David Koon, the Times' Mr. TV, chimes in on "The Sopranos" debut on A&E. A&E bought the syndicated HBO series reruns and the first one premiered this week.
"Sopranos" on A&E still The Sh(tuff)
I caught the pilot and first episode of "The Sopranos" last night on
A&E, where they undoubtedly paid megabucks for the franchise rights to
the HBO mob hit.
On A&E, the show is censored, though it is a fairly well-done censor —
nobody saying "Motherfathering socknuckers" in a voice two octaves
above normal, they way they do it when movies get bowdlerized for TBS.
It's very obvious that A&E/HBO had the original participants re-dub
substitutes for the naughty bits, and I think I even saw that the lips
of some participants had been digitally altered to make them match the
(clean) dialogue. As I said: Censorship, well done.
That said, "The Sopranos" isn't just the same without all the cussing.
Part of the appeal of the show is that you feel as if you've been
dunked head-first into a very dangerous world. And the fact of the
matter is: Dangerous men don't say "Forget you, motherlover" before
they drop a hammer on somebody's ass. My genuine prayer is that the new
Democratic congress will help get the holier-than-thou elements of the
FCC -- who have been threatening to jump the broadcast fence and "clean
up" cable throughout the reign of Lord W -- under control to the point
that A&E feels safe enough to let the show play as it lays. There is,
for instance, no reason in the world why you shouldn't be able to hear
the world "fuck" after 10 p.m. at night on a cable channel you paid
for. The kiddies are supposed to be long in bed by that hour, and
anyone who might complain can always use their pure,
never-touched-genitalia finger to turn the channel to ABC Family
(Comedy Central, for instance, has had the balls to run verbally uncut
movies late-night for years and the world hasn't collapsed into
non-stop, sweat-soaked orgies yet... darn it).
Anyway, while the censored "Sopranos" isn't as good as the HBO version,
any "Sopranos" is pretty damn good. Still, it's kind of odd to see Tony
and his crew in the early days. I, for instance, became a fan around
season three, long after the cast and their characters had gelled (or
should that be hardened, like concrete overshoes around a stoolie's
feet?). It's odd, therefore, to see t'weenage Anthony Jr. and a
just-old-enough-to-hate-her-mother Meadow, pre-Adriana Christopher
actively talking back to Tony, and appearances by cancer sticken but
still very much alive Boss Jackie Aprile. Even stranger is Tony's
character, who is obviously much more cerebral and well-spoken in the
pilot and first episode than the street-smart neanderthal that appears
in later seasons. Maybe all that Prozac dulled his edge.
Even without all the juicy lines, I'm eating it up, and every Wednesday
night will no doubt find me glued to the tube. Though everybody talks
like a longshoreman in the confessional, "The Sopranos" on A&E is still
like attending a family reunion with all your most dangerous,
well-armed relatives. Too, it's a lot cheaper than buying the DVD box
-- David Koon