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October 23, 2014

Top TV Stories of 2007: The Sopranos finale

by Jonathan Toomey, posted Dec 26th 2007 8:00AM
The final shot from the series finale of The Sopranos.
Remember that? 86 episodes and how does it end? Black. The end of an era. Clichéd, yes -- but still true. June 10th, 2007 marked the conclusion of one of the biggest cultural phenomenons we've ever seen. HBO's The Sopranos. Everyone watched it and whether or not you loved or hated the series finale doesn't really matter. Why? Because we're still talking about it.

Tony's dead. Tony's alive. He's a zombie. But what about that orange he ate earlier in the episode? I think the guy with the Member's Only jacket shot him. Didn't he eat that onion ring as if it were a communion wafer? God intervened! It was the last supper. I think there's hidden meaning to the lyrics of "Don't Stop Believin.'" And on... and on... and on...

You've heard all the theories and speculation and from everything I've seen or read, it doesn't look like David Chase ever plans to offer more explanation than what he's already given us. The Sopranos is over. Interpret it however you like. Regardless of however you see it, you have to admit -- HBO has never been the same since that screen went black.

The final farewell to Tony, Carmela, AJ, and Meadow signaled more than just a conclusion(?) for every true TV fan in existence. It marked the beginning of a huge transitional phase for HBO. The Sopranos was, and in many ways still is, the trademark show of HBO. It's easy enough to argue that no matter how good a pilot they may greenlight in the years to come, nothing will ever be as synonymous with HBO as The Sopranos.

If you don't believe me about the whole transitional phase, just look at HBO's current state since The Sopranos bowed:

  • The two concluding Deadwood movies won't get made according to Ian McShane.
  • Deadwood's "replacement" John From Cincinnati was horrible.
  • While most regarded season four of Entourage to be just so-so, HBO did find critical success in the freshman comedy Flight of the Conchords. While I really enjoyed FotC, I don't see it being the savior HBO needs. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the programming decision to air season four of Entourage right after season three ended. Why not save the 12 new episodes for a few months? Last I checked... HBO has pretty much nothing on right now until the New Year.
  • Instead, they aired a season of Curb Your Enthusiasm all by itself.
  • And yes, I do mean "all by itself." Tell Me You Love Me counts for nothing. HBO pumped it so much and it tanked in the ratings every week when put up against the second season of Showtime's Dexter. When's the last time you ever remember HBO not owning a Sunday night?
  • The Wire returns in January, and while it's pretty much the best thing HBO has ever done (better than The Sopranos if you ask me), let's be honest. The show has never been one to bring in huge ratings. Plus, it's the last season. That's another set of HUGE shoes to fill.
  • Also in January? The most logistically complicated scheduling nightmare I've ever seen for a new series. I see no way at all that anyone will be able to keep up with In Treatment.

Not exactly a lot of positive stuff. The Sopranos ended and a lot changed. Gone was that swagger that we've always known HBO to have. There's just not much incentive anymore. Once The Wire finishes, I'm done. I'll probably subscribe again when Entourage returns, but I could still wait for the DVD no problem.

My personal opinion of The Sopranos finale? I don't think David Chase had any idea whatsoever. He stalled. Couldn't make a decision on Tony's life. The black screen? A cheap shot. A cop out. The fact remains though. When that screen went black, so did HBO. Maybe Tony is dead. But if he is, HBO is in that dark grave with him. If you consider the recent success of their main competitor Showtime (look at all the Golden Globe nominations) and FX rolling out a list of hits on basic cable, it might be a while before we see HBO truly bounce back. That Sopranos movie really needs to get made.


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