Television: Where The Hearse Is

Six Feet Under checks out the skeletons in a mortuary clan's closets

Here's the drill: you start off an Alan Ball script; you die. His Oscar-winning screenplay for the suburban satire American Beauty began with Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) narrating his own story from the grave. At the outset of Six Feet Under, Ball's dark-humored new HBO drama (Sundays, 10 p.m. E.T.), Nathaniel Fisher (Richard Jenkins), paterfamilias to a family of Los Angeles undertakers, is taking the new hearse out for a spin. He leans over to light up a cigarette...and gets blindsided by a city bus. Remember, kids: Smoking kills.

It is hardly a surprising opener for HBO, which took us into...

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