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Six Feet Digs for Gold

Scott Carlin, HBO’s president of domestic TV distribution—a.k.a. the network’s Svengali of syndication—may need to tap all of his powers if he’s going to hit the trifecta of rich deals, following his successes with The Sopranos and Sex and the City, when he takes Six Feet Under to market.

Sources tell B&C that Carlin’s informal presale discussions about the quirky mortuary drama have met with an underwhelming response from basic-cable executives. One of them says the show is just too off-beat, likening it to a syndication nonstarter from a few years ago, Ally McBeal.

Carlin, who declined to comment, has yet to come out with a formal marketing plan for Six Feet Under and probably won’t until early this fall, after the series wraps up on Sunday.

And he certainly shouldn’t be counted out: Carlin is, after all, the man who managed to sell Sex and the City, with its raunchiness toned down, both to TBS on basic cable and to the Tribune company for broadcast syndication (starting next month). His record-shattering deal for The Sopranos, which saw A&E win a fierce bidding war with TNT with a $2.55 million-per-episode offer, still reverberates in the industry.

But Six Feet Under, even though it ran for five years and put more than 60 episodes in the can, was always an acquired taste, even by the cable audience’s boundary-pushing standards. The show may have one foot in the syndication grave, but Carlin could still pull it out.