Archive for June, 2007

“Sopranos” ends with a ratings bump

Obviously, TV critics and media types cared more about the series finale of “The Sopranos” than most viewers.

Although “The Sopranos” ended its run with a season high of 11.90 million viewers and 7.08 million viewers in the advertiser-friendly demo of 18-49, it wasn’t the big jump you would expect from all the media hype that took place in the weeks before the series ender.

Not since the fifth season of “The Sopranos” has the mob drama grabbed so many viewers. It was the largest audience in total viewers since the fifth season premiere in March 2004, when 12.14 million viewers tuned in.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that “The Sopranos” had been rapidly losing viewers in its final years. With an average of only 8.23 million viewers, this final seventh season has been the lowest rated since season two.

Long delays between seasons, including an almost two-year lapse from seasons five to six, hurt the show in later seasons.

“The Sopranos” started slowly, averaging 3.46 million viewers when it premiered in January 1999. Season two averaged 6.62, season three 8.87; season four 10.99; season five 9.80 and season six 8.92.

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Did Viewers Get Whacked?

When Bay Area critics were giving predictions on how “The Sopranos’’ would end during a podcast this past week, I said “Quietly.’’

But I didn’t expect silently.

Written and directed by creator David Chase, the series came to an end after 8 years, 86 episodes and 18 Emmy Awards not in a hail of gunfire, not with mobster Tony Soprano dragged to jail, but with a blank screen.

Which probably made most people across America watching wondering if their cable and/or power went out just when they were going to learn the fate of their favorite mobster.

These days, viewers are used to dramas posing questions to string us along while we ponder if saving the cheerleader will save the world or if an island is really purgatory for plane crash survivors. Sometimes a drama is just a drama, and there is no real mystery to solve.

In expert fashion, Chase gave us a finale filled with juicy tidbits. Tony is out in the backyard raking leaves when he hears the sound of ducks. He looks above his head, but he and we see nothing.

Like the cat the crew adopts _ Paulie calls felines “snakes with fur’’ _ Chase toys with us in one of the funniest “Sopranos’’ episodes ever penned.

Classic Chase took us to a wooded area with the suicidal Anthony Junior parked with his girlfriend, the equally unbalanced high school junior/fashion model. We fear they are about to do each other in, but instead they were just there to do each other.

Except the car catches on fire and a $30,000 SUV plus some woodland goes up in flames. We spend some quality time with Tony and Carmela lecturing their son on his stupidity and almost forget we’re there to find out if Tony dies or goes to jail.
Traditionally, Chase likes the penultimate episode in a season to be the one that packs the biggest punch. The season finale generally has the characters reflecting the ripples felt in the aftermath.

Chase gave viewers some wonderful action moments last week, with plenty of bloodshed including Tony’s brother-in-law and crewmember Bobby getting gunned down in a train store and his right-hand man Silvio going out in a slow-motion shootout.

After the hit, the denizens of the Bada Bing came out in the glaring sunshine for the first time and then marveled when a passing motorcyclist went crashing down the street. Classic.

When last we saw Tony, he was holed up with the gang, the gun Bobby gave to him for his birthday clutched in his hands ready to go out in a blaze of glory if need be.
But it never came to that.

While trying to broker a peace between the warring families, Tony has to contend with a son who wants to join the Army and save the world. With Dr. Melfi exiting last week as his therapist, he seems to be bonding with son A.J.’s counselor much to the disgust of wife Carmela. In Sopranoland, all the therapist are beautiful women who speak in measured tones and wear short skirts showing off their great gams.

Meadow has decided to follow in her mom’s footsteps by marrying a mobster’s son and soon A.J. has bagged his idea of serving his country and eventually becoming Donald Trump’s helicopter pilot in favor of making a movie with his dad’s backing.

And Tony has a meeting with his legal counsel who tells him it’s 80 to 90 percent sure he’s going to get indicted for crimes he committed. But that “trials were made to be won.’’

It would seem that those who bet Tony would be going to jail in the finale had won.
In the closing moments of the finale, the family arrives one by one in a diner for dinner. The tension builds. Tony, the first to arrive, chooses “Don’t Stop Believing’’ from the tableside juke box. In the background, different people start arriving. A man in a baseball cap, looking just like the hit man who took out Phil Leotardo and others, walks in.

Maybe he does die. Maybe the entire Soprano family gets wiped out in a bloody hit. Our pulse is quickening.

Other men arrive. Are they federal agents working undercover? Are they other hit men?

We are reminded of the FBI agent who warned Tony of the contract being put out on his crew last week by New York mobster Phil. In the finale, the agent tells Tony where he can find Phil.

When he learns that Phil has been killed (shot after exiting a Ford vehicle carrying his baby twin grandchildren, which then rolls over his head while their frantic mother tries to get them out), the agent says, “Damn, we’re going to win this thing’’.

Does winning mean Tony’s toast?

In what looks like an homage to “The Godfather,” one of the guys we suspect is a hit man heads for the restaurant’s Men’s Room. The same place Michael Corleone went to get a gun out of the toilet to whack the two mobsters having dinner in THAT restaurant who had taken out his dad the Don.

Our toes are curling, our nails are in the sofa’s arm rest. Who will get to Tony first?

We don’t know. All we know is that after bumbling parallel parking while the tension became excruciating, Meadow sprints towards the diner door, Tony looks up and darkness falls.

Was there a hit? Was there an arrest? Or did the family have a nice meal of onion rings and conversation?

We’ll never know. And that, my friends, is why “The Sopranos’’ is the best drama ever.

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Isaiah Out

It looks as if Isaiah Washington’s inability to keep his mouth closed has cost him his “Grey’s Anatomy” gig.

TV Guide’s Michael Ausiello is reporting that Washington’s contract with “Grey’s” has not been renewed.

It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that Washington’s inappropriate remarks towards his co-star T.K. Knight, who plays the lovable George on the show, were the catalyst to his plight.

Washington used an offensive sexual orientation word to refer to Knight. Knight later came out as being gay.

Washington, who apparently doesn’t learn from his mistakes, repeated the slur again backstage at the Golden Globes during press interviews.

When last we saw his character Dr. Burke, he had left Christina (Sandra Oh) at the altar and cleared out of his apartment.

That’s probably the last we’ll ever see of Dr. Burke.

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“Sopranos” spoiler

Sometimes I look at spoilers, other times I don’t.

One thing I never want to do is to spoil the viewing experience, especially people who have invested years into a series like “The Sopranos.”

Even I don’t want to know.

Yet, right there in my email today was a message from an actor eager to boast about the role he plays in the series finale of “The Sopranos” tonight.

Character actor Peter Mele says he steps into the fray in the epic series finale in a pivotal role.

And then he tells us what that role is, which pretty much seems to tell us what happens in the finale.

Thanks a lot Mele.

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The “Jericho” letter

Way to use that online clout.

Here’s the letter sent out by CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler on giving “Jericho” a second chance:

To the Fans of Jericho:

Wow!

Over the past few weeks you have put forth an impressive and probably unprecedented display of passion in support of a prime time television series. You got our attention; your emails and collective voice have been heard.

As a result, CBS has ordered seven episodes of “Jericho” for mid-season next year. In success, there is the potential for more. But, for there to be more “Jericho,” we will need more viewers.

A loyal and passionate community has clearly formed around the show. But that community needs to grow. It needs to grow on the CBS Television Network, as well as on the many digital platforms where we make the show available.

We will count on you to rally around the show, to recruit new viewers with the same grass-roots energy, intensity and volume you have displayed in recent weeks.

At this time, I cannot tell you the specific date or time period that “Jericho” will return to our schedule. However, in the interim, we are working on several initiatives to help introduce the show to new audiences. This includes re-broadcasting “Jericho” on CBS this summer, streaming episodes and clips from these episodes across the CBS Audience Network (online), releasing the first season DVD on September 25 and continuing the story of Jericho in the digital world until the new episodes return. We will let you know specifics when we have them so you can pass them on.

On behalf of everyone at CBS, thank you for expressing your support of “Jericho” in such an extraordinary manner. Your protest was creative, sustained and very thoughtful and respectful in tone. You made a difference.

Sincerely,

Nina Tassler

President, CBS Entertainment

P.S. Please stop sending us nuts

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The “Ruffian” show will go on

As a movie, “Ruffian” probably isn’t the best or the worst of the lot. What makes it better than the average movie-of-the-week is Sam Shepard’s brilliant take on Ruffian’s trainer, Frank Whiteley.

Which makes it all the more interesting that Whiteley’s one of a group of people suing to stop the broadcast of the movie based on the filly who broke her leg in the mid-’70s during a match race at Belmont against the greatest colt of the day, Derby winner Foolish Pleasure.

According to Throughbred Times reporter Pete Denk, the hearing on the lawsuit has been postponed and the movie will air at 9 p.m. Saturday June 9 on ABC -the day ABC will air the Belmont Stakes race.

Denk writes that the hearing that could have blocked the broadcast of the movie has been deferred until next week, opening up the way for the movie to air this weekend.

Trainer Frank Whiteley Jr., jockey Jacinto Vasquez, and Thoroughbred Legends LLC filed a lawsuit in United States District Court in Atlanta against Walt Disney Co., ESPN, American Broadcasting Co. Inc. (ABC), and Orly Adelson Productions, alleging copyright infringement.

Denk reports that the lawsuit asks for monetary damages in excess of $10-million and sought to block broadcast of the movie unless it carries a disclaimer stating it contains fictional content. The two sides were negotiating on Wednesday and another meeting has been scheduled for next week.

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“Jericho” gets a second chance

“Please stop sending us nuts,” writes CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler in a message to the online community supporting the return of “Jericho.”

After CBS announced that the post-apocalyptic drama would not be returning to the fall schedule, fans started sending nuts to network. The idea came from the final episode in which the townsfolk of “Jericho” decided to go to war against the neighboring town rather than surrender.

In the episode, when the town called for Jericho’s surrender, they were given the answer “Nuts…go to hell” by Skeet Ulrich’s character Jake Green in reference to a general’s famous quote from the World War II Battle of the Bulge.

“You got our attention; your emails and collective voice have been heard,” Tassler wrote. “In success, there is the potential for more. But, for there to be more `Jericho,’ we will need more viewers.”

CBS is planning a campaign to reintroduce “Jericho,” including rerunning the show on CBS this summer, streaming episodes and clips online and releasing the first season on DVD on Sept. 25.

The return date has not yet been announced, but it is expected to air next year as a midseason replacement.

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“Galactica” ends run

Say it ain’t so.

This season we’ve lost “Veronica Mars,” >“Gilmore Girls,” “Jericho” and now “Battlestar Galactica.”

At least we get some closure with “Galactica,” which will be 22 episodes next season to wrap things up. It’s what the “Lost” creators hope to do with their series: Let it go while they are still proud of the work.

Executive producers Ronald D. Moore and David Eick have decided that season 4 of Battlestar Galactica, SCI FI Channel’s Peabody Award-winning original series, will be its last.

“This show was always meant to have a beginning, a middle and finally, an end. Over the course of the last year, the story and the characters have been moving strongly toward that end and we’ve decided to listen to those internal voices and conclude the show on our own terms,” stated Eick and Moore. “On a personal level, it’s been a creative privilege and an honor for all of us who work on the show and we know we’ll be lucky to ever see its like again. And while we know our fans will be saddened to know the end is coming, they should brace themselves for a wild ride getting there – we’re going out with a bang.”

Sci Fi Channel vp Mark Stern says the network respects the producers’ decision to end the series.

“We are proud to have been the home of this groundbreaking show. We have always known that Ron and David had a plan for ‘Galactica’ and trust that fans can look forward to a truly amazing final season.”

Production on the final 22 hours of season 4 is currently underway in Vancouver. An extended two-hour episode, “Razor,” will premiere in November 2007, setting the stage for the rest of the season to commence in 2008.

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