Digging up famous TV farewells: ‘Six Feet Under’

In its last TV season, “Six Feet Under” wasn’t nominated at the Emmys for Best Drama Series, but it nonetheless reaped nine bids, seven of them related to the finale episode, which was recently discussed at the Vancouver International Film Festival where executive producer/writer Rick Cleveland chatted with someone under a lot of pressure to deliver a great TV farewell: “Breaking Bad” executive producer/writer Peter Gould.

The finale of “Six Feet Under” is widely considered to be one of TV’s best ever. Especially hailed was its final montage that skips through time to depict each of the cast members’ deaths. That idea “came from a very deep-seeded self-loathing,” explained Cleveland at a panel discussion.

It turns out that the “Six Feet Under” writers were exhausted by the repetitiveness of writing for the same characters by that point.  “We were so fed up with it by the end that we wanted to find a way to kill everyone,” Cleveland wryly stated, so each writer was tasked with brainstorming ways for every character to die.  Showrunner Alan Ball then chose a death from each writer and wrote up the script.

Although he was happy for the series to end, Cleveland was largely positive about his experiences under Ball, describing his writers’ room as “friendly” and further explaining that Ball uniquely empowered his writers by having them oversee their specific episodes at all stages of production—from casting to editing.

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