Monday, April 09, 2007

All Hail The Sopranos! Or why this week is the best week of television EVER!!!

A few years ago I was living in a vegetarian nudist house in California (oh! I wish I was kidding) and I didn't have a TV. I was a little smug about it too -- so much so that when friends gave my husband and I a very nice TV for our wedding I was sort of a superior pain in the ass about it. I thought we'd never talk. Never drink wine and play big games of Scrabble. And if I could go back in time and tell myself one thing (besides to put all of our money on that Boston Red Sox World Championship a few years ago) it would be to shut up about the TV - because all those games of Scrabble we didn't play are a worthy worthy sacrifice to the TV Gods for this one week of Television.

Last night was the return of the best Sociopath to ever grace the small screen - Tony Soprano and the even more delightful return of the obsessive ecumenical spazz - Ari Gold from Entourage. And if that wasn't enough - and it is frankly - it's enough - this week is the season finale of...Friday Night Lights. Oh! The bliss.

Last nights return of Soprano's was the best reminder of what makes that show great. The violence, the delicious nearly torturous tension, the crazy juxtaposition of what this man is and what he wants and how he lives.

What I love about this show and what is coming to fruition this year is that they take their time. This is a character driven show in which a raised eyebrow and a sideways look at a noisy bird is just as much a plot point as a bullet in that poor ex-husband's brain and the ripped shirt the killer leaves behind!

Long conversations take place - and the dialogue doesn't really matter. I'm talking about that scene between Tony and his brother in law, Bobby in the boat - it doesn't matter what's being said - the pacing of the scene, the so telling non verbals - put it all out there. This is a monster at rest, fishing with a good man who would love to not be in the business. But the writers aren't just showing us a quiet moment in this man's life - it's also ratcheting up the tension because anything can happen in this show. Tony could lose it on his brother in law, another boat could come by and kill them all. Tony could have a heart attack. Anything. And we know because the writers of this show reward it's watchers that no moment of peace for this guy goes unpunished - either by his own hand or someone elses. So - it's this nice scene - two guys fishing and my husband and I were biting our nails from the torment.

So when the next scene of relaxation - Tony, Carmela, Janice (Tony's sister) and Bobby are sitting around drinking playing cards - we know, we just know it's a powder keg. And they lay the foundation for the scene so beautifully. So, tellingly. Bobby gets mad at the Sopranos. Carmela gets mad at Tony. Janice gets mad at her brother. And then...Tony starts getting mad.

Now, I love Friday Night Lights but I realized watching this show why Network Television will NEVER get close to the unbelievable storytelling that cable shows do. The writers (maybe the producers not sure how it works) are scared to trust the viewer to follow a character driven (to this magnitude) show. Sure, House is a character driven show - but good god it's running off the rails. And frankly - what does it compare to Dexter? Lost was totally in that first season a delicious character driven show. But now it's all plot. It's all explosions and secrets and we've stopped caring because we don't care about who is getting hurt. Friday Night Lights is falling into this trap too - turning the story around and around with more and bigger events. But I'm still in.

Thank God we've got a TV.

5 comments:

Christine said...

You know what? I've never seen this show. My husband and I have been talking about getting them on DVD, and from what you've just written, I know we'd love it. I think I smell a birthday present coming up. :)

Kimber said...

Now I'm feeling like the nudist vegetarian.
Haven't had time to watch anything since the beginning of March (and tax season).
Thank goodness for your posts or I'd be totally out of the loop (I'm getting to the point that I ask people for movie summaries, knowing I'll never ever watch them).

Sinead M said...

so much TV to catch up on... we have the first two seasons of 6 feet under and haven't even cracked them open. Waiting for the DVD of the 1st season of Friday Night Lights and on top of that, there's the Soprano's waiting to be watched...
all of which I could do if I just gave up the disease that is American Idol...

Anonymous said...

Ahhh, Molly????

Way more interesting than the Sopranos is your real life comment about nudist vegetarian. I'm going to be thinking about that all day!

Nancy

Molly O'Keefe said...

Ugh -- got caught up in Idol last night...

I just read the Vanity Fair article on the Sopranos and it's crazy creator David Chase and they talk a little about what's the difference between this show and maybe cable dramas in general vs network dramas is that not every scene advances plot. Wild huh? great example of once you know the rules how you can break them. I thought that was awesome.

Friday night lights finalle tonight!!!!

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