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2:48 p.m. - February 07, 2006
The Sopranos - A Clumsily Written Tribute
Some slight housekeeping, if you notice, I now have created a Notify List, for those who like such things.

In making my choices for the soundtrack to Rockin’ , the great online soap opera where I am a major character, (take that what you will), I went with songs that would convey a mood and feel to the scenes. Perhaps the song would exactly match the action – perhaps the song would augment the action – and perhaps the song would clash with the action.

In doing so, I was in tribute to my favorite television show going right now, “The Sopranos”. (What, you were thinking “Love Monkey” or “Freddy”??)

Thanks to TiVo and DirecTV, I have been watching Season 2 and Season 3 of the Sopranos lately, and have fallen in love with the show all over again.

The quality of network television is poor – I don’t have to tell you all that. I know people are gaga over “Lost” and “24” and “Desperate Housewives” but I’ve not followed them and now would feel a bit out of it. Finally, the “West Wing” is back to where it used to be, but of course it’s being cancelled – thus depriving a nation of a Jimmy Smits presidency when we need it most. And except for “The Apprentice” and “Survivor”, no reality show does it for me (and I wonder why I watch those, except out of habit.)

Thus, a lot of my TV viewing turns to cable, and especially good shows on HBO. (Well, there’s always VH-1 Classic or GSN, for grins. If I can see Bill Cullen once in a while doing his voodoo he does so well, I’m a happy man.)

“Six Feet Under” is gone, and I tried “Deadwood” but it was so bleak I couldn’t take that as a double header with “Six Feet Under”, so I dropped it. (Maybe now I’ll try it again).

But the “Sopranos”, now that’s classic TV.

Sure, if you jump in, you’ll probably need a family tree to find out who these people were, and since almost every character who was whacked comes back in one form or another, you need a primer to make sure you know who Mikey Palmice and Gigi Cestone are, and why they are important. (It also helps when dealing with who is related to whom – like Mikey Palmice’s wife is Bobby Baccalierei’s sister, and Adriana La Cerva is related to the Apriles).

Season One was pretty good, but I really think the show got going in Season Two, with the arrival of Janice, Tony’s sister and all-around complication and the deliciously evil Richie Aprile.

Richie was such a bad-ass with cold eyes and a heart of coal. Even when he was doing yoga, he still looked like the epitome of evil. Perhaps the yoga is why he could calmly run over Beansie.
Richie was the hugest threat and biggest pain in the kiester to Tony, ever. He was smart enough, but he was too old-school to deal with the new situations and new arrangements, and that was his downfall. Well, that and smacking Janice around, too.

Season two also introduced us to Furio, my man. He’s from the old country and when he’s on the job, he gets the job done. (Well, he did until he became a little weenie with a mushy heart, but I’m getting ahead of myself).

Big Pussy, the rat, is a big part of season two, and Vincent Pastore does a great job in playing that part. Big Pussy and Tony whacking Matthew Bevilacqua in the concession stand of the park is riveting and powerful, and the writing is great, “You sure you don’t want diet?”

Of course, Big Pussy bites it in the end, in a scene that is about as moving as a mob hit can be. The actors involved (including Miami Steve Van Zandt) really show how tormented they are in having to whack one of their best friends, but the must do it, of course.

In these early seasons, Meadow isn’t that annoying, yet, and AJ’s lack of acting ability doesn’t totally distract from his character because he’s playing an idiot kid.

Season three finds us less Ma Soprano and Richie Aprile, but adds the nutjob that is Ralphie Cifaretto to the mix. Now Ralphie, at times, is a bit of a caricature, and Joey Pants plays him a bit too over the top. He’s a pain in the ass to Tony, as well, but I still say Richie was a bigger threat to Tony.

Season three also has Meadow falling first for a mixed-race student, and then for Jackie Aprile, Jr. I know having a racist father, and then having your boyfriend basically gunned down by said father can cause anyone issues, but that’s no reason for Meadow to become the insufferable whiner in later seasons (again, getting ahead of myself…sorry).

This season also amped up the brutality, with the rape of Dr. Melfi and Ralphie’s beatdown of Tracee, the stripper, upping the violence to almost extreme levels. But it is realistic, which illustrates that while these characters have some human qualities, they are also inhuman.

The season opener is particularly funny, as the FBI tries to wiretap the Soprano’s house. The subtleties of the episode are great, especially in the FBI surveillance and how the FBI agents discuss the state of Tony’s water heater.

Uncle Junior develops cancer in this season, and in one of the funniest moments, his doctor (who is played by the same actor that played Glen in “Raising Arizona” – so everytime I see him I go “Say, that reminds me…”) treating him can’t bother to return Junior’s calls. So Tony and Furio go visit him on the golf course. Furio announces his disdain for golf, and then knocks the doc’s hat off saying “You had bee on hat!” You can be sure that doc paid attention to Uncle Junior after that.

Of course, the highlight of Season Three is the best episode of any TV show I’ve seen, “The Pine Barrens”. Paulie and Chrissy are stuck in the pine barrens, after they were trying to dispose of a Russian mobster, and get lost. The best line ever is when Paulie says to Tony, on the cell phone, speaking of the Russian who escaped, “The package…hit Chrissy…with an implement.”

And Annabella Sciorra’s Gloria Trillo appears to mess with Tony’s head, heart, and other body parts, and throw a London Broil at him. I always watch myself around roasts now with Liz. Of course, I haven’t done anything to warrant meat being flung at me; at least I don’t think I have.

Season Four is a bit of a backslide, but the final episode, “Whitecaps” is riveting TV as Carmela finally has enough and throws Tony out. Edie Falco and James Gandolfini put on an acting clinic in that episode.

The whacking of Ralphie was also a good episode, though many of the episodes just seemed like place holders waiting for the next big plot point.

I liked Season Five, because I think Steve Buscemi was a fine addition to the cast, and they weren’t afraid to take chances, especially in “The Test Dream”, which had a huge dream sequence that was compelling, and weird. The death of Adriana was sad, and tragic. Everyone knew here time was up, but still, no one saw it coming.

Johnny Sack becomes a major player, and Vincent Curatola plays him with just the right amount of arrogance and incredulity.

Of course, there are plenty of other highlights throughout the seasons, almost too many to mention, so I won’t. Needless to say, that each episode can take repeated viewing, and there are a lot of references to things that you may miss.

Season six is coming soon, and if you’ve missed parts of it, then I suggest you get on Netflix, stat, and get those DVDs in your hands!

There’s not enough quality TV, and so when a show comes on like this one, you can’t wait for the new season to start. I know I already have the TiVo season pass primed and ready to go!

One thing, though. We always have to turn it off when Katie comes into the room. (Normally, she’s already asleep when we watch it, but sometimes she comes downstairs if she’s scared). I don’t think seeing Ralphie taking a marital aid in the kiester from Janice is what my child needs to see at night!


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