Baltimore Homicide Detectives Speak For The Dead, Los Angeles Mopes Put Fingernails To The Chalkboard

by Bill Tuomala

In the past year, I finished watching the entire runs of two TV dramas. Both were hour-long shows that dealt with death and both were critically acclaimed. One was Homicide: Life on the Street, it was made for network TV in the nineties. The other, Six Feet Under, was made for an edgy cable network this decade. Which was better?

Homicide, hands-down. While Six Feet Under has been proclaimed "one of the greatest TV dramas ever made", that proclamation is a sham and any viewer who is not an anti-network TV snob that has seen both of these shows knows it. Six Feet Under was filled with ultimately unlikable characters, from the main cast to pretty much all the others who showed up. Not only unlikable, they are characters that didn't hold my interest where I care to see them again. As I look back, all get is that fingernails-on-a-chalkboard feeling when I think of anybody from this show. I'm kinda glad all the main characters died by the very end, just wished it had happened earlier during the series' run, so then the rest of the series could have dealt with Mena Suvari's character making out with girls. Oh wait, I shouldn't say "all" the characters died at the end as others died during the series for soap-opera-worthy "this is soooo dramatic" reasons. And the main lesson of this show seemed to be: Never get in a serious relationship with anybody as it will fuck you up forever.

Homicide had better writing, better dialogue, better humor. The plotlines ranged from nail-biters to dark comedy and the actors made this an ensemble show at its best, all the characters were well-written people – flaws and all – and hence eminently intriguing and watchable. Six Feet Under's Nate Fisher or Homicide's Frank Pembleton? Six Feet Under's Ruth Fisher or Homicide's Al Giardello? Please. And I dare say: There was better existential riffing from the Homicide crew than from the Fishers and Co. to boot. The Pembleton/Bayliss philosophical bull sessions while driving in a Chevy Cavalier carried a hell of a lot more weight than did all the sobbing and yelling of those funeral home mopes in La La Land, trust me.

Six Feet Under gets the Drama Queen Award: She hooks you in but you don't want to deal with her after you've left her. To repeat, I feel no need to watch an episode of this show ever again. Homicide: Life on the Street, aside from being the best dramatic series of its decade and best goddamn network cop show ever, gets the all-time award for Best Dramatic Series Dealing With Death. Like I said, hands-down.

Exiled on Main Street #45

Exiled on Main Street