18. SIX FEET UNDER 

Created by Alan Ball  

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Aired: HBO, 2001-2005

Alan Ball pushed dramatic television into uncharted territory with his series about the Fishers and their Los Angeles funeral home. Death – and the rituals thereof left for the living – overlaid each hour, while the principal characters on Six Feet Under dealt with depression, interracial relationships, and the difficult bond of family. Ball had already won an Oscar as the screenwriter of American Beauty and was running his own sitcom, Oh Grow Up, when the concept for Six Feet Under was planted by Carolyn Strauss, then a top programming executive at HBO. As Ball said in Written By in 2002, he had experienced a spate of funerals in his young life, including the death of his sister in a car accident. In some ways, Six Feet Under seemed Ball’s response to all that he hadn’t been able to say to that point in his TV writing career. The show’s tone – it could be witty, heartfelt, morose, and obsessive – reflected Ball’s eagerness for his writers to channel their own emotional DNA into episodes.

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