As creator of Six Feet Under, Alan Ball has had one foot in the grave since 2001. But after the show’s fifth season, premiering June 6 (see review, page 99), he’s putting HBO’s funeral-home drama to rest. We asked Ball to fill us in from behind the scenes.
Why end the series now? After five years of hovering at the abyss and staring into the existential void and finding the humor and the tragedy and the weirdness in it, I’m ready to work on something different. I was ready at the end of season 4, but HBO said no. I was planning to hand the reins over to somebody else, but the few people I approached did not want to do it. So I agreed to come back, as long as it was the final season.
Did you expect the polarized response to last season’s episode in which David was carjacked? When I was 13 or 14, my brother’s girlfriend was abducted at knifepoint, so I didn’t just pull that out of a hat. One thing I wanted to accomplish with it was that real violence is ugly and clumsy and traumatizing and deeply upsetting. . . .I didn’t know it would be as polarizing as it was. I don’t particularly mind. I would rather be deeply dramatic and polarizing than just boring.
How tumultuous will life be for the Fishers in this final season? It is Six Feet Under. Nobody’s happy and able to deal with the pressures of life in a nondramatic way. David’s experiences of last year continue to haunt him. Everything Nate has been through is taking a toll.
Any finale hints? I didn’t want to wrap everything up in a nice little bow. It’s an ending, a beginning, many endings. Motifs and characters from the beginning through all five years reappear. . . .It was emotional writing the last episode. I was sitting there with my laptop and I started weeping. My poor dogs were staring at me: ”What happened? We just took a walk! Everything’s good! Why are you crying?”