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The Sopranos: The Final Season

After more than eight years and six seasons, the saga of the New Jersey crime family will come to a close after nine more episodes.
Mervyn Rothstein
From the Print Edition:
Sopranos, Mar/Apr 2007

(continued from page 4)

When Chase was planning the two-hour pilot for "The Sopranos," he said, he had no idea that it would turn into a six-season, eight-year success story. He wasn't, in fact, looking to create a TV series. He was trying to use the pilot to get out of television, to create something that would showcase his abilities so he could get a job directing movies. (It was, he said, a career move that didn't work out the way he planned.)

The fact that "The Sopranos" was rejected by every major television network before it landed at HBO has become an iconic part of television history. "I did not want to do this until we got involved with HBO," he said. "And then it changed everything."

The classic first season featured an epic duel between Tony and his mother, Livia, memorably portrayed by Nancy Marchand. Livia was the dreadful mother to end all dreadful mothers: conniving, duplicitous, demeaning—every word that emanated from her mouth was calculated to induce profound guilt. And, of course, toward the end of that premiere season, she collaborated with Tony's Uncle Junior in an unsuccessful attempt to have her son blown away.

How did Chase come up with such a creation? Well, he admitted, Livia was based, at least in part, on real life—his own.

"My mother was fairly much like Livia Soprano," he told his appreciative audience. "Livia is based on my mother. My wife told me constantly that I have to write about my mother."

His own mother, he said, was "terribly funny and crazy." It was "endlessly amusing how off the wall she was." So, he said, he thought it would be interesting to figure out how he could "channel this without it being another 'whining about your mother story.' "

"I had been to therapy because of my mother," he said, and that's how Tony came to be in therapy.

The fact that Tony visits a psychotherapist has been controversial from the beginning. Some viewers have questioned how, why or whether a mob boss would ever wind up spending time in a therapist's office, especially a female therapist. (On the other hand, many psychotherapists and professional groups have applauded the realistic nature of the sessions.) First, the dissenters said, mob figures have never been known for their introspection. And Tony rarely if ever pays attention to the strong women in his life. So why does he constantly go back to Dr. Jennifer Melfi?

"I think that, frankly, she is a respite, a quiet hour or two in his week," Chase said. "She's an attractive woman. She'll listen to him without saying anything back to him. She never remonstrates with him. She never nags him. He's got all these guys around him all the time. She's a haven of peace."

Chase admitted that for a long time he was worried "that people would say, 'Oh, that's bullshit, a mob guy doesn't see a therapist.' Then I heard two years ago that Frank Costello went to a therapist."

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