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Old 04-07-07, 10:29 PM
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"Sopranos" last run poses: will Tony die?

"Sopranos" last run poses: will Tony die?
By Arthur Spiegelman Today at 1:36 am

He is a fat, balding, heavy-breathing man with an explosive temper and a reptilian gaze. Starting on Sunday and lasting nine weeks, Americans are going to be on tenterhooks, wondering if he will live or die.

He is, of course, mob boss Tony Soprano, the first of a new breed of anti-hero to dominate the U.S. television screen, a character whose corrupt, sometimes murderous deeds have failed to stop a large part of America from adoring him.

Now everyone wants to know, as "The Sopranos" heads into its final nine episodes after six acclaimed seasons on cable channel HBO, whether Tony gets whacked or whisked into the witness protection program.

Will Tony, the conflicted head of a northern New Jersey crime family, get the last laugh, or will the state, federal and local law enforcement agencies pursuing him all these years come out on top?

One hallmark of the show has been that it is often hard to tell the good guys from the bad ones. And as far as honor among thieves is concerned, forget about it.

Tony, played by James Gandolfini, inhabits a world where he can trust no one, not even his own mother, who in collusion with an uncle once tried to have him killed. They failed, and Tony thought seriously about killing mom.

Media scholar Robert Thompson, head of Syracuse University's Center for the Study of Popular Television, said Tony Soprano's persona as a "lovable, huggable murderer" helped him cultivate a huge following.

"This was a show that demonstrated how novelistic and how sophisticated television could be," Thompson said. "It is not only about bad guys, it's about people who are at the heart, horribly, morally corrupted individuals. But at the same time, they were presented in a way where we really could identify with them."

Instead of bringing the show to commercial broadcast television, series creator and guiding light David Chase struck a deal with HBO to carry the program. Its runaway success helped give HBO new clout in the industry and raised the bar creatively for television as a whole.

As a subscription-based channel free of the advertising and regulatory constraints facing commercial television, HBO could let "The Sopranos" indulge in sexually frank scenes and profanity, with Tony uttering such bon mots as: "You don't **** where you eat. And you really don't **** where I eat."

That line was chosen by Fred R. Shapiro, editor of "The Yale Book of Quotations," as one of the 10 best lines from the program. Another was Tony's line, "I won't pay. I know too much about extortion."

NO MESSAGE

Terence Winter, a writer and producer on the series, said the show was not intended to convey any message about corruption, morality or family values, even though almost every episode is a study in moral corruption.

"Art asks questions. It doesn't give answers," he said in a recent interview. "We don't feel and we're not beholden by any kind of pressure from anywhere to wrap stories up in a neat bow or to explain things or to necessarily have a moral at the end of the day.

"Certain people think Tony lives a very glamorous life. And certain people think, 'I wouldn't want to be Tony Soprano for all the money in the world.' We don't take a position. ... We just sort of present the characters for who they are."

As far as Winter is concerned, the more uncertainty about how the series ends, the better.

"We are so sworn to secrecy. And truth is, the audience really doesn't want to know, they think they want to know. They don't. You want to see it go down and enjoy whatever happens."

(additional reporting by Steve Gorman)

Reuters/Nielsen

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`Sopranos' star ready for show to end
Yesterday at 4:11 pm

The time has come for HBO's "The Sopranos" to be rubbed out. And Michael Imperioli is ready for the end.

The 41-year-old actor returns as Christopher Moltisanti for the final season of the Emmy-winning mob drama, which premieres Sunday (9 p.m. EDT).

"I love the show," Imperioli told AP Radio in a recent interview. "It's gonna be sad to leave it. I think the timing is right to end it."

What's in store for his character?

"I would like to end it in the psychiatric hospital with Uncle Junior," he joked. "It's probably gonna end, I would imagine, not the way people expect."

Imperioli said he hopes Tony Soprano, played by James Gandolfini, won't allow Christopher to take over as mob boss.

"If it ends with me as the boss then what's the point, it's over, right? Then I don't get to enjoy it," he laughed. "I don't have any desires in that how it ends. I mean, I know however it's going to end, it's going to be interesting and appropriate."

He said it would be funny if Christopher's fiancee, Adriana La Cerva (Drea de Matteo), got revenge on him.

"Maybe (she) comes from beyond the grave, makes him a zombie and brings him to the netherworld. I don't know, I always thought he could be killed by Adriana but that's not gonna happen," he said.

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