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Alan Ball

It's not just that former Mariettan Alan Ball parlayed his Academy Award for American Beauty's screenplay into a TV series deal with HBO. It's that the series in question, "Six Feet Under, in its depiction of a dysfunctional family that owns a funeral home, has been consistently original, edgy and surprising, proving that Ball learned a lot while toiling on such sitcoms as "Cybill and "Grace Under Fire. With its second season scheduled to begin next March, Ball's "Six Feet Under presents some of television's most finely wrought characters, gay and straight, old and young, alive and dead.

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