Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sopranos Swan Song

HBO: The Sopranos

"Plain and simple, it's over. We decapitate and we do business with whatever's left." Phil Leotardo

David Chase runs his show the way Tony Soprano runs his life. Autocratically. Close to the vest. Loyal to no one. Paternalistic but implacable. Paranoid for good reason: everybody wants a piece of him.

The supporting cast members never know if they'll make it to the next episode. According to some--who are only permitted to speak publicly after their characters have been killed--Chase actually comes to their homes to deliver the bad news.

If you're a 'Sopranos' cast member and David Chase invites himself over for coffee and a chat, no fancy Danish is going to save you. Steve Schirripa, who had been hoping that Bobby Bacala would make it to the finale, explains how it went down. As he told the NY Post, Chase was sitting at his kitchen table when he finally said: " 'I guess you know why I'm here.' It was like a friggin' hit."
Even the top stars don't know their character's fate until absolutely necessary.

"We all read the scripts with the same trepidation. Am I going to make through the end of this one?" - Edie Falco

So it's no surprise Sopranos aficionados--and even casual watchers--are avidly awaiting the series' final show. Who will die? Who will sell out? Who will go into witness protection? Who will survive?

Pundits, reviewers, anybody with a public venue and everybody with pulse are collectively going crazy with speculation. Predictions range from the ridiculous to the sublime:

Tony kills everybody and lives. He dies alone. He goes into witness protection. He ends up working at Home Depot. Here's my favorite: Tony finally gets Dr. Melphi into bed and is killed on top of her, pinning her beneath him as the final scene fades to black....

Carmela runs away to Italy with Furio. Carmela dies by Tony's side. Carmela pulls smarmy Father Whatisname out of the priesthood and into her arms. Carmela goes into witness protection with Tony.

A.J. sells Tony out. A.J. goes on a rampage and kills his father's adversaries. A.J. kills Tony. A.J. throws himself in front of his mother/father/sister and dies.

Meadow takes over the family. Meadow walks away untouched to live a civilian life. Meadow gets killed.

Janice kills the New York wiseguys and takes over both families. Hmm, that one holds out the most possibilities for a new show.

Judging from the plethora of news stories, articles, blogs and interviews, there's never been such intense attention paid to a TV show finale. Ever.

Yeah, yeah, we all wondered how they'd end Seinfeld. And if you recall, most people were disappointed.

This is different. We're talking about Tony Soprano, America's Don. (It's hard to imagine how Jimmy Gandolfini will manage to find roles after literally inhabiting Tony all these years.)

Why do we care so much? Why has The Sopranos generated such controversy? So much heat and light? Such frenzied attention?

I must respectfully disagree with the many, many intellectual treatises and self-conscious interpretations of The Sopranos as a Morality Play on Violence.
I don't want to read one more rationale that the show depicts Good vs Evil vs Murder Makes You Feel Good, our Skewed Moral Compass, Immorality Worship and ...wait for it... the War in Iraq, for cryin out loud!

I'm even more fed up with every comparison of Tony to Michael Corleone, George W. Bush, even Hitler and Osama bin Laden, for God's sake!

Everybody's got a Serious Opinion on the show's Deep Inner Meaning to its viewers. Wanna hear mine? Fuggedaboudit.

The Sopranos is just damn good entertainment. It takes us out of our heads and lives and into another--fictional--world.

Its seems so real because the acting is superb, the characters are engaging, creepy, sympathetic, sexy, frightening, as recognizable as neighbors and/or our own thoughts. The plots are intelligent and ingenious, the pace varied, the outcomes always, always unpredictable.

My husband just came home with the latest rumor: David Chase has filmed not one, but THREE finales ... three different endings. And nobody but Chase knows which one will air.

If that's true--even if it's not--Bada Bing, Baby!

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