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The Sopranos: Mob Rule

The wiseguys of HBO's "The Sopranos" take a shot at another season of the award-winning show.
Mervyn Rothstein
From the Print Edition:
The Sopranos, Mar/Apr 01

Tony Soprano and Silvio Dante sit at a table at Nuovo Vesuvio restaurant. Amid brightly lit round paper lanterns, hanging lamps and in front of a mural of the Bay of Naples, the duo discusses the questionable future of a colleague.

Cocksucker turns his back on the boss, Tony says.

That I couldn't believe, Silvio replies.

He's lucky I didn't put a bullet through his fucking head, Tony responds.

This could only be a scene from The Sopranos, the Mafia show that has become the highest-rated series in HBO history. Viewers across the country eagerly await the new season, which starts March 4, of the hit Mob opera about a troubled, Prozac-popping, middle-aged scion of organized crime whose relatives and friends give him a potentially terminal case of heartburn.

What new problems will be faced by Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini), who possesses at least a partly good soul and who must cope daily with his two dysfunctional families -- the one at home and the one at work? Will Tony's loving and unhappy wife, Carmela (the Emmy-winning Edie Falco), continue to accept a relationship in which her husband is steadily unfaithful? How will their teenage son, A. J. (Robert Iler), deal with his knowledge of the way his father earns a living? And what new battles for independence will rage with their daughter, Meadow (Jamie-Lynn Sigler), now that she is off to college?

Will Tony's psychiatrist, Dr. Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco), continue to treat her dangerous client? Will his Machiavellian Mob antagonist, Uncle Junior (Dominic Chianese), come up with another plot to have his nephew blown away? And what of Tony's mother, Livia, who once agreed to have her precious son rubbed out? Now that Nancy Marchand, the actress who portrayed her, has died, how will the writers deal with her character?

And then there is Tony's artistic and brutal nephew, Christopher (Michael Imperioli), himself an eager killer; and Silvio Dante (Steven Van Zandt) and Paulie Walnuts (Tony Sirico), Tony's loyal sidekicks. Will the 2001 season include anything new about Big Pussy, who, after last season's finale, now sleeps with the fishes? Or Tony's flower-child sister, Janice, now returned to the West Coast, and her crazy and evil boyfriend, Richie, who was done away with by a bullet from the hand of his beloved? And what new characters will be added to the delightfully vicious stew; a pot brimming with violence, nudity and verbal expletives that would be deleted anywhere on television except premium cable? Only the writers know the answers, and they're not talking.

Filmed in a former bakery in Queens, New York, The Sopranos has been praised by critics as an ambitious artistic success, the best show of this year and many others, and as an addictive audience-pleaser, the rare show viewers actually talk and get excited about. It is a series and a concept unique to the mind of David Chase, its creator and executive producer, a television veteran who first tried, unsuccessfully, to sell it to the broadcast networks before it found a home at HBO.

I was looking for the notion that life is so complex now that even a wiseguy needs help sorting it out, Chase once told The New York Times. Plus, the Mob as we know it has taken some pretty heavy hits from law enforcement.

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