Saturday, November 09, 2013

Wrong Note

Title Card

The recent death of James Gandolfini1 reminded me of The Sopranos, 1999-2007;2 one of the best shows ever to appear on TV. Certainly in the wasteland that was and still is TV it was a gem.

Not everything on the show was of course a gem. The rather ham-fisted way the writers dealt with the Russian hit man and the fact he just vanishes never to be mentioned again is not a model of good story telling. In fact it is clumsy and mawkish.

Of course that was annoying, but not as annoying has people who took Tony Soprano for a "Hero"?!, or just an "ordinary guy". Well how many "ordinary guys" cold bloodily murder large numbers of people, when they aren't, blackmailing, selling drugs, dealing in brutal protection racks, prostitution etc, and of course regularly beating people up.

All too many fans seeing Tony, fighting with his wife, dealing with his kids and all sorts of everyday problems, including depression and seeing a shrink, foolishly concluded that Tony was "ordinary" and even worst some thought of him has a "good" guy.

Stuff and nonsense. This is a man who could and did order the murder of defenceless people. Who hypocritically pontificated about morality in one form or the other while presiding over torture and slaughter to make a dishonest living. Tony Soprano was bluntly a Sociopath.3

It is what someone does that tell us what he or she really is.  A serial killer is not made "normal" or "moral" by being kind to his dog, when he abducts people and tortures them to death. Tony's essential nature is shown by the fact that he presides over brutality and violence and that he kills without remorse. He is simply scum. The fact that he would deny it, merely indicates self deception and a huge dose of hypocrisy.

The comfortable life that all this criminal mayhem makes possible is why Tony's wife Carmela puts up, most of them time, with his affairs. She of course knows what is going on, but refuses to face it because it gives her a comfortable life. She has made her peace with the violence and terror and lives in denial. She is in other words an enabler of Tony's violence and criminality. So in her own way she fully supports her husbands criminality.

The ending of the series was in its own way a let down. The reviewers and fans who oooohhhhhed and aaaawwwwwed over the ending should have induced cringing and head shakes.

This was the ending in which Tony, his wife and son are in a Diner and we get a few shots of them and Tony and a man coming in and then the screen goes blank and black.4 The way some critics salivated over how clever this ending was, was in its own way stomach turning.

It was called new and daring and clever and unexpected and of course ambiguous. It was this ambiguity that was picked out has being the most "daring" and "clever" part of ending.

Actually it wasn't all that "clever" it was instead a rather obvious way of hedging their bets by the makers of the series.

Shows are created for TV for the purpose of selling advertising space. They are commercial not necessarily artistic enterprises. The Sopranos made money and so ending the show and thus eliminating the revenue stream was not something a commercial broadcaster likes to do. In this case the "obvious" ending of Tony being whacked had certain "problems" from the point of view of revenue streaming. Tony was both the central character in the drama and a highly popular character. Despite ending the show the idea of future revenue from a spin off or sequel was of course rather obvious but what if they actually killed Tony off? Well that would considerably reduce the chances that a spin off or sequel would work and generate a worthwhile revenue stream given how important and popular the Tony character was. Thus if they clearly killed Tony off they would be closing off a significant potential future revenue stream.

The result of all this was to have an ambiguous ending that left open the possibility of a spin off or sequel with the Tony character played by James Gandolfini. Thus preserving the potential future profitability of the Sopranos as a franchise.

So in other words the ending of The Sopranos was little more than a cheap gimmicky way of helping to protect future profitability of any further Soprano sequels or spin offs. It, in my opinion, ranks right down there with the infamous Pamela's dream season of Dallas5 as crass commercialism designed to save and earn maximum lucre from fans now and into the future.

Thus there was nothing brave or particularly clever about the ending of The Sopranos, it was an obvious way of concluding the show but leaving open the possibility of a sequel etc., and thus more revenue.

Of course James Gandolfini's death precludes any sequel with Tony although one should never underestimate the greed and shamelessness of TV executives.

In a industry driven by profit the ambiguous ending of The Sopranos was a rather obvious cowardly cop-out designed to help protect future potential profitability. Sadly for the TV executives James Gandolfini died and made the whole effort moot.

1. See James Gandolfini, Wikipedia Here.

2. The Sopranos, Wikipedia Here.

3. See Antisocial Personality Disorder. Wikipedia Here.

4. Footnote 2.

5. Dallas, Wikipedia Here.

Pierre Cloutier

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