Pilot (Six Feet Under)

Six Feet Under episode

Nate Fisher (Peter Krause) identifies his father's body.
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 1
Directed by Alan Ball
Written by Alan Ball
Featured music "Waiting" by The Devlins
Original air date June 3, 2001 (2001-06-03)
Running time 62 minutes
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology

"Pilot" (also called "Six Feet Under"[1]) is the pilot episode of the American drama television series Six Feet Under. It premiered in the United States on the premium cable network HBO on June 3, 2001. The episode was written and directed by series creator Alan Ball.


On Christmas Eve 2000, Nathaniel Fisher Sr. (Richard Jenkins), owner of Fisher & Sons Funeral Home, is hit by a bus and killed whilst driving his brand new hearse. His oldest son Nate (Peter Krause), has flown in from Seattle for the holidays and is informed of his father's death immediately after a sexual encounter with Brenda Chenowith (Rachel Griffiths) in the airport. She drives him to the mortuary where he is re-united with his mother Ruth (Frances Conroy) and younger sister Claire (Lauren Ambrose). Brenda departs and after identifying the body, they return to the family home where David (Michael C. Hall), his younger brother, is waiting. Various tensions and conflicts emerge during these events and the wake. Claire has been experimenting with drugs, Ruth reveals that she had long standing affair with a fellow church goer and David has been concealing his relationship with Keith (Mathew St. Patrick), a policeman, from his family. He also shows resentment towards Nate for leaving the family and the business which he now manages. Nate becomes frustrated at his family and himself, expressing dissatisfaction with his life. Nathaniel's spectre appears to various family members and engages them in conversation. Ruth requests that Nate delays his return to Seattle and he agrees.


Eric Balfour was only supposed to be introduced as "Claire's Meth Date" for the show's pilot, but director Alan Ball found his chemistry so satisfying with Lauren Ambrose that his role was developed into the character Gabe Dimas. Similarly, Dina Waters's and Gary Hershberger's roles were only listed as "Chatty Mourner" and "Kroehner Representative", whose roles were developed into Tracy Montrose Blair and Matthew Gilardi respectively, and would go on to have recurring roles.

The episode features humorous funeral home related commercials that would start each act, but the idea was abandoned and the pilot is the only episode in which they were used.


The pilot episode was positively received and earned several award wins and nominations. Creator Alan Ball won for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series at the 54th Primetime Emmy Awards, while the episode received nominations for Outstanding Art Direction for a Single Camera Series, Outstanding Makeup for a Series (Non-Prosthetic), Outstanding Single Camera Picture Editing for a Series, and Outstanding Single Camera Sound Mixing for a Series.[2] Alan Ball also won for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Series for the 2001 Directors Guild of America Awards.[3] The episode won an Art Directors Guild Award for Excellence in Production Design in 2001.[4]


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