In the last few days, Spouse and I have watched both the final episode of The Sopranos and the Simpsons Movie. Tomorrow night, we are planning to solve Rubik’s Cube, listen to the latest Beatles album and find out who shot J.R.
Seriously, it is sometimes difficult to comprehend how I can be so woefully behind the curve in relation to such cultural matters. Being late on The Simpsons Movie was just one of those things, I guess. Although I had expressed, in no uncertain terms, my desire to See! That! Movie! as soon as Spouse and I saw the trailer – I think it was shown in the theatre when we saw Mrs. Cryface and the Terrible Disease 2: This Time it’s Communicable – it so happened that we were both very busy at work when the film finally opened. Predictably, the film came and went with nary a kernel of theatre corn popped into my gaping maw.
The Sopranos was another thing entirely. [NB – SPOILER ALERT: If you are as big a loser as I am and haven’t yet seen the show, stop reading here, as there are one or two spoilers below. Come back and read the rest once you’ve seen the series – we’ll still be waiting.] When the show first came out, I was interested in it but didn’t have access to any network that showed it. I saw parts of one episode at a friend’s place – but didn’t know any of the characters or back story and didn’t want to disturb him with a zillion questions about those things while he was watching. Despite not being able to really follow the story, I had the sense that there was something unique and compelling about the show. Time went on and I would hear little bits and pieces in the mainstream media about the storyline. I remember Big Pussy’s death being reported on by CNN and every other news organization so much it started to feel like a real guy had been killed. I managed, however, to remain blissfully ignorant about most of the plot details; in the back of my head, I had decided that I wanted to watch the whole series, from the very first episode. I ignored the re-runs on local cable because I didn’t want to see them out of sequence.
The first Christmas Spouse and I were together, I expressed a desire for the boxed DVD set of the first season. Sweetly, my betrothed attempted to fulfill my expressed Christmas wish. Comically, she purchased the “fifth” season, rather than the “first”. After mocking her somewhat mercilessly, I then supplemented our nascent Soprano collection with the remaining season sets. I also set about trying to convince her to watch it with me. Her view was the series would be “too violent”; a difficult point to argue when on knows that the subject matter of the show is the Mafia. Nevertheless, persistence and my supernatural ability to annoy paid off and she ultimately agreed to watch an episode or two with me. Finally, when all of the episodes then broadcast and then available for sale had been assembled (I think we had them all up to the end of Season Six Part I), we sat down and started viewing. At first, we watched an episode here or there at night when summer network fare was less than compelling (I think we ended up starting to watch the series within a week or two after the final episode was broadcast this past June). Gradually, though, we picked up steam and on some Saturdays watched four and five episodes in a sitting (it will now be obvious to you that we do not have children). We enjoyed watching the show so much, we would even sometimes order in some Italian food – a nice lasagna or a plate of fettucine – and watch a few episodes. If we hadn’t also seen Life on Mars this year, I’d say it was the best series I’d watched all year (if you haven’t yet seen Mars, I have previously written about this show here (in the comments, scroll down to about the fifth last one).
We got to the end of Season Six Part I sometime in August or September. I immediately raced to the computer to see when the final remaining episodes would be available, and pre-ordered the discs from amazon.com. This, as it turned out, was a HUGE mistake. Originally, we expected the discs to arrive in early September. When mid-September rolled around, I checked the status of my order at amazon and was told that the discs would be arriving in October. I had to resist the temptation to just go out and buy the damn things, which were sitting in the window at the local HMV, taunting me. Same drill in October – and November – delivery delayed. Finally, they arrived on December 13th, but by that time both Spouse and I were waaaaaaaay too busy at work to even think about watching these things. Christmas came and went, and the Sopranos just didn’t fit into our holiday celebration plans – until late last week. On Saturday, we watched eight episodes. EIGHT!
As it happened, I read an article or two online over the last few months that discussed the “cut to black” at the end of the final episode, so that little surprise was kind of ruined for me in advance. Nevertheless, not knowing all the details of the storyline, and not having been a fan of the show when the episode was broadcast, the impact of the cut was kind of lost on me. On Sunday night, Spouse and I watched the final episode, and I knew it was coming, but it still really got me when it happened. Since then, we have been having the debate that I understand everyone else on teh Intarwebs has been having – whether Tony got whacked by the guy in the ball cap, or whether the cut to black represented the death of the viewer. I kind of like the latter proposition more – it would be too pat, predictable and morally convenient for the “bad guy” to just get killed in the final scene of the show. The beauty of The Sopranos was the depth and complexity of its moral landscape, and the “Tony dies” ending leaves no loose ends and nothing unresolved – the very antithesis of the entire previous show.
Next up for us: Deadwood, though we have also nominated The Wire as a possible worthy successor to the throne.