Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Sopranos: Got Yourself a Classic

I've been a viewer of The Sopranos since they hit the airwaves nine years ago. My lifelong intrigue with the history and practices of organized crime in America and Italy made the series a natural for me to check out initially; the superior writing and acting sucked me in for the long haul.

And now it's almost over.

When The Sopranos first caught the critics' eye on HBO, it was hailed for being innovative, groundbreaking. The mainstream networks agreed but pointed to the fact the series had more latitude than it's network competition: people could swear up a storm and sex could be more graphic.

As if that was the reason the series was a success. I don't know of a single person of my acquaintance or years of trolling feature stories on this classic who rushed to turn on the TV at 9:00 p.m. Sunday nights for the purpose of watching the characters use profanity and get partially naked for sex. Sour grapes, or sour guns.

It's a sad commentary on television in general that it has to be seen as nothing short of a phenomenon a TV show is tightly written, creative and willing to push the envelope. TV shows ape other success TV series and originality sleeps with the fishes.

When I am teaching scriptwriting - or any kind of creative writing - I point out to my students they should carefully study classics like The Honeymooners and even I Love Lucy in order to understand how tight writing is accomplished, how situations are set up and carried through and sometimes carried over into a future episode because the characters are so well drawn for us, we will understand a reference or minor situation they are in down the road without much set-up from the script.

So does all the tight writing and character development of recent Soprano episodes give us any clue as to how the series will end?

It does appear there will be a lot of blood-letting before the series ends. We have already been surprised by the death of Christopher, one of my favorite characters, and who killed him. The unpredictable Tony is facing in his son what he loathes about himself and couldn't trust Christopher with. Christopher's potential breach could bring Tony down; young A.J.'s mental breakdown and unpredictable behavior nearly cost him his life last Sunday. Tony has much shame to bear, guilt. But the leader in him is not afraid to make the hard choices.

Who will be next? Phil Leotardo? The irritating and creepy Paulie?

Things have gotten much more personal on the series as the unwanted advances and lewd talk to Tony's daughter, Meadow, demonstrates. The old time mob never permitted a member to attack another member's family in any way. Tony is old school. So is Phil when it suits him.

I don't believe Tony will be killed by the end of the series. That would be too easy. Most likely Tony will go into hiding or take over the New York mob after killing everyone he needs to kill to achieve that. He has become increasingly hardened in spite of the occasional lapses into "let's all get along."

I'm sure David Chase will not disappoint. I will miss Tony and company.

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