The debut date: June 3, 2001
The cast: Peter Krause, Michael C. Hall, Frances Conroy, Lauren Ambrose, Freddy Rodriguez, Mathew St. Patrick, Rachel Griffiths, Richard Jenkins.

“Six Feet Under” represents the follow-up to HBO’s superb drama series “The Sopranos,” and to creator Alan Ball’s superb Oscar-winning screenplay “American Beauty,” two projects that are dark, funny, unpredictable, even soulful. The same can be said of “Six Feet Under,” a smart, brooding, fanciful character-driven ensemble piece about a family in the funeral biz. The show ambitiously takes on death as its primary subject, providing a mix of the blackest of black comedy with deep psychological drama. In this hourlong series, death doesn’t lurk around corners; instead it sits down silently for dinner, like a family friend nobody really likes but nobody dares offend. The Fisher clan, proprietors of a Los Angeles mortuary, wears mortality the way a fisherman wears the smell of the daily catch — it never quite washes off.

The comedy can be broad, but is always grounded in the reality of the characters, and while it’s peppered with irony and wit, the show is far less a comedy than a yearning drama, likely to have more female appeal than HBO’s hit mob series. If “The Sopranos” is an explosive show, brimming with layers of deception and betrayal, “Six Feet Under” is an implosive one, built upon a foundation of repression.