Six Feet Under and series v. serial

In thinking about contemporary television shows, I am finding Creeber’s definitions of, and distinctions between series and serial less and less useful. It seems as though many shows incorporate characteristics of numerous narrative forms and are more flexible in their styles and structures. (as Creeber goes on to say, p12) 

An example= Six Feet Under episode That’s My Dog (Ep.5, Season 4) 

While starting out in the usual pattern (ie. a stranger dies at the beginning then a continuation of each character’s story) the episode departs from this pattern as David picks up a hitchhiker. The hitchhiker holds David at gunpoint, forcing him to withdraw money and take crack. This episode doesn’t flit between the lives of all the characters but remains focussed on David.


It is completely shocking to the audience who had been lulled into the stable rhythm of the series/serial. It acts as a stand-alone episode that takes you away from previous episodes. It makes the stories of the other characters, such as Nate ditching his bereavement group or Ruth trying to set up George’s son Kyle, seem trivial in comparison. 

This is where Creeber’s contention concerning ‘social surrealism’ may be useful. This is a new form that can ‘more accurately reflect the social inconsistencies and moral uncertainties of the ‘postmodern’ world.’ (p15) In this way, ‘That’s My Dog’ reflects the ruptures that do exist in life, that shock and displace other elements. 

If the series and serial are beginning to merge (Cp10) then perhaps we need a new framework for talking about experimentation with narrative form in tv. I don’t think Creeber’s ‘social surrealism’ goes far enough in reflecting and categorizing innovations in television drama. I suppose coming up with a better framework is something I’ll have to ponder…

That’s My Dog encompasses the traditional notion of ‘series’ in that the episode is self-contained and has its own conclusion, yet Six Feet Under is a ‘serial’ that moves towards a narrative conclusion over a number of episodes. 

everything ends

fanvid – David’s traumatic experience. When you become so enthralled in the character’s life, it’s almost as if something traumatic has happened to you too. 



April 22, 2008. Tags: , . Uncategorized.

One Comment

  1. dan replied:

    I am a huge six feet under fan and came across your blog after rewatching series four, and being affected by “thats my dog”. It was a great stand-alone episode in a wonderful series. keep it up, Danoz.

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