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Underwhelmed - Broadcasting & Cable

Underwhelmed

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Even for a drama set in a funeral home, HBO's Six Feet Under
is taking a grim turn. The July 18 episode, in which gay brother David Fisher is abducted and beaten, drew protests. Will it drive some loyal fans to bury the HBO funeral-home drama? No way, says executive producer Bob Greenblatt. Series creator Alan Ball isn't interested in shocking viewers, he says. Rather, this kind of dramatic twist "is for the sake of what is going to happen to the character." Without divulging any plots, he says the attack has profound effects on David, as well as his lover and siblings.

"It is a catalyst for something that will shake the show up," says Greenblatt, now president of entertainment for Showtime. (He and new WB entertainment chief David Janollari continue to executive-produce Six.)

Drama is one thing, but fans were outraged. They lamented on message boards and e-mails to HBO that the quirky family drama had gone Oz-like with over-the-top violence. With Washington politicians protesting indecency and violence on TV, edgy fare is going under the microscope—even on premium TV, which does not answer to the FCC.

Greenblatt argues that there is a standard on premium TV: Don't be irresponsible, be truthful. Characters on pay-TV shows "use language that real people use. They do things real people do. But I don't think we need to be reckless about it." As for this latest Six Feet Under
uproar? "I love that people are talking about it."

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