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Monday, April 23, 2007

The Sopranos: Family (and addiction) redefined

Hello. My name is Elizabeth. And, I'm a Soprano-addict.

I think it was in the middle of the first season when I was finally able to admit that I was powerless in front of the television set and that on Sunday evenings at 9 PM my life had become unmanageable.

I also came to believe that a Power greater than myself could restore me to sanity, but if sanity meant that I couldn't find out what would happen next week to Tony or Carm, or their children Meadow and AJ, I would simply have to do without it for that season.

I know. I know. The violence. The gratuitous sex. The profanity.

Okay. The violence is still very troublesome to me. The sex? Well, it's less gratuitous and far more violent and noisy than the most violent scenes, which are mostly noisy and bloody - but sometimes, so is the sex.

The profanity? Well, you know what? Once you get used to it, it actually becomes silly. Ridiculous, actually. As over-the-top as the rest of their extreme lives.

Like, when Tony, no lightweight himself, says to Bobby, who takes care of Uncle Junior, "F**k you, you f***ing fat f**k!"

Most of the writing is much, much better than that. Like, when Uncle Junior, looking out the kitchen window of his Belleville home at the FBI surveillance car across the street, mutters, "Those g**damn feds have their f**king heads so far up my a**, I can smell their g**damn aftershave."

Or, when Carm finds her son AJ and his friends on the day of their Confirmation in the garage smoking pot while everyone else is enjoying themselves at the reception in their Caldwell McMansion, she screeches, "G**damn it, AJ! Can't you be a g**damn good Catholic on your g**damn Confirmation Day?"

I mean, really! It just doesn't get more hilarious than that!

Except, of course, for the names: Paulie Walnuts.

Or, Sal "Big Pussy" Bompensiero.

Christopher (Pronounced "Chris - toe - FAH.") Moltisanti and his girl Adriana "Aid" LaCerva (who was whacked - pathetically, as she scrambled on her knees, whimpering and whining - in season three by Silvio "Sil" Dante).

Johnny "Sack" Sacramoni (who died last Sunday of lung cancer while in the slammer).

Or, Philly "Spoons" Parisi.

Or Giacomo "Jackie" Aprile - who also died of lung cancer but in the very first season.

Back to the writing, which is second only to the excellent acting. The domestic fight and threatened divorce between Carm and Tony in season three was a prime example. Tony adored his mob boss father (whom he considers himself most like) and hated his manipulative, scheming mother (in whom he sees qualities of his sister Janice, who he also hates. She also plotted once with Uncle Junior to have her son whacked.). One considers that Tony will strive to emulate his father. And, he does. But, more and more, he is becoming his mother.

A brief moment in the midst of the heated exchange between Tony and Carm give us a window into his soul. Carm screams that she needs a divorce lawyer as she has no money of her own, no bank account in her name, no way to legally claim half of his income since most of his income is, as they say, "under the table."

Tony looks at her and, his words dripping with sarcasm says, "Oh, poor you!"

Now, what you may not know is that those words, that expression on his face, that tone in his voice were all a striking, eerily exact replica of his mother, Livia Soprano. It was a chilling moment captured perfectly in three little words.

In the last two episodes, we can see more and more of Livia in her son Anthony. He forces Bobby, who has married his sister Janice, to execute a murder for hire as his penance for getting into a fist fight which began because Tony tormented him. He is also losing patience with Pauli Walnuts and begins to fantasize about whacking him.

These are the last episodes of the last season of The Sopranos - undoubtedly the series that has changed television forever. It has given us a window into the soul of evil. In so doing, it has given us a window into the potential each one of us carries in our own souls.

I knew I was hooked as the episode of the rape of Dr. Melfi unfolded. Dr. Melfi is Tony's psychiatrist who is attacked, robbed and raped in the stairwell of her office building. Her case is bungled by the police department, which loses the DNA samples taken in the Emergency Room after she is treated.

She eventually learns the identity of her assailant, and discovers where he works. For a brief moment, she seriously considers telling Tony, knowing that, as she says, "justice will finally be served."

I understood completely. More than that, I found myself secretly cheering her on. "Go ahead. Tell Tony. Tell him. Tell him!" I whispered loudly at the television set, unashamed and fully convinced of the rightness of the thing.

Frankly, I don't blame Tony for wanting to whack Pauli Walnuts. He is an irritating hypochondriac and a real jerk who rejected the woman who brought him up because she didn't tell him that she wasn't his biological mother. That would have been her sister, who was a nun who had had an affair with a priest.

Besides, Pauli talks too much and may jeopardize Tony and the whole Family, in fact, one day.

And, you know what? I don't think I'll ever forgive him for smelling Aid's underwear in front of Chris-toe-FAH.

See what I mean?

Hello. My name is Elizabeth and I'm a Soprano-addict.


Bill said...

After reading of Elizabeth's addiction, I don't feel so bad admitting to watching "Stargate" for the last ten seasons.

MadPriest said...

The Sopranos - Stargate
I'm sorry, Bill, but your guilt continues.

MadPriest said...

Tonight the Midnight Jukebox plays only for us, my love.

Lauren Gough said...

It is too long in NJ that does it to you Elizabeth. It is kinda like living in upstate NY. But I won't watch it, it is just too much like what is outside the door.

Magdalene6127 said...

(All together): "Hi Elizabeth!" You are welcome to this fellowship of powerless people.

Isn't it fun?



Bill said...

MP, you’re taking this out of context. Stargate is pure escapism. The Soprano’s on the other hand is not. I grew up in the north Bronx, in the adjoining parish to Mount Carmel. That is the little Italy of the Bronx. Later in life I lived in the Carol Gardens section of Brooklyn. Believe me when I tell you that what you see on television doesn’t come close to what I saw in real life. I lived through drive-by shootings. I witnessed beatings in the streets. We lived in a world of knowing who not to offend less you get your ass whipped.

I guess that’s why I can’t watch shows like the Soprano’s, or the Godfather series. I’ve just seen to much of the real thing.

The Ranter said...

Watching the Sopranos in Michigan is like old home week for me. I am always saying to my wife "Remember when we ate in that restaurant??"
The most bizarre Sopranos moment for me was Barb Soprano's father-in-law's funeral in season 2. It was in the same funeral home as my mother's, and there was the same rental-cross.
As for your addiction-- I am becoming more and more convinced that twelve step programs are cultish. Mine is driving me nuts with the codependent bullshit.
The Sopranos is fabulous, but I still think Six Feet Under is the best. And David, the one one son in Six Feet Under, is a gay Episcopalian Deacon, for a season or two anyway, before they totally dropped that plot line.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Well, Ranter, I LIVE here in Soprano-land. This is like watching some of my neighbors. The authenticity is amazing.

As for SIX FEET UNDER - well, I couldn't agree more. It was awesome. Simply awesome. The acting. The writing. Everything.

The final episode left me weeping for days. I had to watch it three times before I was finally able to watch it without sobbing and get the entirety of the episode.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Bill, I can't watch the Sopranos either. I feel battered afterwards. It is well-written and well-acted, but I can't watch.