Monday, June 11, 2007

TV: Tony & The Tonys

Isn’t that a clever title? I’ll bet I’m the only person who uses it, too.

Thanks to the wonder of the East Coast feed, I was able to watch both the series finale of The Sopranos and the Tony Awards without resorting to the DVR. A few words on each. I’ll insert a SPOILER warning here. But c’mon. If you didn’t watch The Sopranos last night, I’ll assume you just don’t care.

Last chance.

I liked the finale. A lot. Millions of fans didn’t. Want to have a laugh? Head over to Technorati and search for “Sopranos” and “WTF?” You’ll spend the rest of the day there.

If you want to screw with your audience – I mean well and truly upset them – you’ve got two choices. Give ‘em exactly what they want, or exactly what they don’t want. Thomas Harris went the first route in Hannibal. Fans wished there were some way Dr. Lecter and Clarice could get together and make it work. He granted their wish and forced them to consider what they had been asking for.

David Chase took Door #2. Sopranos fans were clamoring for the Russian to wander in from the Pine Barrens, for Tony to go down singing or swinging but to at least go down, goddamn it, for there to be some kind of resolution. And Chase, in a brilliantly shot and scored final scene, said to those fans, “You haven’t been paying attention at all, have you?”

Already there are two interpretations of what transpired when the screen went black, the Tony-got-whacked-and-we-don’t-see-it camp, and the life-goes-on-and-we-don’t-see-it camp. (For the record, I’m firmly in the latter. I never even considered the former.) What matters is what the dual outcomes share. We don’t see it. It’s right there in the haunting final scene with Uncle Junior, when Tony reminds him that he and his brother once ran all of North Jersey. “We did?,” the senile Uncle Junior replies. “That’s nice.” All that work. All that blood and death. Already faded from memory.

The audience may hate it now, but mark my words. In a few years’ time The Sopranos will be remembered for going out without making compromises.

As for the Tony Awards, it was a livelier telecast than in recent years. Several of the numbers have me interested in seeing the shows the next time I’m in New York. But the only nominated performer I saw (Brooks Ashmankas in Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me) didn’t win, and the divine Kiki & Herb lost, so on the whole it was a wash. The Tony audience made like an oil painting during the comedy bits. How can America get excited about the show if the crowd in Radio City can’t?

When I first saw the ad for CBS’s V iva L aughlin, I got chills. When I saw it for the tenth time approximately forty minutes later, I was over it already. It’s a musical. We get it.