Monday, March 12, 2007

Soprano's Say Arrivederci with less Hype

Friends of ours: Soprano Crime Family

For "The Sopranos," this almost constitutes some kind of record. When the HBO mafia series begins its final run of nine episodes on April 8, "only" 10 months will have passed since the last new episode premiered last June. The only gap between seasons that was shorter than this one was the one between the show's The first and second seasons - approximately 91/2 months from April 1999 to January 2000. That was after the show's phenomenal, groundbreaking first season (and still, in the minds of some, the best "The Sopranos" ever had) and before the show's producers (apparently) began to fuss so obsessively with the show that the gap between seasons grew and grew, culminating in the unprecedented 21-month break between seasons 5 and 6.

Now the show that was (and maybe still is) arguably the most talked-about series in the history of television is returning after less than a year and there appears to be none of the hype, anticipation and excitement that accompanied the onset of previous "Sopranos" seasons. That's probably due to a couple of factors including the most obvious, which is: The excitement over this series has dissipated. That's only natural for a series that is now nearly eight years old. That might not seem like a long time, but think about it: When "The Sopranos" premiered on Jan. 10, 1999, Bill Clinton still had two years to go in his second term. It was a different world and when "The Sopranos" came along, none of us had ever seen anything like it. Since then, however, a number of great, comparable TV dramas have come and gone.

Moreover, now that "The Sopranos" has been chopped up for broadcast on A&E, this once special series has begun to look like any other TV show that's been packaged for syndication on commercial television, with its trademark language and brutal violence sanitized to keep the sponsors happy. In addition, maybe "Sopranos" fans have learned by now to keep their
expectations low. In the past, high expectations have frequently been met by disappointment (to be fair, no show could ever meet the high expectations set for "The Sopranos"). Last season was a case in point. While the season had some great moments (the mugging of Lauren Bacall comes to mind), the major storyline involving the closeted gay mobster, Vito, seemed to be
over-emphasized, at the expense of other mob business. Now, nine installments, produced in just 10 months, are all that is left of "The Sopranos."


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