The Sopranos (1999-2007)

From: Drew (X3N0PH0N) 9 May 23:27
To: ALL1 of 28
So I finally got around to watching this after 25 years of intending to.

It's as good as everyone said it was!

I can't think of a show that made me feel more love towards such reprehensible pieces of shit. It makes you examine yourself a bit. Also it's a lot of fun.

And that final scene was exquisite.
EDITED: 9 May 23:27 by X3N0PH0N
From: william (WILLIAMA)10 May 20:53
To: Drew (X3N0PH0N) 2 of 28
The final scene was as close to perfect television as anything I've ever seen.

From: Drew (X3N0PH0N)10 May 22:11
To: william (WILLIAMA) 3 of 28
Absolutely agree. I sat there kinda awestruck for a bit and then rewound it and watched it 7 more times.
From: william (WILLIAMA)30 May 17:53
To: Drew (X3N0PH0N) 4 of 28
Considering there are only 3 posts, I've spent an awful lot of time thinking about this. Or more accurately, about television. It gets a lot of bad mouthing about being a generally second-rate and somehow lazy medium, whether it's art or not. Any old how, I like watching television. I mean, not all the time, but quite a lot. It's been having a major impact on the world for about 70 years now. That's already about a third of the time the Renaissance lasted, so we might begin to take it seriously. I've been wondering about what the best television is that I've seen. The telly that had the biggest impact on me. I'll open with the first thing that springs to mind. He certainly had his faults, but I offer Dennis Potter's The Singing Detective. 
From: Drew (X3N0PH0N) 4 Jun 14:57
To: william (WILLIAMA) 5 of 28
We are the TV generations. It's weird to think that something that was such a huge part of the shared cultural fabric is kinda gone now. Serialised entertaininment (which I'll continue to call TV) will stay with us of course but the broadly-shared aspect is gone.

I do think streaming has had a positive effect though. The latter days of broadcast TV were fucking grim. Streaming has re-enabled, and lowered the bar to, experimentation I think. There's a *lot* of good 'TV' around. Coupla examples of recent good stuff off the top of my head: Succession and The Expanse. Calls was also great, and interestingly playful with the form (if a little up its own arse, it was essentially a radio play and we've had those before). Enjoyed it though. Barry. Atlanta. Ozark. The Americans. All good.

(Also, much as I don't like music, I *love* the succession theme tune and never skipped it)

I was a bit too young for The Singing Detective. I remember my parents watching it and watching along and enjoying but not really understanding.

Best *ever* is fucking *hard* though. I'm always a bit biased towards what I've enjoyed most recently. Also sometimes find it hard to distinguish between what I enjoy and what's *really* good.

I think Arrested Development is the best TV comedy of all time, hands down. I realise that'll be contentious. Trailer Park Boys is also up there for me. The first few seasons were kinda special (it quite quickly went to shit and then *really* went to shit) and prefigured stuff like the (US) Office and Parks and Rec. I think (which I don't think the UK Ofice did really).

I think King of the Hill goes under-appreicated. I know it's well-liked but I don't think what it did is appreciated enough. A sympatheticly written Republican-voting, sourthern, latently racist working class white dude. Imagine that today.

And I think Roseanne deserves some credit. A sitcom about an *actually* working class family was a big step for the US. And paved the way for a lot that came after. Not uncommon to have working class families in such things in the UK but that was always derisory or were grim and depressing (or alienatingly londony). The was a warmth to Roseanne that resonated with me as a kid who grew up in working class communities.

Oh, The Thick of It. Just fucking incisive. Standing on the shoulders of Yes Minister for sure but surpassed it, I think. Yes Minister's never as good as I remember it when I have a rewatch.

But comedy's easier. Otherwise...

I honestly think The Sopranos is up there. It was *so good* at making me uncomfortable in my affections. And that final scene was, as you say, perfection. Sure it was a soap opera in places but it was never *only* that.

Twin Peaks might have to be up there too. I don't love it, myself, but I do respect it.

I'm struggling. I'll have to throw Succession in there though I worry about recency bias. It's certainly very good.

But everything that comes to mind is really just straightforward drama. Nothing that's really *clever* or *creative* while being serious in the way that The Singing Detective was. And Twin Peaks, to an extent.

Worst TV I find very easy cos it was recent: Fallout.

Very slick, the production was lovely. But I've genuinely never watched anything dumber. It's even dumber than something like the Marvel movies. It's like it was written by AI. And people *love* it.

(I'll continue to think on best cos I feel like I'm missing stuff)

EDITED: 4 Jun 15:00 by X3N0PH0N
From: Drew (X3N0PH0N) 4 Jun 15:05
To: Drew (X3N0PH0N) 6 of 28
The reason I don't *quite* put Succession up there is that while it made me *sympathise* with these moral black holes of characters it never made me *love* them like Sopranos did. It lacked that extra layer which made Sopranos so clever.
From: milko 5 Jun 14:55
To: Drew (X3N0PH0N) 7 of 28
I feel like Arrested Development was possibly the best at its peak but the later series kinda soured it a bit, like that one where the cast were almost never in the same room so it's nearly all greenscreened. So few comedies manage to keep the bar high throughout. Similar with Community. Still, it lives in my head forever, can't hear the word bees or beads without the whole BEES/BEADS thing playing out in my mind, or angrily saying it's not a trick it's an illusion and so on.

I know what you mean about recency bias, I end up second guessing myself on everything. Well, except for Deadwood which has overcome that for me to a silly degree where I just won't question it or hear any contrary opinion now. Cowboys constantly talking in some sort of baroque Shakespeareanesque ludicrous dialogue is unbeatable. I don't really have the vocabulary to express it properly.

here's a recent one:
Severance (apple tv) is dead good but A: I keep thinking it might be Succession and it isn't at all but the names are quite similar B: only one series so far, could blow it. Still, it was a very good series and I will be eager to try the second.
From: Drew (X3N0PH0N) 5 Jun 15:42
To: milko 8 of 28
Yeah, those latter Arrested Development seasons were rough. Not quite as bad as the consensus would hold, I think, and I liked that they tried something new rather than just more of the same. But yeah, not as good, certainly. But I agree, most comedy tends to go that way when it outlives itself.

(I don't think anything else on TV has made gut-laugh as hard as "Bob Loblaw", dunno why that's the one that landed best for me)

Community at its best was exceptionally good. But its lows were prety low too. And it was never quite as clever as it thought it was.

Deadwood I need to continue with. I got sidetracked. Very much enjoyed what I'd seen though.

And yeah, Severance is great. I nearly mentioned that among my recent ones. *But*... I'm worried that it's just going to be a mystery box thing à la Lost or whatever. Though that one scene, where the dude from the pizza shop in Do the Right Thing is getting interviewed by the lady with the long face from The 100 in the kinda HR assessment thing - that's one of my favourite scenes of TV ever. I rewound and rewatched that like 15 times in a row. It's exquisite.

Show you might like, got something in common with Severance but more actiony: The Peripheral.
From: Drew (X3N0PH0N) 5 Jun 15:46
To: milko 9 of 28
One notable thing about Arrested Development which sets it apart from most other sitcoms is that it was perfect right from the first episode. They knew *exactly* what they wanted it to be from the outset rather than having to find it as they went along, as most others do.
From: Kenny J (WINGNUTKJ) 6 Jun 09:37
To: Drew (X3N0PH0N) 10 of 28
> The Peripheral

I kind of enjoyed this, but I'd read the book, and I wonder how it played for people who haven't. Especially in the final episodes, it kind of left me wondering what the point of it was, and since they never did a second season, I guess we'll never know. Still waiting for the third book in the trilogy, but I didn't find the second (Agency) to be particularly engaging.
From: Drew (X3N0PH0N) 6 Jun 15:41
To: Kenny J (WINGNUTKJ) 11 of 28
Oh, I didn't know they're not doing a second season. Cos yeah, it was just getting going (intrigue-wise). Well that's fucked.

That's a real shame cos it seemed like it was going somewhere interesting.

(I've not read the book(s). I may now)
From: milko 6 Jun 16:11
To: ALL12 of 28
The Peripheral - yes. As a book-having-reader I was enjoying it quite a lot while wondering if it was making much sense for anyone who didn't, and it was far from perfect but I had hopes it would get it going as the second season got going. But yeah, not happening, bah. That writer's strike did it in, unfortunately (though, obviously, support the union!). Also, Chloe Grace Moretz doing the deep south accent thing, I could just listen to that all day (see also: Matthew McConaughey as Rust Cohle in season one of True Detective, another fine show).

Severance Mystery Box - yes definitely that's absolutely the main fear. They've taken a long time making series 2, I hope it's because they were writing something properly. John Turturro will always be "The Jesus" from The Big Lebowski to me! He's so so good in this.

We are trying out SHOGUN next. Very early impressions are that the main English guy's voice is very funny. I can only picture this, every time.
From: milko 6 Jun 16:19
To: ALL13 of 28
which reminds me, I thought Chloe Grace Moretz was in Outer Range but it turns out that's Imogen Poots. Anyway, I see series 2 is out but apparently they say they wrote it on the fly and it's bad. Which given that series 1 wasn't exactly great, I would say avoid that.

I thought it'd be up my street, being about cowboys and a mysterious big hole in the ground.
From: william (WILLIAMA) 8 Jun 21:45
To: Drew (X3N0PH0N) 14 of 28
You covered a lot in your post. 

It's SO different now, from my first experience of television, even though there are SO many things the same.

I mean, when I was tiny, like just bigger than a toddler, we didn't have telly at all. I remember being about four with flu (I suppose. Some kind of fever) and my parents brought the wireless into the bedroom so I could hear "Beyond our Ken" which was the precursor to "Round the Horne". Of course, I missed all the gay references, but then again so did my parents. I suspect my dad thought that the nancy-boys were funny as long as they didn't go too far.

Our first telly had 2 TV channels, BBC and Independent Television. Independent Television was what the rough people watched. If you turned the clunky dial past the rough channel, you got the Home Service on the wireless, then the Third Programme. Our set couldn't be tuned to the Light Programme. Wireless was available from daybreak until bedtime. Television started around 4 pm with a news broadcast which handed over to children's broadcasting around 5 pm for an hour. Then there was more news for about 30 mins. Typically a magazine programme lasted until 7:00. Then there would be a soap opera or two, or a quiz show, maybe a drama presentation until 8:00. At 8:00 the premier programmes began, either documentary or drama. This was the same for both BBC and ITV.

It's no surprise that if the Forsyte Saga had a rape scene in prime viewing hours ON A SUNDAY with a suggestive proportion of Nyree Dawn Porter's breasts exposed, this would feed into a vast national debate at work on the Monday. There was literally nothing else to watch. Of course, it had a positive effect. Many more people were exposed to serious thought and debate (than probably wanted to be exposed). God knows what they made of it. It also allowed some quite brilliant people to rise to the top of the media. I doubt that somebody as talented as Jonathan Miller would have succeeded in a 500 channel environment. Then again, maybe a comedian so supremely untalented as Jim Davidson wouldn't have floated upwards either.

I'm struck by the fact that nearly every television show discussed in this thread is American. I have a fair few American shows in my all-time favourite list. But not all by any means. I'll come back to this.

From: Drew (X3N0PH0N) 9 Jun 00:09
To: william (WILLIAMA) 15 of 28
For me, TV had 3 channels, (BBC1 & 2 and ITV). And they shut off at ... 10pm? 11pm? When I tell my niece about that she is aghast. Channel 4 came along while I was in primary school but we couldn't get it where we lived.

I loved documentaries as a kid. Any documentary would keep me quiet. A lot of them were nature documentaries. And they were *very good*. I distinctly remember one, I was about 6 or 7, and it was real-time footage of a snake swallowing an egg. And - and this is fucking amazing today - there were large stretches with no narration, the narrator would only speak when something happened. Remember being rapt by that.

(TV) documentaries are fucking shit now. They do that thing that shit teachers do where they feel they have to trick you into finding it interesting. They try so hard to 'make' the subject interesting that they forget to actually tell you anything and it's boring.

Most of the scripted TV I watched was American. I almost brought this up before. I can't think of very many British TV shows that I've enjoyed. House of Cards, The Thick of It, Brass Eye/The Day Today. I watched Humans recently and enjoyed it but it was enjoyable trash rather than *good* good.

I don't *generally* enjoy British comedy all that much. All the stuff that's held up, like Fawlty Towers, I never got, I can't even really tell what's *supposed* to be funny in it. My dad fucking loved Fawlty Towers and Dad's Army and that. 

Our news, documentaries and current affairs shows pissed on anything American. But for scripted/drama/comedy I think America just makes better TV for the most part.

But I grew up on The Fall Guy, The Rockford Files, Columbo, Perry Mason etc. so I dunno how much of it is just having my aesthetic preferences set young by that stuff.

Oh one thing I did want to mention. We didn't have a VHS player when I was growing up. So the only ways to see feature films were the once-a-year cinema trip or when they came to TV. Later, round friend's houses when they had VHSes.

So a big film coming to TV was a *big deal* and we'd all be talking about it at school the next day. 

I also got to see a good selection of older films. In the space that would be filled with morning TV and reality stuff now, they used to just put some random film on. I think *kids today* have a kinda shallow/narrow cultural experience for lack of something like that. 
From: william (WILLIAMA) 9 Jun 21:51
To: Drew (X3N0PH0N) 16 of 28
Yeah, generally 10:30 when there would be a programme intended to be worthy or uplifting. Originally this meant Christian, and it was often just a vicar saying some prayers. Later they favoured discussion things, in a studio or supposedly set in somebody's house. I got into one or two of these, mainly because it was a rare opportunity to watch people just talking. there was one I liked on ITV which went out around 10:45 and I switched over one evening and gosh! Something was wrong! One of the main attendees had a pint of beer and they were all mid conversation. Turned out that he'd had some sort of breakdown. He didn't turn up after that.

If you removed the repeated dialogue from a modern TV documentary, especially from the USA, there would probably only be 5 minutes of speech. Every new scene opens with a summary of what was said before, or a simple repeat in a different tone of voice. Also, I know what you mean about trying to make it "seem" interesting. So many bloody documentaries about pyramids where the hidden chamber is sort of "held back" like the pay off in a cheap melodrama. Or else they start speculating about how Nefertiti may have felt that day in Thebes, as though that's on a level with showing the actual stuff and saying what we know about it.

One thing that US television drama of all kinds both benefits from and also suffers from, is the lack of a long theatrical tradition. In the UK both rich and poor went to the theatre since forever. In the last 70 years of so that's changed, and it's become far more of a middle-class thing. In the US, where theatre was always white collar, the actors generally act as though they are where they are supposed to be: in a kitchen or a garden or in the street, or a bar or whatever. This has been true since the very earliest TV productions. In the UK, sourcing its directors and actors from the stage, they didn't. They behaved as though they were on a stage set in a studio, or on a stage set in the garden, street, bar etc. Most, if not all UK productions have realised this now, but that brings me to the second big difference which is money.

UK productions are all too often cheap. I know that the story goes that money rules in the US. If you don't make it, you're done. But when it's there to be spent on a production, then it's spent. In the UK, there was, and still is, too much of the scrimp and save Blue Peter attitude. If the ray-gun can be made out of an old toilet roll and that saves half a crown, then do it. Don't bother matching the furniture in this scene, just use the chairs that were in the pub scene earlier. And when that's done across the whole production, it looks cheap.

British comedy shows. Well, they're a mixed bag. I loved Steptoe & Son. The writing is amazing and the actors were perfectly matched. I suppose that's another instance of everybody knowing right from the start exactly what was wanted. More recently Shameless held my attention for a bit. Good ensemble cast. Especially David Threlfall. Enjoyed Fleabag. Once again a great cast, especially Andrew Scott. I really like watching him (Yeah, I know he's Irish). He was fabulous in Ripley recently and he simply acted the pants off Cumberbatch and Freeman in Sherlock. Oh yeah, a blast from the past, Turtles Progress. Also Spaced, A Very Peculiar Practice. Loads of stuff I kind of enjoyed even if I wouldn't say it was great TV. The Young Ones, Peepshow.

Straight British dramas? Well, we can do them. I loved Brideshead Revisited for all its faults. I Claudius - one of the few shows which deliberately chose theatrical and it worked The Singing Detective is probably close to my all-time favourite. Then there was Edge of Darkness, the much underrated Paradise Postponed. The Camomile Lawn was good. Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes were fun. Gormenghast was a very flawed but quite enjoyable adaptation. Smiley's People and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (the Alec Guinnes versions) were excellent viewing. Some of the Pratchett adaptations (should have put in comedy). This is England - another series that was simply wonderful. Powerful, nuanced and fearless. There are plenty more. These days I usually stick something I've enjoyed onto Plex. 

Hah! Films that only ever got shown at least a year after their cinema release. Usually longer. And it would always be like the the school holidays. Then there was Disney Time although fuck knows why we wanted to see that. Almost never during the week. The BBC would cover a whole Saturday evening with some shit like a display from the Household Cavalry and ITV would have Lawrence of Arabia (again). But, sex and drugs and rock and roll started in 1972. Then as I got an art school place on the strenth of my ""O" levels so I didn't have to worry about my "A" levels, I didn't watch much telly until about 1975.

But yes, on one Monday in October 1969 the big debate at my school was who had been able to see that new Monty Python programme. Years before we had debated the merits of the Zarbis and the Daleks as we chewed our American Civil War bubblegum. That was just us kids. Ken and Deidre's wedding on Coronation Street attracted more UK viewers than that of Charles and Diana 2 days earlier. 

From: Drew (X3N0PH0N) 9 Jun 22:40
To: william (WILLIAMA) 17 of 28
You've mentioned a lot of stuff I'd forgotten about. Steptoe and Son was great but (like a lot of good british comedy) very depressing. I like watching that kind of thing now and then, and we're very good at it, but most of the time I do want the warmth and sentimentality that US comedy tends to have underneath it. I see that as a weakness but there it is.

Shameless was great. Spaced I enjoyed at the time but wossisface has become more and more unbearable over time and made me retroactively dislike it. Also The Young Ones, yup.

I've also enjoyed the recent Cunk stuff (on Britain and on Earth).

I enjoyed I, Claudius and Cammomile Lawn, Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy. A lot of it I was too young for though. Enjoyed Gormenghast, definitely flawed but doing something interesting.

Forgot about This is England. Loved the film. I don't think I've watched all of the TV stuff. I should. Shane Meadows is from just down the road.

That stagey acting you were talking about is something I think about more than you'd expect. I think I was conditioned by the American TV of my childhood to enjoy their style of more naturalistic acting. I find the more stagey british acting odd and offputting *unless* the production is stagey, then I enjopy it a lot (like in some Derek Jarman or Ken Russel films, and a lot of British TV back in the day).

But Americans, presumably cos it's unusual to them but also because of the kinda cultural imagination they have about 'Europe', fucking *love* that UK Stagey acting. There are so many British actors who have done well in Hollywood whom I just can't fucking stand to watch. Because they're acting in regular Hollywood films or TV where everyone else is acting naturalistically and they're acting in that stagey way and it's fucking weird. I'm thinking of people like Anthony Hopkins and Ian McKellen. Even Patrick Stewart in TNG. They fucking *love* them and I *really* don't.

But then something like Arrested Development goes the other way entirely and I love it. American production and actors but a very British feel both in terms of the production itself and the acting.

I have noticed a few things I've been watching lately is predominantly set in the UK even when it's not a UK production. I've just started 3 Body Problem and that happens mostly in the UK. Same was true of Invasion, which everyone else seemed to hate but I really enjoyed (like Black Summer with aliens instead of zombies). I'm sure there are others but I forget.
From: Drew (X3N0PH0N) 9 Jun 22:48
To: william (WILLIAMA) 18 of 28
As for documentaries and current affairs stuff, that's been almost entirely (I still watch the odd theatrically released documentary) replaced by Youtube and podcasts for me.

Used to watch Newsnight, Late Review (I think it was called?), Question time, whatever was the serious political interview show of the day etc.. Also things like Moviedrome(?) on Channel 4 in the 90s, that was great. (And some Radio 4 to round it out).

And yeah, that's all been replaced by Youtube/podcast stuff. Obviously the streaming services aren't going to make that kinda stuff. And in *some* ways I think Youtube is better at it than the BBC was. Certainly less constrained. 
EDITED: 9 Jun 22:49 by X3N0PH0N
From: william (WILLIAMA)10 Jun 23:03
To: Drew (X3N0PH0N) 19 of 28
Problem is, these days it isn't that hard to acquire a whole series for convenient personal consumption, either expensively, or relatively less expensively. I was considering the series Cheers, which entertained me for years  through my late evenings when I needed sobering up. Now I am considering Arrested Development, of which I have only seen a handful of episodes. 

And I wouldn't be able to discuss either of them over the water cooler or the tea machine.
From: william (WILLIAMA)10 Jun 23:26
To: Drew (X3N0PH0N) 20 of 28
Incidentally, I don't think that looking for brightness rather than gloom is a weakness, either in the viewer or the creator. I get tired of unrelenting gloom - and that applies to fims, TV shows, radio shows, books, whatever. On the contrary, to a degree there's a contract between creator and viewer. This show is ultimately cheerful or this show will make you reflect on life, or even be prepared to shed a tear. Or a mix of all of them.