated 06/11/2001 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/11/2001 AT 01:00 AM EDT

HBO (Sundays, 10 p.m. ET)

Show of the week

"I know stealing a foot is weird," says teenager Claire Fisher (Lauren Ambrose), whose family owns, operates and resides in a Los Angeles funeral home. "But hello? Living in a house where a foot is available to be stolen is weird."

You'll have to wait till the third episode to learn how foot theft fits into the story, but Claire's remark serves as something of a thematic statement for this slightly ghoulish but engrossing new series created by Alan Ball (writer of American Beauty). Put it this way: Weirdness, like death, is part of life.

Undertaker Nathaniel Fisher (Richard Jenkins) meets an untimely end in the June 3 premiere, but he continues sending mixed signals to his adult sons Nate (Peter Krause, late of Sports Night) and David (Michael C. Hall), who enter into an uneasy partnership to keep the business going. David also has imaginary talks with embalmed customers, including a gunned-down gang member and a porn star electrocuted by her cat. There is no fixed border between the here and the hereafter or the past and the present.

When they're not resisting the buyout efforts of a soulless mortuary chain, the Fisher brothers have tricky relationships to tend—Nate with his disturbingly enigmatic girlfriend (Rachel Griffiths) and David with a gay lover (Mathew St. Patrick) who wants him out of the closet. Meanwhile, their mother (Frances Conroy) seems paralyzed by grief, guilt and sexual need. Six Feet Under gives us much to dig into.

Bottom Line: Worthwhile undertaking

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