TV Club

How Dark Will The Sopranos Get?

Dear George,

Thanks for coming in today. Jerry Capeci is out this week, reviewing Witness Security Program resorts in Utah and Arizona for Condé Nast Traveler, and we’re glad to have you.

And here’s a first: If my information is correct, not only do you cover New Jersey mobsters, but you actually live in the Garden State itself. What’s that like? Seems exotic to me. I grew up on Long Island, which is an entirely different experience.

So, the question that nags at me today is: Was that an Edie Falco butt double, or was that Edie Falco’s genuine butt?

The second question is broader: Can The Sopranos get any darker without turning the lights out completely? This Peter Bogdanovich-directed episode was as unremittingly depressing as anything on television (and mainstream film, for that matter). Six Feet Under seems like Three’s Company by comparison. David Chase is giving us nothing to grab hold of: For some reason, I found Carmela’s father’s silence in the face of his daughter’s despair to be one of the bleakest moments of all.

Carmela’s affair with A.J.’s college counselor was brilliantly done (and nerve-wracking, more so than most Sopranos killings). Carmela has lived in a culture of fraud and mutual back-scratching and frank exploitation for so long that she was unaware of the impression she made on a civilian (a creepy, condescending civilian, to be sure, who showed himself fluent in the art of the shakedown himself).

Less brilliant, I think, was the tale of Tony Blundetto’s downfall. It seemed a little too easy. For one thing, there must have been a more subtle way to get $12,000 into his hands than having it tossed from a crack car in front of his face. Tony B. has shown such strength in the face of constant mockery that his collapse seemed too sudden, too unreal. There’s no doubt that, over time, his cousin Tony would have, as they say, pulled him back in; it would have been a point of pride for Tony S., in fact, to prove that he could still corrupt anything he touched. But in this way it seemed rushed and false.

And speaking of false notes, this is a very forgiving group of mobsters. Did anyone even mention the fact that Christopher had just recently tried to kill Tony? I guess we’re going to have to wait a little longer before Paulie kills Christopher, or vice versa. Last week, we had Jerry Shargel with us, and he agreed: Christopher, in real life, would never have made it out of that field alive. You agree? I imagine you do; based on what I’ve read over the years, you’ve been spending time with an exceedingly nasty bunch of mobsters. Speaking of which, did you ever meet Phil “Chicken Man” Testa? Very few mobsters are lucky enough to make it, even posthumously, into a Springsteen song.