Sopranos Comment Board
I consider the Sopranos to be more like a movie series (like James Bond) than a television series. At least that's the way I can rationalize the 2 year hiatus since it last aired. I approached this season with much anticipation, rewatching the 2004 season over the past week or so, and the last episode immediately before the new one. I thought the continuity was impressive. Unlike previous season premiers which seem to pale by comparison with the previous season's finale, this premier seemed to be a genuine continuation, albeit with some new set ups and a big surprise. (If you Tivo™ the show, do not read the comments..)

What did you think about last night's premier of the Sopranos? In the spirit of Orin Kerr, post your comments here. (Please, no posts about Big Love. I won't be watching it until tonight.) I look forward to reading your take. Here are some possible issues that could be discussed: Did the premier episode thrill or disappoint? What do you think makes the Sopranos a cut above other television shows? How would you rate it as compared with Deadwood, a show I find simply amazing in its dialog? How do you think the series format on HBO compares with film as a medium for story telling? Post away!

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Big Love "Threat or Menace?" Comment Board:
  2. Sopranos Comment Board
Matt Barr (mail) (www):
I don't know about storytelling in general, but I think the format is excellent for telling this story. It begins when Tony realizes he has a problem and will end when it's solved, which is obviously taking years. (And Dr. Melfi's continued insistence that all he has to do is realize his mother didn't love him is becoming a little tiresome, in my opinion.) There have been plenty of series where this has been possible but this is the first big successful one on subscription TV, where the Neilsens and ad buys don't determine whether they stick with what's believable and compelling about the character(s).

Last night's installment was great. If you were wondering why when Tony's worried about A.J. and overwhelmed by his responsibilities and troubled morally he doesn't just hightail it with his family to Florida, you don't anymore.
3.13.2006 10:01am
Dave Friedman (mail) (www):
The comparison of the Sopranos to James Bond is an odd one. While James Bond never too itself seriously, and was more escapist, the Sporanos seems to strive for verisimiltude.

They seem very dissimilar.
3.13.2006 10:05am
Good episode, not great (the bug-in-the-lamp and Adrianna-disappears being the greatest).

As for Deadwood's dialog, David Milch's style can be well-done or just too much. The first season was better, IMHO, and the Sheriff is becoming unable to growl more than a couple words from incomprehensible emotional places, much like the characters at the end of NYPD Blue's run.
3.13.2006 10:25am
Visitor Again:
I thought last night's episode was a step in the direction of Kovarsky's (I think it was his) prediction of yesterday, which may have been tongue in cheek, that at the end of the day, Meadow will take over the family. I'm an on and off viewer and not a TV or film buff, so don't hold me to that.

My living partner said, as Uncle June went bonkers, he'd better not have a gun. She knew Tony was going to get shot. And she predicted the hit man would kill himself. So I guess it might have been obvious.

Those feds are cold, but we all knew going in that Mafia lives are disposable to them, even if they are stoolies. That woman fed, who apparently didn't blink an eye when she sent Ariana to her death, is responsible for two Mafia snitch deaths now.
3.13.2006 10:26am
Dave- I think the comparison wasn't about the content of The Sopranos to Bond; it was that the Sopranos is more like a movie series... especially when you have to wait 2 years for the next one. :)
3.13.2006 10:32am
Visitor Again:
The comparison of the Sopranos to James Bond is an odd one. While James Bond never too itself seriously, and was more escapist, the Sporanos seems to strive for verisimiltude.

Randy was referring to the format, not the content at all.
3.13.2006 10:35am
steve k:
Just a short comment on the feds. When it comes to catching Tony Soprano, over the past few seasons they've had what seems like any numbers of snitches and almost all of them end up dead, and rarely by natural causes. Losing even one snitch that you take your time to develop is a disaster, but losing a bunch is starting to look like incompetence.
3.13.2006 11:24am
JLR (mail) (www):
It is my contention that one of the factors that makes "The Sopranos" so great is that "The Sopranos" is concerned with the metaphysics of television itself. The series is interested in how both television shows and films replayed on television enter into the houses and comment on the action taking place in people's lives.

Television in "The Sopranos" is like a Greek chorus, continually commenting on the action either through strikingly apt TV shows or films airing on TV that correspond to the action, or through comically absurd comparisons with what is on TV versus what is happening in the plot.

In that sense, "The Sopranos" is very much like Don DeLillo's White Noise, which is in my opinion DeLillo's best novel.

In last night's episode of "The Sopranos," Uncle Junior was watching the film Paths of Glory with Kirk Douglas on his television set. That film generally deals with the futility and pointlessness of war (specifically the trenches of WWI).

The scene that was shown right when Tony showed up at Uncle Junior's house was the scene in which Adolphe Menjou's character (General Broulard) castigates Kirk Douglas's character (Colonel Dax). The General says, "You've spoiled the keenness of your mind by wallowing in sentimentality...You are an idealist, and I pity you as I would the village idiot."

The fact that Uncle Junior, who is suffering from dementia, is watching such a movie on television indicates the probable proximate cause for the mindset that led to the surprising event that ended the season premiere.

(I won't say what that event is, even though this comment thread can have spoilers, just in case someone reads the comment anyway and hasn't seen the show yet).

To reiterate: It is my contention that one of the factors that makes "The Sopranos" great is comprised of the series's insightful use of, and perspicacious commentary on, the metaphysics of television itself.
3.13.2006 12:04pm
Jim in Texas (mail):
You guys sound like a bunch of heroin junkies praising the latest batch of China White.

I've never watched the program and now I'm glad I didn't!!

Wow, I dodged another bullet

(as I slip the 2nd season of "Buffy" DVD in the player ...... I can quit anytime I want)

Jim in Texas
3.13.2006 12:14pm
Glenn W Bowen (mail):
humankind has lived very well for the vast, vast majority of its history without television.

listen to it sometime- not watch, listen.

then live without it.

I watched it anyway, not a bad episode.

I'm on the crew, occasionally.
3.13.2006 1:24pm
Steve Hammond:
Excellent episode - open so many threads for this season. The ending was unexpected and wow! Even the interaction between Carm and her father looks like it might be a good side story. And the inspector didn't even solicit a bribe!
3.13.2006 3:03pm
Matt Barr (mail) (www):
Steve: My one nagging beef was that even if Tony forgot to arrange a bribe it's hard to believe an inspector in that area doesn't know he's inspecting a house being built by Mrs. Tony Soprano. Even if Carm lets it "slip" in conversation somewhere. If he did know, he seemed unperturbed. Very, very minor quibble.
3.13.2006 3:34pm
Randy: I may be dating my interest in the cinema, but perhaps the phrase you were looking for isn't "movie series", but "movie serial".
3.13.2006 4:29pm
Mark F. (mail):
Visitor makes a good point that the feds don't come across well in the series, which is absolutely true and realistic. Adrianna was blackmailed by the Feds over a victimless crime into snitching, and she gets killed as a result.
3.13.2006 4:43pm
milo (mail):
Last night was a very good episode and I have a feeling that this season will be much better than the last two, but in my mind The Wire has overtaken The Sopranos as the best HBO drama (with Deadwood close behind).
3.13.2006 4:49pm
Kovarsky (mail):
(1) I wasn't being tongue in cheek with the meadow prediction.

(2) I also want to disagree with JLR. The show's metanarrative is getting cloying and self-congratulatory. A few years back an astute critic made the comment that "the Sopranos prove that men will watch soap operas if they're violent enough." That was around the time that Six Feet Under was presenting some material that betrayed extreme self-awareness of its soap opera status.

With every episode, it gets more and more "tragic" (in some over-the-top Greek or Shakespearean sense), and too whimsical at the same time (like last nights' "i can't catch a break" followed by the informant abruptly dying). All of these things are certainly important elements of any literary artifact - which the Sopranos certainly remains - but preoccupation with them draws the show further and further away from its inner strength - James Galdolfini's Tony Soprano, as he alternates betweeen thunderous ferocity and genuine compassion (and sometimes at the same time - i.e. when he kills tony b. at the end of last season), is the single best male character that televesion has ever produced.

And, as for female characters, I'm not sure what the show is doing with Edie Falco, who is an incredible actress in her own right, although the first episode signals reducing her to a shallow housewife for the final season.
3.13.2006 5:46pm
eddie (mail):
The Sopranos is authentic in capturing a certain atmosphere of North Jersey; add in some gratuitous sex and violence and it provides for some interesting viewing. And being able to watch a show about such taboos is always exciting for the viewer. The acting and writing are at a very high level, although I do think that the show has gotten a bit to "artistic" for its own good.

For my money, the Wire is the best HBO series made so far. It remained true to itself and had no pretensions. Like the stories it told, life is messy all by itself without creating a construct that is a bit hard to believe (as in a mob boss going to therapy or habitues of a wild west town talking with the crudeness of modern urbanity). The Wire showed no mercy to both the viewers and its characters; no dilution of how life simply does always turn out the way it should, nor that the way it turns out is significant about anything but that that's the way it goes: simple story telling with all honesty about individuals who are real and complex and therefore, characters and stories that one can care about.

The Sopranos is like going to a fancy restaurant: I like it cause it lets me sample things that I cannot get at my local grocery, but which I can live without on a daily basis.
3.13.2006 5:54pm
Ted Frank (www):
I disagree that the woman fed (Danielle? that was just her cover name) is completely heartless—she genuinely wanted to believe that Adrianna lammed it, creating disgust in her superior when she suggested that scenario. (And her crimes had too many dead bodies to be completely victimless; noone comes away from The Sopranos thinking it's an argument for drug legalization. Gambling, on the other hand...) But it's true that the feds don't come across well. Steve K has a point that the New Jersey feds do an amazing job of recruiting snitches (at least five, six if you include the possibility of Livia testifying against Tony over the airline tickets, and I might be leaving out someone), but not so well keeping them alive. And the one prosecution they've had so far has been a fiasco. That they tried to flip Tony shows that they've been grasping at straws. (Ironically, the only successful rat in New Jersey has been Tony, who sicced a parole officer on a troublesome subordinate.)

The New York feds, on the other hand, recruited Jimmy Petrille successfully, and he looks to be a huge success.
3.13.2006 6:41pm
R. Gould-Saltman (mail):
Also, loved the snippet from Material/William S. Burroughs' "Seven Souls/Western Lands" as background music.
3.13.2006 7:08pm
Visitor Again:
I disagree that the woman fed (Danielle? that was just her cover name) is completely heartless—she genuinely wanted to believe that Adrianna lammed it, creating disgust in her superior when she suggested that scenario. (And her crimes had too many dead bodies to be completely victimless; noone comes away from The Sopranos thinking it's an argument for drug legalization. Gambling, on the other hand...) But it's true that the feds don't come across well.

The woman fed may have been naive with Adrianna, but now she surely knows Adrianna's fate and yet she is still playing hard nose with another snitch who wants out. She didn't learn a thing from Adrianna's death.
3.13.2006 7:20pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
There are not many African American characters in the Sopranos, last one I remember was Meadows Uppity boyfriend from last season. Watching Tony tell him to pack sand was priceless.
3.13.2006 8:45pm
the real Eric:
the sopranos is pretty good but I think the wire is absolutely the best show on television, maybe ever. deadwood is pretty good too. HBO has the best shows.
3.13.2006 8:54pm
Tommy V:
I think you have to look at the five seasons of The Sopranos separately because each one tells a story, just as each of the Bond films (or The Godfather films, for that matter) must be judged on its own. The quality of the Sopranos season is proportional to the fearsomeness of Tony's antagonist. Season 1 is so extraordinary because Livia is such a formidable character — no other character on the show, Tony included, was as ruthless, as knowing and as manipulative as she was. (Also, because none of us had ever before seen anything on television as rich and as real as that first season was.) Without a good villian, the series drifts, as I think it has the last two seasons.

I thought last night's episode was promising (and I was certainly surprised at the end), but clearly it's setting the stage for what is to come. I don't know if we can judge it until we see a few more episodes.

BTW, I agree completely with Kovarsky that Meadow takes over the family. I said early in Season 2, half-joking but half-serious, that "Meadow is Michael [Corleone]." Since then, I haven't seen anything that's inconsistent with that observation and I'm now convinced that's where the show is going. We probably won't see it until the "bonus" season that follows this one, but I'm counting on it.
3.13.2006 9:38pm
Raw_Data (mail):
Meadow's the heir.

We got some clear foreshadowing of Meadow's emergence as a mobster when she (inanely) rebuked a friend at a wedding party (?) for making disparaging references to the mob. She also dismissed Finn's fears of the fat one, who is now on a diet.

Yes, Meadow is another sociopath, made all the more dangerous by LAW SCHOOL. (She is pre-law, no?)
3.13.2006 9:53pm
SurryDog (mail):
Good drama but makes the Feds look too incompetent, very unrealistic. Feds have had great success developing high level informants and disrupting mob families, but you would never know it from the Sopranos. Scene where the Feds come to eat at the same storefront as the mobsters was weak, wouldn't happen as the Feds wouldn't trust the establishment not to place rat droppings in their food. Good drama overrall, though senile Junior would be more likely to have shot his own foot than get so lucky as to hit what he was aiming it, even with Tony Soprano being a fat target hard to miss. Except for lame scenes with Dr. Melfi and the Feds, show is unpredictable and full of surprises.
3.13.2006 11:38pm
wb (mail):
Sopranos; With the surprise ending i won't feel bad about missing the next few weeks.
RE: Deadwood. perhaps it is an interesting show. i can't tell as i cannot understand the dialog at all. I've tried both in English and Spanish... in both cases it's equally unintelligible.
3.14.2006 2:00am
Kovarsky (mail):
Re: Deadwood -

Apparently there's a lot of dialect research behind the staggering use of the word "cocksucker" on that show and, apparently, it is authentic historical and geographic vernacular.

Also re: the Wire. Everybody I know that watches all the HBO shows says that the Wire is the best, but I've also heard you have to start from square 1. Accurate?

Season 1 of Six Feet Under is the best HBO show-season.
3.14.2006 2:26am
JLR (mail) (www):
I appreciate and understand Mr. Kovarsky's response to my observations regarding "The Sopranos."

However, I don't think your (Mr. Kovarsky's) comments necessarily constitute a disagreement with my original 3.13.06 12:04 pm post. The theme of the metaphysics of television is not necessarily part of any "soap opera" element to "The Sopranos." On the contrary. It reveals the series's acute consciousness of the ways in which television affects contemporary American life.

Perhaps the "television as Greek chorus" motif is too absurd for your taste. However, it is my contention that the absurdity of it is in the grand tradition of Beckett and Stoppard, as well as in line with the specific observations about television made by Don DeLillo in White Noise.

DeLillo's White Noise points out how absurd and comical television can be. In White Noise the Gladney family television interjects absurdly off-topic (or surprisingly and comically apt) comments into the family conversations. As Murray Jay Siskind (a character in White Noise) points out, television "practically overflows with sacred formulas." Now Siskind is one of White Noise's least sympathetic characters; he is someone who finds too much meaning in the most meaningless pieces of pop culture detritus.

But just because some are hyperbolic about the significance of pop culture does not mean that there is no metaphysical significance at all to "watching too much television" (the title of a season 4 episode of "The Sopranos").

It is my contention that a theme found in both White Noise and "The Sopranos" is that television is one of many sources of the "white noise" that pervades contemporary American culture.

Compelling themes can coexist with compelling characters. In fact, the greatest works of narrative art (short stories, novels, film, television, or what-have-you) include either compelling themes that drive compelling characters, or compelling characters that connote compelling themes.

Whether one prefers the latter over the former (or vice versa) depends on personal aesthetic preference.

But the theme of the metaphysics of television is, in my opinion, one that is portrayed excellently in "The Sopranos," and one that provides depth to the series's characters.

One may find the theme of the metaphysics of television unpleasant because of an aesthetic judgment regarding characterization (or what-have-you). Or one may find (as I do) that this theme is very effective in elucidating (and sometimes even reshaping) the motivations and psychologies of the series's characters.

When people watch television, they get ideas.

The theme of the metaphysics of television in modern life is there within "The Sopranos." It is also there when we watch "The Sopranos" ourselves. "The Sopranos" often makes sure to have a television show within a television show, just as Shakespeare often included a play within a play, and just as movies often have a film within a film (cf. various Woody Allen movies and other films).

The theme found in "The Sopranos" regarding the metaphysics of television in contemporary American life also helps to elucidate the general absurdism inherent in the series a la Beckett and Stoppard.

Yes, there are elements of the epic and tragic in "The Sopranos," but, as I aver above, there is also a distinct thread of absurdism found throughout the series. I personally find this thread of absurdism very appealing. Others may not.

But the theme is there, and television itself often has a direct effect on the psychologies and motivations of the characters in "The Sopranos" (just as television often does in real life for real people). And from an aesthetic standpoint regarding the quality of the series, I find that to be, to quote Martha Stewart, "a good thing."
3.14.2006 11:08am
milo (mail):
"Also re: the Wire. Everybody I know that watches all the HBO shows says that the Wire is the best, but I've also heard you have to start from square 1. Accurate?"

Yes on both counts.
3.14.2006 11:18am
R. Gould-Saltman (mail):
Burroughs, also from "The Western Lands", and used in the Material/Burroughs "Seven Souls":

"This is a penal colony that is now a Death Camp. Place of the Second and Final Death.
Desperation is the raw material of drastic change. Only those who leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape.
Don't intend to be there when the shithouse goes up. Nothing here now but the recordings. Shut them off, they are as radioactive as an old joke. "

Will we hear this at the end of this season?

R Gould-Saltman
3.14.2006 4:29pm
Kovarsky (mail):

I am not denying that the art-imitating-life-imitating-art metanarrative is there, and it's not tht I find it to absurdist - it's that I find it too over the top. Not over the top in its absurdity - over the top in its need to position itself in the vein of Stoppard, Beckett, etc.

By the way, did you know that Sam Beckett drove Andre the Giant (the wrestler) to school every morning when Andre was growing up, because Beckett was the only neighbor that could fit Andre into his vehicle? Wow, talk about a great story!
3.14.2006 7:11pm
JLR (mail) (www):
Mr. Kovarsky,

Thanks for clarifying your position. I should reiterate that I find the way "The Sopranos" deals with the metaphysics of television to be very insightful and aesthetically enjoyable. But I guess this boils down simply to personal preferences; to paraphrase George and Ira Gershwin, you say potato, I say po-tah-to -- Let's call the whole thing off. :-)

And in the nether-regions of my brain I seem to recall that Andre the Giant and Samuel Beckett were neighbors; however, I don't think I've ever heard that specific tale about Beckett driving Andre the Giant to school before. Thanks for the story; I love funny anecdotes!
3.15.2006 11:11am