TV Club

Week 9: Is Vanilla Fudge a Clue?

Dear Fellas,

The strangest thing just happened: I decided to play Paul McCartney’s new album backward, and I distinctly heard the words, “Tony is dead, Tony is dead.”

Then I heard a bunch of walrus sounds, then disco remixes of the soundtrack from Wicked. Weird, huh?

Based on this scientific listening experiment, I was going to side with viewers who believe that the blackout at the end of the episode was, in fact, Tony’s experience of his own death, but then I got an anonymous e-mail that I’m sure was from David Chase himself indicating that the last ambiguous moments of the episode were meant to suggest that Tony was alive and well and living on an island off France with Jimi Hendrix and the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

By the way, I’m not mocking the hysteria surrounding the last episode.

Well, I am, a little. David Chase, who really is on an island off France, or at least on mainland France, right now (he apparently flees there whenever shooting is finished), must be enjoying the ruckus. If his goal was to leave us with a crazy-making mystery, he succeeded, and succeeded wildly.

The arguments for Tony’s murder are fairly convincing, but I’m also open to the idea that what we witnessed wasn’t Tony’s demise but merely his overconsumption of onion rings. (Did anyone notice, by the way, that the Sopranos ate those onion rings as if they were communion wafers?)

One previously unexplored clue suggesting that Tony might still be with us was pointed out to me by musical genius and noted Italian-American Gerry Marzorati, who is also the editor of the New York Times Magazine. Gerry wrote the following: “For all the attention paid to the Final Episode’s music—Tony’s  jukebox flip and the Journey outro—why has no one, as far as I know, noted that the episode begins with the opening strains of the Vanilla Fudge’s psychedelic cover of the Supreme’s ‘You Keep Me Hanging On?’ ”

Gerry went on, “The Vanilla Fudge were (mostly) Italian-American guys from Long Island and HUGE in north Jersey in the summer of 1968, when their first album was released. (On a personal note: They judged a battle of the bands that summer held in a department-store parking lot on route 46 in Wayne, N.J., which my band won—we got to play at Palisades Park!). And, of course, the song itself is, well, Chase foreshadowing that he is going to keep us hanging on, as he has these many years, no?”

It all depends on whether Chase meant to keep us hanging on for an hour or forever, but I tend to think that Chase, clever man that he is, might figure out a noncheesy way to resurrect this show, as a movie, or even as a 10- or 12-hour television cycle, in three or four years, especially when HBO offers to buy him all of France as a down payment.

I don’t understand the complaints I’m hearing about the ending, and, the truth is, despite the assertion of Mr. Metcalf that he’s among the few people who thought the last episode was stellar, I’ve been flooded with e-mails from loyal readers of this dialogue who agreed with my statement yesterday that the episode was perfect. These discerning viewers enjoy the fact that David Chase respects them enough to screw with their heads.

There’s so much more to say about this show, but I’m in the Middle East, where the onion rings aren’t any good and neither is my Internet connection, so I will sign off by noting that, when I return home, I will almost immediately start watching the entire series on DVD, just as soon as I finish with the Gilmore Girls.

Brian, it’s been a real pleasure having you in this dialogue—you are the funniest anchorman I’ve ever known, not that I’ve ever known any other anchormen. Your sharp insights, keen eye, and infinite knowledge of Lincoln Log sandwiches will all be missed. Tim—what can I say? There’s no one I’d rather bullshit around with than you. I was thinking that maybe Slate would let us analyze another television show—that new Caveman series, maybe?

Or maybe not. This is the bleak future we now face: There may never be another Sopranos.