September 24, 2002
The Funk Parlor

This article, about the similarities between "Six Feet Under" and Gwen O'Donnell's "The Funk Parlor", (which was registered as a screenplay in '98), is not for the faint of heart:

Both the film and TV show are about a dysfunctional family that owns and lives in a funeral parlor.
Both projects begin with the unexpected death of the family patriarch who bequeaths the funeral home to his two sons.
In both, the younger brother lived with his father and, at the story's start, is a closeted gay, although he has attempted to deny his homosexuality by proposing marriage to a woman. He is uptight and conservative in manner and dress.
In both, the older brother left home years earlier, is a free spirit, and, although he hadn't planned on it, returns home and finds innovative ways to breathe life into the family business.
In both, the brothers try unorthodox methods of raising money, like allowing the mortuary to be used for dancing.
In both, the older brother is involved in a complicated relationship with a mysterious woman who is psychologically damaged and sexually obsessed. The older brother eventually becomes engaged to her.

I suppose the proper thing to do is wait for the trial, yet I confess I've already reverted back to my feelings of moderate contempt for Alan Ball.

Posted by at September 24, 2002 09:34 PM

I wonder what's worse: Having your idea stolen, and then turned into something awful, or having it stolen and made into something as good as Six Feet Under.

Posted by: tv on September 25, 2002 01:43 PM .

I can't imagine anything better than having the chance to make a TV show for HBO, where the writer/creator gets to executive produce, obviously has creative control, and doesn't have to give the slightest fuck about whether Proctor & Gamble approves of their plotlines.

Yesterday I watched their new show, The Mind of the Married Man, and unfortunately, it sucked. It was the second episode, and maybe it's the "guy" answer to Sex and the City, but it seemed more like an excuse to insult women. I'm pretty surprised the smart people at HBO decided this was the best they had. On a brighter note, the episode of Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm was quite funny.

Posted by: tv on September 25, 2002 01:54 PM .

That's a great question. As I believe I've already stated on this site, I think Six Feet Under is the best thing I've seen on tv. What makes it so original? Well, all of the plot devices that are listed above. I feel really indignant on Gwen's behalf, because I look at those devices and I can tell a lot of blood sweat and tears poured into getting them to sit so well together. I think a lot of writers could take that premise and run with it, and frankly, it seems pretty hard to go wrong. Once you have the idea for a show that begins with a different person's death each week I think you're in business because it's just a fabulous conceit-- you're always going to be dealing with what people-- young or old-- have left behind. Therefore I think it would be even more heartbreaking for her if they took her devices and managed to fuck them up. At least now she's vindicated in that she can say she thought up something that really hit a nerve. I wouldn't feel as much sympathy for someone claiming to have originated "Andy Richter Controls The Universe!", another premise that I thought was clever, though in that case there was no muscle at all behind the show's execution.

As I guess I've told you, I've been meaning to watch Larry David's show, but I'm in no hurry. I'm so happy I didn't have a tv for five years-- I'm the only person I know who is able to watch Seinfeld re-runs and regard them for their freshness. This last week I must have seen three or four episodes that I'd never seen before and I was consistently stunned by the level of writing David was capable of mustering, week after week. I can think of no reason why Curb Your Enthusiasm wouldn't be every bit as air-tight.

Man, my neck is so stiff for the second day in a row I feel like crying! This is the worst kink I've had yet-- I can't drink water without the nauseating sensation that I'm about to fall into a state of paralysis. What I hate most about this feeling is knowing that if I am fortunate enough to live a long life I will one day know this to be a constant. That idea really gets to me, and gets me thinking: there is no excuse for not doing yoga on a daily basis-- really, none.

Posted by: on September 25, 2002 04:43 PM .

Well, Curb Your Enthusiasm's episodes are not as air-tight as a good Seinfeld, but it is a genuinely funny show at times. Particularly funny is how intense, hateful and serious almost every conversation becomes. I think it's the first good sit-com I've seen where I look at the main character and think, "I don't like this guy."

Posted by: tv on September 25, 2002 05:27 PM .

Based on the info in your link, I assume this woman is credible, is telling the 'truth', and has gotten totally screwed by my heroes, HBO.

But then, I thought the same thing about this woman, who claimed JK Rowling stole her ideas, until this happened.

Assuming Gwen O'Donnell is telling the truth, imagine if her movie is a piss poor amateur job. I wonder if I'll be able to muster any sympathy for her then.

Posted by: tv on September 25, 2002 05:42 PM .

Curb Your Enthusiasm's epidsodes are not as air-tight as a good Seinfeld...

Seinfeld didn't really hit its stride until the second season though, am I right?

I think it's the first good sit-com I've seen where I look at the main character and think, "I don't like this guy."

The main guy is an annoyance type-deal?

Posted by: on September 25, 2002 05:53 PM .

Seinfeld didn't really hit its stride until the second season though, am I right?

Yeah, Seinfeld took some time to get going. There are periods throughout its run where it's alternately good, great, weak, desperate, really good, etc.

The main guy is an annoyance type-deal?

Well, the main character is annoying, yes. But more than that, there are times where I think, "I would not want to spend time with this person. He is not a good dude. No sympathy whatsoever for this jackass." But the neat thing is that that doesn't translate into my not wanting to watch him. And hats off to Larry David for making a show where he plays himself, yet paints such a negative picture.

Posted by: tv on September 25, 2002 06:10 PM .

Strange. Everythang's in italics.

Posted by: tv on September 25, 2002 06:12 PM .

Yeah I commend Larry David for having the guts to paint a negative picture of himself. Haruki Murakami experiments with this in 'The Wind Up Bird Chronicles', and it gets toyed with in 'Being John Malkovich'. It always feels pure when it's done right. Of course Camerson Crowe remembers himself as the smartest, finest kid on the block in Almost Famous-- and maybe he was-- but it's a lot more interesting to see people contending with the less than ideal aspects of their identity.

With regard to that whole Larry Potter fiasco-- I know what you're saying, yet, I found myself instantly willing to buy Gwen's story anyway-- it was as if she answered some nagging sense of doubt... I was about to say 'in the back of my mind,' but I articulated it at the time: how could someone write American Beauty-- which was just as familiar as familiar could be-- and move on to write a show that felt like it was written five years from now? There are all kinds of differences in the artistic sensibilities of those two works that I could go into but I'll can it. I know I could end up eating poo for this, so maybe I should stress again here that I know I shouldn't, but I can't help myself. There, bases covered.

Oh, and I do expect The Funk Parlor to be less than great-- certainly less compelling that 6 feet. It's a first-time director working on a feature film. The HBO show has had years to develop, and they eat great food on the set, and they have Thomas Newman's music (which I'm sure costs a small fortune, though it's worth every penny) and they have access to some of the finest actors, writers and directors around. If she's telling the truth, she's in hell, cause there really isn't any way they can undo what they've done to her. Remember: I couldn't stop myself..

Posted by: on September 25, 2002 08:06 PM .

Yeah, I'm thinking this woman is telling the truth.

So, I wonder if she was happy Six Feet Under didn't sweep the Emmys (as it was expected to do)?

Posted by: tv on September 26, 2002 12:34 PM .

yeah, those must be some mixed emotions. The more Emmys the show wins, the bigger the claim, but do you really want to see thieves graciously accepting awards for your work?

Posted by: y on September 26, 2002 02:57 PM .

closing italics tag... now.

Posted by: D on September 30, 2002 03:03 PM .

Weird, I don't see italics. I saw them on tv's computer, but on my reliable old Mac everthang looks propa.

Was this something I did, D? My bad?

Posted by: on September 30, 2002 03:32 PM .

Thanks for your support out there. It's been heart breaking for sure. But, it's good to know that people care about what's going on. If this is happening to me, it's no doubt happening to others and it's time to stand up.


Posted by: Gwen O'Donnell on October 1, 2002 04:49 PM .

Wow! Hi Gwen! Good luck with the battle. Not that I know anything about law-talkin' and such, but it sounds like you'll win, seeing that the script was registered and HBO has said they took the concept to Ball.

y - someone forgot to close an italics tag. It happens. All you have to do is put an extra closing tag in somewhere later in the page. I'm not sure why Opera wouldn't show that. opera is weird.

Posted by: D on October 2, 2002 06:17 PM .


Although I'm a record producer based in the UK, I know Gwen personally, and remember her first introducing me to the screenplay back in December 98/Jan99 when we were talking about music options.

It would be truly criminal if justice is not done.

Posted by: Gary Johnson on July 10, 2003 06:58 PM .

I worked on "The Funk Parlor" where it was shot in Connecticut during the summer of 2000. Gotta say, after seeing a few episodes of "Six Feet Under" there are some definite similarities...

Posted by: Tim Clark on July 20, 2003 06:13 PM .

I too worked on the film and thought the same thing when I saw 6 feet under. The biggest losers in this case are the crew who worked for partial deferment. We hope she wins...just to get paid...I'd be surprised if it ever happened.

Posted by: on September 22, 2003 12:51 PM .

Best of luck Gwen. Let's hope the corporate Hollywood swine fess up and write you out a big check. Of course, you will then need some help investing that money...

Posted by: John Farley on September 25, 2003 05:08 AM .

Hey what happened to the "Funk Parlor"? I was an extra in the movie and i never knew if it came out...

Posted by: Joan on January 2, 2004 03:38 PM .

I don't know, Joan. Apparently none of the crew got paid. And because the tv show was so damn good - and made millions - no one wants to deal with the idea the originator was defrauded.

Posted by: on February 11, 2004 06:38 PM .

Hey you guys. Gwen here. Just to get you up to date...the film is still not completed. Unfortunately "Six Feet Under's" uncanny resemblance to "The Funk Parlor" has been a real challenge to explain to potential investors and distributors. Ironically, many people have been afraid HBO would sue US for copyright infringement due to the multiple similarities between the two works. But we WILL finish the film and get it out there and we WILL continue to fight in the courts for justice for ourselves, our talented cast and kick-ass crew who worked their butts off for much less pay than they are worth (please set the record straight -- the cast and crew DID get paid!), as well as all artists who have very little defense against a powerful entity like HBO, should such entity take an interest in one's work.

This lawsuit takes every cent I earn (which should be going into the film), has compromised my ability to work on the film (not to mention making other films!), has compromised my health and has been the biggest nightmare I've ever experienced. It may be true after all that you can't fight City Hall, but I refuse to buy into that.

Thanks for your interest in what's happening with the movie. Just know I'm out here fighting for me and for you guys too. We have to fight for what's ours as artists, as writers, as entrepreneurs or whatever.

Thank you.


Posted by: Gwen O'Donnell on March 4, 2004 10:31 PM .

Sorry Gwen - was under the impression crew were waiting to be paid (from comments above).

I think about The Funk Parlour all the time. I can't believe it hasn't been made into a story. Somebody somewhere in HBO should be made accountable.

Theft is theft.

I now find Six Feet Under- a great enough show by any standard - kind of annoying.

Has anyone out there ever talked to Alan Ball about this? I wonder how he lives with being thought of as "the genius behind" six feet?

Someone should pitch "My life as a liar" to him, as he's apparently hard up for ideas of his own.

Posted by: on March 5, 2004 09:28 AM .

My son Dana K. was in your movie,he has since died,I wonder if we could have a copy of the movie when done...
Thank You
Ronald M. Kuritz
Bristol, Ct.

Posted by: Ronald M. Kuritz on June 13, 2004 09:24 AM .

I wrote Mr. Kuritz personally, but I wanted to express here as well that Dana was a very talented and sweet young man who was a pleasure to work with. He will be missed.

Posted by: Gwen O'Donnell on July 6, 2004 01:56 AM .

Some people are born mediocre, some people achieve mediocrity, and some
people have mediocrity thrust upon them.
-- Joseph Heller, Catch-22

Posted by: Party Poker on November 4, 2004 11:12 AM .
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