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Disorganised crime: The Sopranos


- The Sopranos

' Midlife crises don’t usually figure in

» While Italian/American gangsters have

. in giving them exposure other than in


The adrenaline rush of the poker table ' has long exerted a wallet-busting

taste the danger of the game without 1 burning up the overdraft. Over six 7 programmes, 40 players will sit down 3 with £1500 of their own money. Drawn from all sections of society, the : players range from students and

' Iranian Royal . presumably blown greater wads of

during a scene in a retirement home).

Anthony 'Tony’ Soprano, played by James Gandolfini, is a man With problems and he has taken them all to psychiatrist Dr Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco). Among their number is his demanding family a hatchet-faced ungrateful old mother; a brash Wife who suffers fools as gladly as she Will put up With her husband; a nephew whose mob ambitions lead him to some inadVisable acts; his uncle Whose old-style methods run contrary to the 90s mobster.

It is Tony’s fear of losing his family (and Family) that is leading him to depression and anXiety attacks sparked off by the desertion from his pool of the ducks he had grown to love. The dangers of falling into Little Italy cliches are many (matriarchal figureheads, very public shows of emotion, the love of food etc), but here it is av0ided by a mixture of strong acting, very sharp dialogue and a propensity to shock the Viewer leaving them unsure Where to turn. Let yourself be carried to the mob.

(Brian Donaldson)

Channel 4, starts Thu 15 Jul, 10pm.

your average mob drama. But, The Sopranos is no average mob drama.

had a fair crack in cinema (The Godfather, Goodfe/las and The Untouchables), TV has been less kind

sideshow roles as Big Bad Wolves.

Now all that has changed with the arrival in the UK of the series which offered up blood and laughs in equal measure. Adored by critics and viewers alike, it received a batch of nomina- tions from the Viewers For Quality Television organisation which provides an accurate gauge towards the year’s Emmy prizewinners.

Set in New Jersey, The Sopranos comes courtesy of writer David Chase, one of the scribblers behind the 70s cultish classic that was The Rockford Files (and in true postmodern nod-nod Winky-winky style, the theme tune to the James Garner vehicle is heard

dosh before breakfast.

The series follows a knock-out tournament structure With two players from each round going through to the final game and taking all their Winnings With them. Glass tables give viewers the opportunity to see what hands all the different players have and two commentators, former poker pro Jesse May and Niz Szeremeta of the European Poker Players’ Association, give a running explanation of who is doing what and why.

’All the shows are completely different,’ says May, the author of Shut Up And Deal. ’In one show you might have a player who is just going to run over the table and nothing is going to stop him. In another, there’s one guy who just happens to get unbelievably lucky. Everyone has a chance to win, even though they might be up against someone who has won a world series poker tournament.’

Of course, everybody has a better chance of losing. 'It just shows you how fast things can turn around,’ murmurs Nic after a player loses enough to buy a reasonable second hand car. ’One minute, you’ve got E3000 and two hands later you’ve got £300.’

'He can't be happy about that,’ replies May in a superb example of poker-faced understatement.

(Tara Foster)

Late Night Poker

Channel 4, starts Sat 17 Jul, lZ30am.

Shark life: Late Night Poker

attraction on the foolhardy. Seduced by countless cowboy movies where entire ranches are won and lost on the turn of a hand, the game has drawn suckers like moths to a blowtorch. Channel 4’s new series, prosaically entitled Late Night Poker, affords card virgins and veterans alike the chance to

grannies to a close cousin of the Family who has

REVIEW ASSuming that you’re reading this

Though their inSistence that you

doomsday scenario news reports were

, have welcomed a meeting With your

. Omnibus: The Story Of

E Lucas and his sycophantic showbiz

seemed embarrassed to be involved - this was not Omnibus at its best. Objectivity? Dream on; not a negative word was spoken about the Holy Trinity I (now tetrarchy) and there was a distinct lack of fascinating insights into either the


Nostradamus Night

Channel 4, Sat 3 Jul ir t i is

reView, y0u’Il be wondering why Channel 4 devoted a Saturday night to telling us that the end was nigh.

shouldn’t believe everything you see on telly and reminders that their

not real must have prevented millions from taking to the streets a la War Of The Worlds.

Still, after eight hours of hell and damnation, you w0uld pretty much

maker. Highlights were probably the sensory attack of the Armageddon A-Z and the sight of the Aum cult followers (the wags who deCIded to drop some nerve gas in the Tokyo underground) danCing to Japanese ’pop' mUSlC, all wearing masks of their leader.

And then there was Reverend Lionel FanthOrpe (somewhat bizarrer given the title ’Father’) swanning around the south of France in search of the ’real Nostradamus'. So, the big question is: apocalypse when? (Brian Donaldson)

REVIEW Mark Lamarr Leaving

The 20th Century BBCZ, Sun 4 Jul * i i.

For his latest teleVisual excurSion, SOs throwback Mark Lamarr wears two hats on that Uberslicked crown of his: stand-up comedian and chat show host. Each week Lamarr's reflections upon the century focus on one issue. The first subject was crime.

Taking his cue from personal experience involvmg burglary and his bed being shat on Lamarr the stand- up targeted East End London gangsters Ronnie and Reggie Kray and Ronnie Knight, the latter tying in with his guest, Barbara Windsor.

Cheeky yet respectful, Lamarr proved to be at his best as chat show host. With a nod to Parkinson, he listened intently to Windsor talk about her near nervous breakdown upon discovering the extent of former partner Knight's Criminal actiVities. Yet, just minutes before this, his response to Bab’s suggestion that ’my tits aren't that big’ was the uncontrollable ejaculation, 'oh yes they are!’ Laddish, but fun. (Miles Fielder)


Crystal balls: Nostradamus Night

Heady Lamarr: Leaving The 20th Century

Star Wars, A Long Time Ago BBCl,Wed 7 Jul use

Praise the Force for Ewan McGregor, the only light (sabre) relief in this unrelentineg serious documentary on the sensation that is Star Wars. Traipsing round the Sahara in search of props left over from previous films, earnest dialogue between George

buddies, interviews with actors, past

and present, who quite frankly Forced:TheStory0fStarWars

world of filmmaking in general, or Star Wars in particular.

And What of the fans? Surely a portion of the allocated 50 minutes could have been used to air their views on the forthcoming prequel after all, it is they who have made Star Wars the phenomenon it is. An altogether disappointing documentary which seemed to serve no real purpose. (Kirsty Knaggs)

8—22 Jul 1999 THE “ST 93