Cable TV: HBO

'Six,' 'Sex' do well

While HBO Films had a banner year with theatrical releases “American Splendor” and “Elephant,” the channel sustained critical and ratings problems.

Having set the bar 11 million viewers high at the end of 2002, courtesy of “The Sopranos” season finale, HBO had a comparably low 2003. Stalwarts “Six Feet Under” and the penultimate season of “Sex and the City” did well.

But when the rookies went up to bat, not one connected.

Crix, typically salivating over HBO fare, found themselves panning “K Street” and giving half-hearted approval to the cabler’s slow-moving Dust Bowl drama “Carnivale.”

Net’s Meryl Streep/Al Pacino-led mini “Angels in America” received raves from TV writers, but couldn’t muscle up ratings.

Still, HBO remains the undisputed leader — cabler or not — for envelope-pushing originals. And next year’s forecast shows sunny days are ahead. Year-round stable of hits set to premiere include new segs of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Six Feet Under,” “The Sopranos” and “The Ali G Show,” the final season of “Sex” and the critically loved but Emmy-snubbed “The Wire.”

New to the table is Mark Wahlberg’s half-hour comedy “Entourage,” an insider’s look at the support group of a fictitious film star, and David Milch’s offbeat Western “Deadwood.”

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