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The Joy of 'Six'

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The corpses don’t look dead enough. That’s the main criticism of HBO’s Six Feet Under coming from the real-life funeral directors who regularly visit the show’s online message boards. But mostly they write to thank the creators of SFU for dignifying their profession — and to talk about how they really repair those smashed faces.

That’s the sort of surprise that can be found in every corner of this two-tiered website (www.hbo.com/sixfeetunder). In addition to the message boards (located in an area called the Wisteria Room), there are bios of the actors (as well as the characters they play), detailed episode summaries, and scene-by-scene playlists of the show’s music. The Wake, an appendage to the main site fronted by photo-collages of scenes from the show, offers exclusive audio, video, and text that look like outtakes but are produced solely for the website each week.

Although this sometimes hard-to-navigate subsite does include teasing hints of what’s to come for the Fisher clan, the 45-second snippets aren’t intended to extend the plot as much as let you eavesdrop on the characters’ private moments. Punch up Claire’s cell phone to hear a message from her mother, Ruth, who wants her to pick up some fennel on the way home from school. Roll over David’s desk to see some personal ads he’s circled in a newspaper. And read a letter from Brenda’s ex-boyfriend. The material plunges one level deeper, showing the results of Nate’s MRI, the doctor’s notes that confirm his brain disorder — and Nate’s unwillingness to deal with it. There’s also a ”private letter” penned by Ruth, in which she scribbles thoughts as part of her self-actualization course, The Plan. Interestingly, Federico, restorative artist extraordinaire, is entirely absent from The Wake — which is either a major oversight or an ill omen for his character.

The only drawback to this site is that The Wake’s extras — which can be difficult to find at all — are just enough to pique your curiosity but not enough to sate the urge for a more thorough examination. And though other TV show websites, like the episode guide for Fox’s 24 or CBS’ microscopically detailed CSI crime lab, are more focused, they don’t offer as many exclusives. It’s a trade-off, but not one big enough to tarnish the ornate tomb that HBO has constructed for the second season of this dark but satisfying series.