Los Angeles, Christmas Eve, Nathaniel Fisher, owner of the Fisher and Sons Funeral Home, is killed when a municipal bus broadsides his new hearse. The tragedy casts a pall on the holiday homecoming of son Nate (who works for an organic food co-op in Seattle), as he must not only deal with the death of a father, but the fragile egos of mother Ruth (who has been having a secret affair with her hairdresser, Hiram), brother David (a closet homosexual seeing a black policeman named Keith), and a sister Claire (a rebellious high-schooler who receives the bad news after dropping crystal meth with new boyfriend Gabe). The only good thing to happen to Nate is Brenda, a passionate women he met on the plane, just before learning of his father's death. At home, David eschews the talents of his young mortician, Fredrico, to personally undo the damage of his dad's accident. The ensuing funeral leaves the family's deepest emotions exposed, and calls into question some of our more absurd rites of passage. At the gravesite, David is not amused by the advances of Matthew Gilardi of Kroehner Service Corporation, a funeral- home conglomerate looking to buy out the Fishers business. As for senior Nathaniel, he may have been laid to rest- but has plenty left to reveal to his family.
The inventor of a franchise pyramid scheme dies in a pool accident, leaving his widow and infant daughter with a mountain of debts and no money for a proper funeral. Nate offers a solution: rent a top-line casket, then cremate the body after viewing. There's just one problem: by law, a used casket cannot be re-sold. At the reading of Mr. Fisher's will, Ruth gets cash, stocks and insurance money, Nate and David split the funeral business (much to David's chagrin), and Claire gets college tuition, which she considers trading for cash. Later, Nate learns the meaning of "Angel Lust", Ruth breaks up with Hiram during a nature hike, David receives an unexpected visit from his ex-fiancee Jennifer, and Gabe gets Claire to suck on his toes in the back of her hearse.
A bakery owner meets an unsavoury demise - and it's up to Fredrico to put the pieces back together. The Fishers decide to sell out to Kroehner, but Nate backs down after meeting with "that greedy little Nazi fuck", Gilardi. Claire finds a disturbingly apropos way to pay Gabe back for blabbing to the school about her toe-sucking exploits. A vengeful Gilardi tells Nate that Kroehner has bought the abandoned house across the street, and plans on turning it into a cheap crematorium. Looking for a way to feel "alive", Ruth visits the horse track with best friend Amelia, but loses a bundle. After Nate and Brenda make love in the Kroehner house, it suspiciously catches fire.
A Mexican-American gang member is killed, and the Fishers find that the family's wishes for burial are at odds with those of the gang's leader, Powerful. Meanwhile, with arson investigators breathing down the family's neck, Nate, David and Ruth wonder if Claire might have had something to do with the fire across the street. Brenda arrives for her first dinner at the Fishers, but fails to make a favorable impression with Ruth. And David gets courage from an unexpected source to end a feud with Keith - and stand up to Gilardi's threat to destroy the Fisher's business.
Jean Louise McArthur aka "Vivica St. John"
September 9, 1957 - February 17, 2001
David is trying to fill the void his father left in more than the business. He wants to become deacon at the family church, but Keith is having a problem with it. Ruth has a difficult time with a group of mourners for a porn star. But she and Claire try to have more bonding time and visit their cousins. Nate has dinner with Brenda's parents, psychiatrists Bernard and Margaret, without Brenda. He also meets her brother Billy in an unorthodox manner.
An ornery grieving widow camps out in the Fisher Funeral Home after the death of his wife of 56 years. Sparks fly when Claire meets Brenda's brother Billy. Ruth spurns Hiram after running into him at a church; later, she's wooed by Nikolai, the Fishers' Russian florist. While serving church meals to the homeless, David finds himself pursued by pushy divorced parishioner Tracy Montrose Blair. And an examination of funeral-home receipts leads Nate to uncover some of his father's secrets - including a mysterious room that he bartered in exchange for a funeral.
When a young Army veteran dies of Gulf War syndrome, his embittered brother decides to eschew a military funeral in favor of a simple cremation and disposal. Ruth invites Hiram over to cook dinner, then takes a job working for Nikolai. David casts the swing vote in the church search committee's decision to hire a progressive young associate priest. Claire has trouble recognizing the value of algebra at school and in her life. Nate and Brenda plan to spend their first weekend away, but Billy has other ideas.
Chloe Margaret Bryant Yorkin
January 7, 1959 - April 2001
Riding in a limo, a drunken Chloe is celebrating her new-found freedom with friends. she stands up with her head out the sunroof to scream it to the world... and loses her head, literally.
The business is a bit slow these days, so Nate and David decide to rent out a room at the funeral home to supplement the loss. Frederico is being wooed by Kroehner's and he contemplates doing it for the experience and the money. Claire is hiking in the mountains but doesn't really understand the point of it all.
Anthony Christopher Finelli
April 12, 1995 - April 21, 2001
Claire runs into Gabe again, but not under the best circumstances. His brother died and his mother and he have come to Fisher & Sons for the services. Brenda and Nate visit several different local funeral homes posing as mourning relatives in order to help Nate improve upon his salesmanship.
Nate and David decide to hire a replacement for Rico: Angela (Illeana Douglas), who does good work and speaks her mind- too well. Billy has a gallery exhibit for some recent photos, including one taken of a surprising (and surprised) subject. David reacquaints with Keith, Ruth dines with Nikolai, and Claire frets over Gabe"s inconsistent behavior.
Dillon Michael Cooper
May 4, 2001 - May 23, 2001
The day before Rico is expecting his own new baby, he must deal with handling a 3-week old dead baby.
Nate, David, and Brenda go to Las Vegas for a funeral director's convention. David continues to "date" rather random men, and trying desperately to hide it from his mother and family. Ruth gets bold and actually attempts to ask David about whether or not he is g... . but David rudely interrupts her and says they can talk about it later. Claire is struggling with feelings for Gabe, whether they are guilt or adoration is a bit fuzzy. Ruth signs up for flower arranging classes to improve her skills, only to discover she's conceived as a bit controlling and tight.
March 5, 1978 - June 5, 2001
Rico and Vanessa finally have their new son. Brenda tries to handle her brother's obsessiveness and suggests he give her back her house key and start back on his medication. Billy does not react too well to this. David's feelings about his secret come closer to the surface due to a hate crime against a gay man, that the funeral home now must deal with. Ruth tries to get her son to bring up the subject, but has a very difficult time. Nate has a freakish encounter with Billy. Claire and Gabe continue their unusual relationship.
David and the rest of the Fishers experience the control-freak side of Tracy Montrose Blaire when she envisions a "resplendent" funeral for her dearly departed Aunt Lilian. Brenda visits a remorseful Billy in the institution, then gets into an argument with Nate that has some serious repercussions. David is forced to take a stand at church when he and the other deacons are told that Father Jack has been presiding over same-sex marriages. Gabe reverts to some bad habits when he and Claire attend a party hosted by her sometime friend Parker. Ruth closes one door on Hiram, and opens another with Nicolai. And Rico celebrates his son's christening with a spirited reception at Fisher and Sons Funeral Home.