IT WAS BILLED AS THE MOB VERSUS THE Government. The suits were out in force perhaps pieces were being concealed as The System came up against The Family. But in the world of TV award evenings. the only beatings administered are to those who end the evening as they started it: as. mere no inees. At the recent Emmy Awards. and to t utter astonishment of many. the Mob were heavily defeated. The .S'opranos got just one gong and the White House drama West Wing swept to ' ' a live trophies. “ailure' oft i‘ -frien h over al

moral lead to society. implying that we ~ should have had more than enough of the sustained level of violence and cursing within David Chase's hit series. In other .Mob words. The Sopranos is always with the punching. the slapping. the bruising. the shooting and the strangling.

Yet. everyone loves a gangster. don't they? Note the rose-tinted reaction when the late Reggie Kray was recently reprieved from incarceration due to his cancerous state. When the film version of the East End’s most J; ft us felons arrived in I990. the we more gasps of horror at ' the sig t angster kissing a man tha atthe moment a villain to.a snooker table. Or ‘ere just over-

sensitive Sp iilarl Cagney. Ed ran Pesci and De .'1

' . s screen n .. ~ thei names and a fond s e cot ' the


And it‘s now the same with ny Soprano. Heavyweight actor Ja s Gandolfini is used to playing c unreconstructed baddie. so he was clearly delighted to be offered a more complex role. ‘One minute you‘re laughing. the next there‘s a violent scene.‘ he has said. ‘Tony is a guy who always tries to do the right thing in his mind. which ends up screwing everybody"s life. Like blowing up a friend's restaurant to stop a hit; nobody would think like that.’

For those unaware of The Soprano twhaddafuckyoubeendoin‘ all this time. huh'.’ it goes a bit like this. The series centres on Mob activities in New Jersey. in particular the iii-fighting between Tony Soprano and his L'ncle Junior. Both have secrets which threaten the integrity and secrecy by which the .Mob live: Tony has been seeing a therapist after a series of panic attacks while Junior

(he‘s in his late 60s) has developed a taste for oral sex; ‘they say if you suck pussy. you’ll suck anything] he says to his younger girlfriend. as a warning for her to keep schtum. She doesn't and ends up with a lemon meringue pie in her face.

Meanwhile. Tony‘s mother Livia (a large source of his astronomic stress lev" ' as taken badly to her son putting her ' home (‘Ma. it's a retirement C(

» ' ' ims every episode). Havin 0 Junior's side. Tony

I O C C 'f o ' I o A . g 00 - ’.o o: o

conclusion at engineered a It

Whateve the -t ‘ay. it is the sheer visc ral and cc of The Soprartos which mak (if

tit repulsive) viewing. mob

e the second most y. ial on L'S screens. The col ' s 2 . tpsons are almost L ~'tt saddled with e ft "ng and conniv prec 'ids and a w struggles ne sense stability. 'one

distraction he

And like Matt Groening. creator David Chase and his writing team are so far in the popular cultural loop. they simply can’t stop themselves from dropping hip references all over the place. Martin Scorsese makes a fleeting appearance while Peter Bogdanovich plays Tony‘s therapist's own shrink: Michael lmperioli (Tony‘s nephew Christopher) inflicts

articular leg-wound which he received from

' in Good/'ellas; and there are witty

~~'ingly expected references to )(lflllhé’l‘ and Analyze This.

Perhaps our connection

with the show is not that it

is a bunch of gangsters

'ng all the stuff we e t of them plus a few

things we wouldn't or that

it is rammed with post-

modern pointers ‘or that the

female characters are

complex creations. fighting

. ‘tfor their futures rather than

- whinging about their weight. Maybe it is just very good at laying bare all the crises that 20th/21st century life throws up. ,/ Tony is the epitome of millennium man in doubt. not quite sure of

his role at home or at work

(which one is his real

family; the Sopranos. the

mobsters or the ducks who

inhabited his pool?) Livia

represents our fear of

getting old and society‘s

uncertainty of how we

should help the ever-

increasing numbers of

aged. Tony’s therapist Dr

Melft is the liberal nutshell

of attitudes to crime:

should we try to understand

the perpetrator or act as a

living. breathing neighbourhood watch

scheme (should we get

wh has. involved in the name ofjustice. even if it

means putting ourselves at risk?)

It is the sense of the real that lifts The Sopranos away from the soppy soap it could well have been had it ended up on a major network channel. rather than c‘able station HBO. It's unapologetically un-pc. sexually frank and keen on showing both the bright and brutal sides of life. But as the critics at home and in the media have recognised. it's always

'ith the quality. \

Sopranos starts on Channel 4, Thu 12 Oct, .30pm.

5—‘9 Oct 2000 “ST 19