"Pilot" (also called "Six Feet Under") 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, patriarch Nathaniel Fisher Sr. (Richard Jenkins), owner of Fisher & Sons Funeral Home, is hit by a bus while driving his brand new hearse. His passing throws his family into emotional chaos as they attempt to deal with their grief. Nathaniel's death casts a pall over the return of his older son Nate (Peter Krause), who was hoping for a relaxing vacation before going back to his home in Seattle. On the flight, Nate meets and immediately has a sexual encounter with the mysterious Brenda Chenowith (Rachel Griffiths). Dutiful son David (Michael C. Hall) is struggling to keep his true sexual identity and his new boyfriend Keith (Mathew St. Patrick) from his family while suddenly having to run the family business. Matriarch Ruth (Frances Conroy) has her own secrets to keep, while youngest child and only daughter Claire (Lauren Ambrose) has her first taste of crystal meth before finding out about her father and must now go through the experience while tweaking. Throughout the episode, Nathaniel's spectre appears to each member of his family and forces them to face their own anxieties about life and death.
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. Alan Ball also won for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Series for the 2001 Directors Guild of America Awards. The episode won an Art Directors Guild Award for Excellence in Production Design in 2001.