Friday, July 27, 2007

On The Sopranos

There's a wonderful article in the New York Review of Books by Geoffrey O'Brien about The Sopranos. British readers may want to avoid this as it ends with a spoiler about the last episode. Two non-spoiling points are worth noting. O'Brien remarks on the way the show absolutely convinces us that the characters go on living their lives when not on screen. The viewer doesn't feel, as he does in lesser shows, that he is being led through a plot - in fact, as O'Brien says, the plot hardly matters at all -  rather that he is being shown glimpses of ongoing lives. This shows an indebtedness to Scorsese's Goodfellas. But David Chase's genius was to sustain it through 86 episodes of a TV series. The second point is Chase's revulsion at the values of network TV. 'I loathe and despise almost every second of it...I considered network TV to be propaganda for the corporate state.' And of Northern Exposure, one of his own shows, he says, 'It rammed home every week the message that life is nothing but great, Americans are great and heartfelt emotion and sharing conquers everything.' But he had to do that to get where he is and, when he got there, he made The Sopranos - a show that rejects every one of those cosy nostrums. On the other hand, of course, American TV made this amazing show and that, surely, is a sign of some greatness.


  1. Brilliant pun - cosy nostrums, cosy nostra, Bryan. Thanks, Bryan, I bet nobody notices it.

  2. rule 1 - never underestimate your audience.
    rule 2 - but if you do, never let them know it.

    I've heard of this Sopranos, what's it all about then - On the Sopranos is a bit like On the Buses? Eh, Maggiordomo! Getta da bus out!

  3. Is this the man who's brilliance makes Sunday reading worthwhile; the man who's articles are read and re-read for their insights and beauty of language; the owner of Number 1 Blog, whose pun has probably set his whole readership scouring the statement for equal absurdities (I've tried, and nothing !). Cosy nostra, indeed. I really must look for gainful employment to fill these vacant hours.

  4. Rule 3, then ironise the whole thing by disobeying rules 1 and 2. And stick with me, Johntyh, I'll try not to let you down again.

  5. Yeah, I think it's safe to say we got it. But Northern Exposure! Can't I love both? The thing about Northern Exposure was that it was - in socally/politically polarised America - really quite radical in the way all the denizens of its little Alaskan town got along. And they were great characters. And the fractured plots definitely paved the way for Sopranos, Six Feet Under, etc.

    Anyway, Northern Exposure is riddled with something you don't normally get in TV - or anywhere - especially anywhere GOOD: joy. And what's wrong with that, once in a while?

  6. I'm a new conscript. Totally gobsmacked I have worked my way through 85 odd episodes in pursuit of my concerns. I CARE what happens - thats the point. IMO this is the second best ever TV drama next to 'Edge of Darkness.' (BBC written by Troy K Martin) Congratulations to all involved. Bring us some more!!

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