Some thoughts from a typically busy summer Sunday of TV:
Six Feet Under
Truer words were never spoken than Ruth Fisher's weary, teary whine to her steadfast companion in the finale of Six Feet Under Sunday night: "This is Hell, George. Hell. I just want it to end."
So, my dear, did I. And thankfully, at last, Six Feet Under — an occasionally brilliant, nearly always maddening and, lately, just plain miserable series about living in the shadow of death — is behind us. In a nice twist, the show's final scenes actually seemed to embrace the possibilities of life — before the climactic montage of all the major characters meeting their eventual makers as Claire, bless her heart, drove off into the future. I couldn't imagine the show ending any other way than in a series of obituary cards, and I was amused that so many of the characters (especially Brenda) passed away looking as if they had just been bored to death.
All through the hour that preceded the stylized coda, I found myself chanting, "Go, Claire. Go. Get. The. Heck. Out. Of. There." As a depressed Ruth and traumatized David settled into a creepy, glum American Gothic routine at the kitchen table, I was glad to see Nate's ghost put to good purpose for once: not tormenting Brenda and taunting her over her premature baby's tenuous health, but urging Claire to get up and get gone.
The scene I hated most: David's dream sequence, confronting his dad's tiresome ghost one last time and then coming face-to-face with the monster in the hooded sweatshirt, who of course turned out to be David. No show ever got more credit for cheesy psychodrama than Six Feet Under.
Best scenes: the new blended family (including the great Kathy Bates) in the super-gay refurbished funeral home at the dinner table, toasting the memory of Nate; Ruth hugging Claire as she prepared to leave: "I pray that you'll be filled with hope as long as you possibly can" (nice try, Ruth); the appearance of Nate, jogging, in Claire's rear-view mirror as she drove away. It had been a while since the Fishers had even remotely resembled human beings, and it was a pleasure to make their reacquaintance, however briefly.
The one HBO show that mattered this summer just keeps getting better, sharper, funnier, even scarier, as it nears the end of its breakthrough second season.
The improvement of Entourage season to season is testament to the value of telling a good story. It's not enough just to have appealing characters; they need to be heading somewhere.
In Entourage, there's plenty of suspense watching rising-star Vince head toward potential career disaster, missing a physical as he obsesses on his love life, possibly dragging his novice manager/best bud Eric down with him. And then there's Vince's hilariously acidic monster-agent Ari (Emmy front-runner Jeremy Piven), heading for a showdown with his boss (the deliciously malevolent Malcolm McDowell) over the fate and foibles of his young, promising but in-need-of-management client.
Watching green Eric face Mandy Moore's barracuda of an agent (a nearly unrecognizable, ferocious Beverly D'Angelo) made me flinch and laugh. These boys are way over their heads, and how ironic would it be if superslacker Turtle had more success with his new music discovery than Eric, Vince, Ari and Drama can sustain in the ruthless, heartless movie biz?
This supernatural drama is also picking up steam as it approaches next week's season finale. (Things began picking up in midsummer with the assassination of 4400 visionary Jordan Collier and agent Tom's bizarre detour into an alternate universe, where he met the love of his life, also a 4400.) An ominous disease has begun to spread among the 4400, robbing them of their special gifts and forcing them into quarantine, at the order of the government — which we now learn is responsible for infecting the 4400 in the first place. With the sinister Peter Coyote back in command at NTAC — a welcome change from the wooden woman who barked orders at Tom and Diana all season — there is conspiracy and rebellion afoot as many of the 4400 go underground, and Tom and Diana (whose adopted daughter Maia is also suffering) are caught in the middle. Should be a mighty good cliff-hanger this Sunday.