Thursday, February 27, 2014

HBO's "The Sopranos": when gangsters get empathy

Well, finally, I watched some of HBO’s over-popular series “The Sopranos”, created by David Chase.  A lot was said about it when James Gandolfini passed away.
  
I enjoyed “The Godfather” movies when they came out; I think I saw the first one in New York City, maybe at the Ziegfield. 
  
Is the life of a mobster good fodder for comedy?  Well, to get audience ratings and make money, I guess so.
The series is shot in northern New Jersey. I lived there in 1972-1974, but I don’t recall where the falls are. 
  
In the Pilot in 1999, Tony Soprano talks about his life as a crime boss  (in the “Waste Management” business) and family protector to a female therapist after he was hospitalized for passing out in a panic attack at a family barbecue, almost  starting a fire.  She warns him that, despite doctor-patient confidentiality, she would have to report anything about murders or crimes to authorities.  That point was often made in 2012 after the James Holmes shootings in Aurora, CO (but other therapists had told me back in the 1960s that this is not true.)  Other funny things happen:  there are ducks in the family pool, and his mother resists being put in assisted living (not a nursing home).  She says women take better care of their parents than men. (The series opened the year of my mother’s coronary bypass surgery).   
  
He talks about how people will settle with the government to avoid “penal exposure”, and later he talks about a dream where his instrument falls off, and a bird (a pelican, or a duck) carries it away, as if he were Bobbitt.  Organized crime seems to be all about the Darwinian aspects of reproduction.   The mob is no longer recession proof.
  
There are plenty of flashbacks of mob violence, made funny.
  
The second and third episodes are called “46 Heat” and “Denial, Anger, Acceptance”.  Maybe in the early days the DMCA, DVD players were a hot commodity.
  
  
HBO’s site is here

Picture: where I lived in Caldwell, NJ, 1972-1973. 

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