The Flow of HBO

Analysis of HBO, and Six Feet Under specifically, may actually benefit from the theory of flow that Kristin Thompson describes. Flow obviously has its issues, but Thompson explains, “The concept of flow, though neither self-evidently useful nor true, has been immensely influential in television studies up to the present day” (Thompson, 8). Unlike other television networks, HBO does not have commercials because it is a monthly subscription. As HBO chairman and CEO Chris Albrecht describes in The Essential HBO Reader, “The product we sell is HBO the network. You can’t buy a piece of it. You have to buy it all” (Anderson, 29). HBO operates with the flow theory in mind. They sell the whole schedule and experience of the network, and not individual programs. While flow may be outdated and logically flawed, it helps explain HBO’s philosophy.
Flow is particularly interesting when looking at the pilot episode of Six Feet Under. Even though the program had no commercials, it put fake funeral-themed commercials in between the acts. The commercials for a new style of hertz or living splendor mortician oil serve a humorous purpose. Yet they also set the mood and world of the series by telling the audience about the things that surround the characters. Further, the audience tends to expect commercials and the fake ads add a sense of comfort to the viewing experience. Six Feet Under uses the concept of flow to create an all-encompassing world. By using the idea of commercials to better the show, Six Feet Under takes a note from John Hartley and creates an hour of viewing experience.

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