HBO is preparing a eulogy for “Six Feet Under.”
The pay cabler confirmed Friday that the upcoming fifth season of “Six Feet” will be the last for the ensemble drama revolving around the trials and tribulations of a family that runs a mortuary. Series creator/executive producer Alan Ball recently informed HBO executives that he felt the show will have run its creative course by the end of the upcoming 12-episode season.
“Working on ‘Six Feet Under’ has been enormously fulfilling creatively, but if the show is about anything, it’s about the fact that everything comes to an end,” Ball said in a statement. “I will miss working with such enormously talented writers, cast, staff and crew and I’ll always be grateful to HBO for allowing and encouraging us to tell the story we set out to tell in a challenging and uncompromising way.”
“Six Feet” has been a critical darling for HBO, if not a commercial hit on the scale of “The Sopranos” or “Sex and the City,” since its 2001 debut. The drama — whose ensemble cast includes Peter Krause, Michael C. Hall, Rachel Griffiths, Lauren Ambrose and Frances Conroy — has been showered with Emmy nominations — it earned 16 Emmy bids in 2002, its first year of eligibility, and 23 noms in 2003 — but has yet to claim the top drama series prize in the annual Emmy derby.
“Six Feet” is a project that has been particularly close to the heart of Carolyn Strauss, HBO entertainment president, who originally dreamed up the notion of doing a series set in a mortuary. She pitched the idea to Ball, who was then hot off the success of his Oscar-winning screenplay for “American Beauty,” and the writer-producer fell for it immediately.
“Dealing with death seemed like a very common experience that we could all relate to, and [the mortuary setting] seemed like a great lens for a fairly ironic show,” Strauss said. “It also seemed like the kind of show that only [HBO] could do.”
Strauss was quick to praise Ball and the rest of the “Six Feet” crew for “all the impressive work. It’s been a fantastic experience to be associated with this show,” she said.
Production on “Six Feet’s” fifth season is set to begin Nov. 16, but a premiere date has not yet been set, Strauss said. Word of “Six Feet’s” swan song season comes at a time when HBO is already in a transitional phase after bidding farewell to “Sex and the City” this year, while its other original series tentpole, “The Sopranos,” isn’t due back for its final season until 2006.
HBO has the sophomore season of its wild Western “Deadwood” on tap to premiere in January, followed in March by the return of Depression-era drama “Carnivale.” Other series in the production pipeline at HBO are “Big Love,” starring Bill Pullman as a modern-day polygamist in Utah, and the big-budget costume drama “Rome.