There are times when I realize television shows can have a higher purpose than mere diversion. I recently watched the last four episodes of the final season of Six Feet Under, one after the other, all in one shot. It was probably the most intense four hours of TV watching I can remember.
I'd originally seen these episodes about four years ago and basically remembered what happened. Back then, I watched the entire last season in two days. It's strange what time does to you. I remember them being somewhat sad and, as always with this show, riveting, but not much more than that. I was not prepared for the emotional upheaval the second time around.
I don't know if it's age or different life circumstances but for four hours, I cried like a baby. And just when I thought I was done, I cried some more. Six Feet Under is not merely a TV show about the Fisher family's funeral business. It plumbs the depths of the most basic and universally frightening existential concepts: life and death, and still manages to be humourous and entertaining.
The same thing happened not too long ago when I watched Season 5 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer a second time. Not only did I have a brand new appreciation of Season 5 in its entirety, but the few episodes dealing with the death of Buffy's mother (ironically, given the nature of the show, by natural causes), moved me to tears.My natural penchant for philosophical enquiry keeps me glued to shows like these, despite my deep-seated fear of the inevitability of death and the temporary nature of everything, that surfaces when exposed to these themes.
One thing I do know, in those moments when I'm sitting on the couch, clutching my faux-fur blanket, tears streaming down my face, raw with emotion, is that this is TV in its highest form, a true art, gliding past superficiality and exposing the soft underbelly of humanity - not to torment, but to tell the story of our shared experience.