The two Tonys square up


All of this is grotesquely simplifying a brilliant and complex modem drama which throws a million and one issues into the air: the divisions in the Italian/American community; the dilemmas of being unhappily married to a mobster and living handsomely off the proceeds and how that would fit with devout Catholicism: the role of therapy in modern America: sons and fathers/mothers; daughters and mothers/fathers: tradition versus modemisation; and. crucially. whether a mob boss would ever wear shorts at a barbecue.

So, four seasons and a fat stash of Emmys later. Steve Buscemi received an acting offer he could barely refuse. In typical ‘boss’ style. Chase sent one of his underlings to do his bidding. ‘Sheila Jaffe. the casting director. called me and I said. “What's up?" recalls Buscemi. ‘She sort of tipped me off and then a meeting was set up with David. I went in and talked to them and a lot of the other writers and they gave me the basic outline of what they wanted this character to be and why they thought that I was right for it. To be frank. I was flattered and honoured. ljust thought that you couldn’t pass up that kind of opportunity.‘

Buscemi’s character is Tony Blundetto. the cousin of

Tony Soprano. who is released from jail after 15 years inside for his own mob activities. He‘s now out. looking every inch a man whose life halted in I988. right down to the Miami Vice chic and David Byme Stop Making Sense suit. To Soprano‘s disgust. it seems that Blundetto is seeking the straight and narrow. Having been sucked into 52 episodes of paranoia and mistrust paralleled only by 24 at its finest. the minute a major new character appears. you assume that they‘ll soon be up to no good.

In series two, Richie Aprile came out of the can to reclaim his turf and undermine Tony. stealing business and screwing his sister Janice. Richie made the fatal

a T"! Liar 5—12 Aug 2004

error of pushing both too far and ended tip swimming with the proverbials. Then there was the inscrutable. bewigged. murderous cad Ralphie (‘ifaretto (the superb Joe Pantoliano) who greased his way into the third series. beating strippers to death. refusing a drink from the boss (which is on par with calling his daughter a filthy goomah). having his own girlfriend‘s son killed then leaving her for the troubled lattice. only to swim with yet more proverbials for torching Tony‘s beloved horse Pie-O-My.

But surely little Steve Buscemi (the relatively mild- mannered hood with hue issues in Rt’Sl’l‘l'Uii' Dogs: the middle—aged oddball in Ghost World; ‘Test Tube’ in King o/‘Nr'w York: the reluctant kidnapper who comes to a sticky end as wtmdchipper fodder in l-iirgn: and the mad scientist Romero in Spy Kids). everyone‘s favourite nerdish uncle couldn‘t play a dangerous psycho in the Ralphie/Richie vein‘.’ lispecially when it seems clear that he‘s only retreading his home steps to set up in business as a professional masseur while searching for his long lost daughter? Then again. leopards. spots and all that.

So Steve. what‘s it to be then'.’ ‘Usually. when I do press for a film. I try not to give away a lot because I really don‘t want to ruin it for the audience. But this has to be just nothing. No. Never. It‘s hard when my friends ask rue and ljust have to say. “You know what. I really can't talk about it.” This sounds almost as though Buscemi has taken the legendary omerta. the swom oath of silenzio. or played that favourite gangland get—out-of- jail-by-snitching-on-y()ur-brother card. ‘If I was in the Witness Protection Programme.’ he chuckles. ‘no one would even know I was on the show.’ We love that laugh.

The Sopranos starts on E4, Tue 10 Aug, 10pm and Channel 4, Mon 16 Aug, 11.05pm.

Has the era of the great American TV show come to an end? Getouttahere. Here’s a batch coming to a British small screen near you soon . . .

Show Deadwood

It’s the new Sopranos (with stetsons)

The deal Beginning two weeks after General Custer’s defeat at Little Big Horn. the drama combines fictional and real-life characters and events in an epic morality tale Who’s in it Brad Dourit, Ian McShane. Molly Parker. Keith Carradine Where Sky One When 21 September

Show The 4400 It’s the new X Files The deal

In one single day. 4400 alien abductees from the 19503 are returned from the skies and attempt to readjust to life on earth Who’s in it Peter Coyote. Joel Gretsch, Jacqueline McKenzie Where Sky One When Winter

Show The Grid It’s the new 24 The deal Young American and British counter- terrorism agents collaborate to

" disrupt a terrorist cell hellbent on destroying the world's economy Who’s in it Julianna Margulies. Tom Skerritt, Jemma Redgrave Where 8802 When 2005

Show Bart/ester Galactica It’s the new Bart/estar Galactica

The deal Twelve colonies of humans have been destroyed and the Cylons are after more blood; and Starbuck is played by a woman! Who’s in it Mary McDonnell, Edward James Olmos Where Sky One When October

Show Nip/Tuck It’s the new Six Feet Under (with plastic surgeons) The deal Two plastic Surgeons. try to keep their lives afloat Who’s in it Julian McMahon. Joely Richardson Where Channel 4

When 11 August

I See Watch It This Week, page 49, for review.