Monday, April 16, 2007

I saw this on the teevee

Got some TV to talk about, but first I wanted to link to Jog's review of Grindhouse (focusing mostly on "Death Proof"). It's probably the best review of the film(s) I've read, and it makes me jealous of his writing ability (not to mention his keen insight and knack for spotting themes, symbolism, and recurring motifs). Anyway, here's some words about

The Sopranos (season 6.5/7, epidodes 1-2):

I believe the official line is that this final group of episodes in the series are supposed to be the second half of the sixth season, but there has been a large enough time gap (in real life and in the world of the show) since the last episode, that this is really a whole new season. So I'll call it season 7 from now on.

Anyway, wow, the first two episodes have been really good. The premiere went the usual Sopranos route, defying expectations to give us a character study focusing on Tony's relationship with Bobby rather than get us all caught up on the cast. The catching up had to wait until the second episode, in which we find that Christopher is back in AA and finishing his movie, Meadow has broken up with Finn, AJ is living with his girlfriend (and having relationship difficulties), and Johnny Sack is dying of cancer. But I'll get to all that in a second. Back to the first episode, in which Tony reaches out to Bobby to possibly become his new successor. He expresses disappointment in Christopher, which I originally thought was due to his drug problem but turned out to be due to Christopher pulling away from Tony and the "family" to focus on the movie and avoid falling back into addiction. The creators of the show are great at doling out details like this, and they've built this huge cast of characters and allowed us to get to know them over the time we've spent with them, so they're confident that they don't need to spell everything out; we can just watch their expressions and body language to find out what we need to know.

So Tony was thinking about Bobby, it seems, but their fistfight probably put a stop to that line of exploration. Looks like Bobby will choose Janice over Tony, and you can't put family before "family" in Tony's world. So he punishes Bobby by sending him to assassinate a guy when he just confessed that he had never killed anyone. And wow, he was sloppy. That's going to come back and bite them all on the ass, I imagine.

So it was one of those good season openers that focused on characters and set the mood for the coming episodes. I'm not sure what the "theme" of these final episodes will be, but after they're done, I'll probably be able to look back and realize it was obvious.

But then we get to the second episode, and it got us caught up and then some. Between Johnny Sack's illness (great Sydney Pollack appearance, by the way), the premiere of the movie, and the discord among the New York family, a lot happened. The movie looked pretty bad, but it was interesting the way Christopher's issues with Tony were so obvious to everybody. I loved the bit where Tim Daly was struggling to try to cover this up for Christopher, and his ensuing argument with Paulie (who is probably my favorite character). "I can see where you would be confused, because Judy Holliday's character in the movie is named Billie". "I've never seen the movie! How could I be confused?". That made me laugh out loud.

Tony's relationship with Christopher might be one of the biggest plots to wrap up in this final season. It's been a big part of the series since the beginning, and it seems to be building to some sort of final confrontation. Tony's talk with Dr. Melfi was quite moving, especially when he was trying to hold back tears. That's some award-level acting right there. I think Adriana's death is also going to come into play, especially if/when Carmela finds out the truth. That could be what sparks a final explosion of confrontation and death.

But will that happen? The obvious ending to the show would be a bloodbath, with everyone (or mostly everyone; I doubt all the peripheral cast will die) ending up dead. A tragic, Shakespearean ending. But I'm sure the creators will find ways to surprise us. Tony could end up being the last man standing, but losing everything and possibly ending up in jail. Or Tony and Carmela might end up killing each other (and Christopher), leaving Bobby and Janice as the heads of the Soprano family. Phil Leotardo is obviously going to play a big role, as he gets dragged back into the game in this episode (by the way, the scene in which Silvio gets blood splattered on him at the dinner table was amazing). Whatever the case, it will be exciting to watch. It's been riveting television; we're in the final act of an amazing story here, and I can't wait to see how it plays out.

I thought about reviewing the new episodes of Entourage, but I don't really have much to say about them. It's an enjoyable show, but it's very light, with few really memorable moments. It seems to have fallen into formula, hitting similar notes each episode and gradually advancing a continuing plot. I'll probably continue watching it (as long as it keeps following The Sopranos), but I doubt I would miss it if I stopped.

One show I will miss, however, is Andy Barker, P.I. It got cancelled after six episodes, and NBC aired the final two last Saturday. It was a hilarious show, building character moments from episode to episode, whether it was Andy's fixation on accounting and aversion to swearing, Tony Hale's obsession with movies, the Arabic guy's patriotic fervor, Andy's wife's worrying, or Harve Presnell's nonsensical (and usually racist) ramblings. And the plots were great, with believable mysteries which usually resulted in Andy running away from gunfire or getting beat up. Good times. I'll miss it, and wonder what could have been.