The Sopranos (Season Three)
My Rating:

Still gripping, addictive as smack.
Subtract 1/4 star if you are squeamish about violence. This season has more
violent moments than past seasons, though none are gratuitous.

Bitable Bytes:
"Completely Brilliant!"
"One Long Cosa Nostra Fest!"
"Develops Dark Aspects!"

What to do while watching:
Talk like a mobster.

What to eat while watching:
You might want to nibble some leftover pasta; however, watching Tony Soprano eat, and he often eats, may take away your appetite.

When we last left The Sopranos, mama had died, Uncle Junior was the big boss in name only, Tony was running things with an iron hand, Meadow had gone to college, and Anthony Jr. was just being a mixed up adolescent. That actor is either completely lame or is completely brilliant at capturing the lame attitude of your typical angsty teen boy.

There's not much that I can tell you unless you've seen the first two seasons because there are threads here that run from episode to episode and season to season. For instance, episode one of season three finds the Jersey F.B.I. planting a well-camouflaged bug in the Soprano basement. This bug crops up again and again and is finally "neutralized" in episode nine (where I have left off to write this).

What I can tell you is that the series is really gripping. The first three tapes contain three episodes each. You'd think we would watch one at a time over the course of a seven-day rental, but the Mrs. and I can't help but take seconds and thirds on these tapes; and we're thinking of getting the two-episode volumes 4 and 5 to watch in one long Cosa Nostra fest.

The truth is, there is hardly any teevee watching in the Worsted household. We watch videos and that's about it--the blessing of not having cable. Maybe this makes it possible for us to get so addicted by something like this. Neither I nor the wife watched X-Factor or Survivor or even HBO's other big hit Sex and (or is it "in") the City. I've heard there's another excellent series on HBO that also has some of this great writing, which combines the best possibilities of a television series with the best possibilities of film.

Years back, I found it tough to get into Twin Peaks, and although I know people who swear by it, I felt the lack of a through line too strongly to be engrossed. Then, too, I missed one episode early on, and once that happens, it's hard to get the train back on the track. I never got back to it, though that series, too, is on video.

The Sopranos, though, hooked me from the start. There are many characters and they are treated realistically. The subject of mobsters is romanticized only slightly, unlike Good Fellas or Casino that really wallow in the glory of being bad. Dr. Melfi, Tony Soprano's shrink, has a dream that summarizes it very well: the power of organized crime is like a big, mean dog. It is dangerous and violent, but can attack people who deserve to be attacked, and therefore, has allure.

For instance, when Uncle Junior's oncologist refuses to call him back, Tony and Furio track him down on the golf course, give him a titanium golf club (as a gift) and then back him into a water trap, swatting his pager into the drink as an added incentive to return Junior's calls. It's the kind of power that we'd all like to flex sometimes, the power to make people do the right thing. Of course, in the next scene, Tony's cronies are putting the squeeze on a store owner for not paying off gambling debts.

Season 3 develops some very dark aspects: a young stripper is killed, Dr. Melfi is assaulted, and Ralphie, a loose-cannon to replace Richie Aprile starts to cause trouble. Janice Soprano, Tony's messed up sister, is also back in town to play the thorn in everyone's side. And Uncle Junior comes down sick. It's a dark life, to be sure. Tony meets a hottie Mercedes dealer in episode 8, but there is certainly a storm ahead. Carmella, the mob boss's wife has seen a very frank colleague of Dr. Melfi and that may do strange things to her marriage. Will she leave Tony? It seems unlikely, but her conscience is certainly under more strain than ever.

Once again, I'd recommend this series to anyone who hasn't seen it. Season one was at our local library and seasons two and three are out on VHS and DVD. Season four has begun on HBO, but once I've watched volumes 3.4 and 3.5, it will be another year before I get my next fix. I'm not about to shell out to the local cable mob.


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For your collection: The Sopranos Complete Third Season (DVD), The Sopranos Complete Third Season (VHS)

Gooden's listening to: The Best of NPR's Car Talk by Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers. This is hysterical! The show is great, but this collection contains all those times the two laughing mechanics lose control and laugh themselves breathless on the air. Great stories and great calls in spite of what Tom and Ray would have you believe.

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