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''Six Feet Under'' was my idea, says suing writer

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Something’s fishy in the Fisher & Sons funeral home. That’s the complaint of screenwriter Gwen O’Donnell, who filed suit Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, claiming that HBO’s ”Six Feet Under” is a steal from a screenplay she wrote four years ago, Variety reports.

O’Donnell says she registered her script, called ”The Funk Parlor,” with the Writers Guild of America in 1998; it was subsequently filmed as a feature and is currently in post-production, Variety reports. Her complaint says that HBO programming chief Chris Albrecht had access to her script in 1999, before the cable channel approached ”American Beauty” writer Alan Ball to create a mortuary-set series. The series debuted in 2001 and this summer has been nominated for 23 Emmys, the most for any drama this season and the most for any cable series ever.

The copyright-infringement suit alleges numerous similarities in plot and character between ”Funk” and ”Six Feet.” In both, the story begins with the sudden death of the paterfamilias, who leaves the family funeral business to his sons. The younger son is gay, and the family also includes a smart-mouthed teenage girl.

O’Donnell seeks $10 million in damages on her own behalf and $20 million for Funky Films, ”Funk Parlor”’s production company. HBO (which, like Entertainment Weekly, is an AOL Time Warner company) has not commented on the suit.

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