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June 20, 2013

Tony Soprano more than a memorable TV character

(Continued)

In 13 years, that's a complete turnaround.

Landgraf was working at NBC back at the beginning (where they were putting a pretty good drama named "The West Wing" on the air) and the success of "The Sopranos" was noted. Broadcasters were envious of the freedom cable networks had to depict sex, language and violence. But it was the authenticity of the characters on cable that made the real difference, he said.

Their audiences shrinking and the stakes higher, the broadcast networks have generally responded by being less willing to take chances.

"Insurgents are always willing to take risks," Landgraf said. "The incumbents don't, because they have a fortified castle to protect."

"The Sopranos" broke ground with its structure, too. New story lines popped up all the time, sometimes dramatic, sometimes banal. Sometimes they were resolved. Sometimes, like an odd trip to the pine barrens, they were forgotten. Sometimes what seems to be important turns out to be random and withers away. Like in life itself.

That gave the show's finale all of its power. Tony's family gathers for a family dinner, bonding over onion rings. All of the show's unresolved story lines provided the backdrop. The timing — the show's last supper — offered an edge-of-your-seat tension. Will there be one grand climax? How many questions will be answered? Will Tony pay for his sins by being blown away?

Nah. Nothing much happened. Kind of like most nights for most people, really.

Ever since that ending there have been periodic reports or hopes that the cast of "The Sopranos" would gather again for a feature film. That dream ended Wednesday night in Rome, just like the shooting death of John Lennon ended the idea of a Beatles reunion. That's not to diminish the work of all of the other actors in "The Sopranos" cast, just like we didn't diminish the contributions of Paul McCartney, George Harrison or Ringo Starr.

It's just that without Tony, without James Gandolfini, what's the point?

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