Friday, June 15, 2007

Don’t Stop Bellyaching

Ask Mr. Long IslandBy Michael Watt

Okay, so Tony Soprano didn’t die. Or maybe he did. We’ll never know, at least until the movie comes out. The movie? Oh yeah, there will be a movie. “Sopranos” creator David Chase can deny it all he wants but just as you can be sure a Lohan Family reunion will require at least one restraining order, you can be sure “The Sopranos” will make it to the silver screen.

I did not have a big problem with how “The Sopranos” ended Sunday. Remember “Lady, or the Tiger”? That short story, which many of us had to read in grammar school, leaves the reader hanging, wondering whether the princess in the story points her would-be lover toward the door hiding a tiger or the door hiding a beautiful woman. The way I see it Chase did the same thing with “The Sopranos” ending, and he did for a couple of reasons.

For one thing, Chase wanted to make fun of us for paying so much attention to such silliness. They’re fictional characters, for gosh sakes. Murderers. Liars. Cheaters. The kind of people who – when they’re late returning books to the library - use the drop off bin to avoid paying the late fee. I’ll bet you Tony - and AJ, too, for that matter – doesn’t ever put the cap back on the toothpaste. Chase’s message was, “You people should have a lot more important things to worry about than whether Tony’s going to flip or die.”

I also think Chase was in a Malthusian no-win situation. There was no way to close the series that would please everyone. He’s not the first creative force to face this dilemma, either. Some of the great television series of our time ran into the same problem. Very few people, for instance, were happy with how “Seinfeld” ended. The final episode of “M*A*S*H” was a disaster that seemed to last longer than the Korean War; and the final “Friends” was sappier than a stack of pancakes slathered in Aunt Jemima syrup and left out in the hot sun.

I have documented in this space the genius featured in the ending of the second “Bob Newhart” show: Bob waking up in bed with his wife from the first “Bob Newhart” show, freaked out by a “dream” he had about owning an inn in Vermont. But in my book the best “last episode” was the ending of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Everybody but Ted Baxter the buffoon anchorman (redundant?) gets fired and they all have to leave the newsroom. Nobody wants to, of course, so while still in the midst of one last group hug they shuffle out en masse, while singing “It’s a long way to Tipperary.” I laughed. I cried. So do the rest of America.

No, I did not have a problem with how "The Sopranos" ended. I did have a problem, however, with Mr. Chase’s use of the Journey song, “Don’t Stop Believing.”

Like a lot of people as I watched “The Sopranos” over the years I became more and more enthralled with the show. The word “genius” gets tossed around too much these days but Chase certainly had a genius for drawing the viewer into the program, so much so that almost every time the show ended I would be caught by surprise when the credits started to roll, forgetting that I was watching a television program as I became totally absorbed in the drama and action.

As a result, after a while I began to think that this Chase fellow might be smarter than your average bear. Then he picks a Journey song. Journey! A mediocre band from a mediocre musical era. Just look at sample verse:

Some will win,
some will lose
Some were born to sing the blues
Oh, the movie never ends
It goes on and on and on and on

Now, the hours spent learning literature from Len Gougeon at the University of Scranton may not have resulted in my becoming an imagery expert, but for my money there are not a whole of lot creative juices at work here. Couldn’t Chase have gone with something from Tom Waits or even that noted Jersey native, Bruce Springsteen?

More aggravating than anything, however, is that I have had that stupid song stuck in my head all week.

Whatever. Now it’s so long “Sopranos.” I’ve already canceled my subscription to HBO (who needs to pay a channel that runs “Momma’s House 2” six times a week.) I’ve also sworn off getting roped into watching another serial show. I hope to use the extra hour a week to finish the book I am working on, which no doubt will one day be made into a movie. I have to believe that to make it happen, but you can be sure the theme song won’t be “Don’t Stop Believing.”

Thank you for reading this column.

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