The Hyde Collection, Glens Falls, N.Y.

The Hyde Collection, Glens Falls, N.Y.
One of My Favorite Places on Earth

Sunday, June 17, 2007

OK...I'll Write My Own Ending

Since we're all obviously expected to write our own Soprano's ending, here's mine:

Setting: Holsten's Diner, North Jersey

The guy in the bathroom comes out, stops when he gets to Tony and reaches into his breast pocket. Tony flinches for a second, thinking the end is finally here. Carmella screams 'NO!', A.J. dives under the table, letting out a Clay Aikin-like yelp as he smacks his head on the way down. (Carmella instinctively grabs her glass of ice water, compresses it to A.J.'s head while simultaneously shouting to the waitress that they better have Lincoln Log sandwiches on the menu).

Meadow gallops over from the doorway and warns the stranger that he better not f#%*@ with her family.

The man smiles at her, then strokes Tony benevolently on the head as he hands him a copy of The Four Agreements.

"It will change your life, Anthony. Read it and pass it on," he whispers before leaving.

Since he has heartburn from the onion rings and can't sleep that night, Tony sits up in his barca lounge and reads the book from cover to cover.

The next morning, as the sun streams into the kitchen, Carmela comes down to find Tony at the stove, humming as he fries her a Prosciutto omelet.

He pours her a cup of coffee and effuses about how he's been playing the game of life all wrong. Now he understands what he's meant to do with the rest of his years.

After he's cooked breakfast for the family and done the dishes, Tony hurries off to the hospital with The Four Agreements in hand, where he reads it aloud to Silvio, who of course, makes a miraculous recovery.

He and Tony both agree that it's time to take a different path in life and they leave the hospital to find Paulie and pass the book on to him.

Cut to the next scene. The Bada Bing has been completely renovated and turned into a holistic healing arts center. The interiors have been partitioned off to make way for yoga and meditation classes, reiki sessions, past-life regressions, and the practice of Ayurvedic medicine.

Tony looks around and takes in the new look: crystals in every nook and cranny, indoor windchimes, gold-framed photos of Jesus, Buddha, Mother Mary and other icons on the walls, a few well-placed waterfalls, and a sitar player sitting cross-legged on a giant pillow reciting the OM chant.

Paulie walks in the door, strides over to Tony and with a slight smirk, hands him an envelope

"The travel agent told me it ain't Bombay no's Mumbai."

Tony thanks Paulie for keeping an eye on things while he's away.

"Carm know about this?"

"Yeah. She's goin' with me."

They bear-hug and then Paulie looks wistfully after Tony as he disappears through the door then shakes his head.

"A month at an ashram...Marrone."

The credits roll in tandem with the George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord."

....something like that.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Why I Oughta...

By Stacey Morris

Where is he? Lemme at him. I swear if I find David Chase I’ll…

Pardon me. I’m still decompressing. One week after the most lethargic series finale of all time (with the lone exception of Phil’s rubout) the wounds have yet to fully close.

Is there any question that after all these years of loyalty, Soprano’s fans deserved better?

I know, I know: Chase (the show’s creator) has always demanded we draw our own conclusions. His minimalist and highly original storytelling style is something I've long admired. But since this is the "final episode...ever," there should have been a bit more workmanship put into the finished product.

The fact that it was the finale wasn't the only reason I felt completely, shall we say, goosed as the credits rolled silently. This is HB-Freakin' O. I paid to watch this show, and therefore, the bar is supposed to be set a little higher.

I wasn’t looking for a predictable conclusion, with every loose thread quaintly embroidered into place. Any Soprano’s fan knows better than to expect the plot-schlock played out in movies and network TV again and again.

(Which reminds me, to all those fans on message boards across the globe: Did you confuse Chase with the head writer at "Days of Our Lives"? Adriana is indeed DEAD. The Russian’s not coming back to get Paulie, either. Can we move on from that now?)

As the creative master he’s proven himself to be, I’m sure there were several Chase-worthy endings that he formulated over the years. My only unbendable expectation as an emotionally and financially invested viewer was that he pick one.

Instead he did the unforgivable by copping out. What a waste. And not just the last two minutes.

Chase chose to conclude his masterpiece with scenes of Meadow’s multiple attempts to parallel park, Paulie Walnuts’ Laurel and Hardy schtick with the cat, and the peculiar fascination with A.J.'s tribulations (we get it, he's a self-absorbed loser).

But that sudden cut to silent black (that had us frantically reaching for the remote to make sure the cable hadn't gone out) was simply hostile. Thanks a lot, pal. After all these years of loyal viewing and taking our money, you go out with an ending that was about as satisfying as a dud firecracker.

If I’m expected to work that hard at wrapping up the end of the series, I should be paid the going rate for scriptwriters, plus union benefits.

It smacked of such artistic Hari Kari, I'm starting to wonder if Chase didn't willfully shoot himself in the foot.

Vanity Fair's April profile of Chase noted his formative years were spent as an underloved only child of woefully unhealthy parents. He’s always been open about his mother being the inspiration for the role of Livia Soprano, Tony’s relentlessly damaging mother.

Post-college, Chase moved to Hollywood to begin a script-writing career, but more importantly, to flee his parents.

What has all this to do with the shockingly disappointing final episode?

Since the series began a decade ago, Chase has been up to his elbows in glowing reviews and trophies. Aside from a few disgruntled remarks about the Tony-in-a-coma storyline last year, it was a continual stream of media praise. Fans stopped short of making graven images of Chase. When the final nine episodes edged toward airdate, the acclaim snowballed into an avalanche.

You don't have to be Dr. Melfi to know that low self-esteem and intense praise can't really peacefully co-exist.

So, Chase made a move that hopefully would ensure the most successful chapter of his career would not end on swells of a lingering high note: He gave us no ending – a move interpreted by his most ardent fans as brilliant.

It was clever, I’ll give him that, but just not in terms of plot.

What better way to a) kick sand in the faces of those twisted souls who admired him and b) leave the door open for the red carpet premiere of Big Screen Tony?

Chase has been quoted as saying that feature films have been his goal all along. And why not? Tony, Carmella, Meadow, and A.J. weren’t definitively taken out in the final scene. Add Paulie, Patsy, Dr. Melfi, Janice, Artie, Hesh, et al, and you’ve practically got a full cast. And mark my words: if it does happen, Silvio WILL emerge from that coma he wasn’t expected to recover from. Hopefully the movie can address if the miracle was tied into Paulie’s Lourdes-like vision of Mother Mary hovering above the stage at Bada Bing.

My admiration for Chase’s brilliance demonstrated in The Soprano’s first 85 episodes will always remain intact.

But perhaps it will provide him with a measure of psychological relief that, along with millions of other smarting viewers, the stunt he pulled in the final scene changed my opinion of him irrevocably. Buddy, if you didn't want legions of admirers, why not just go work for the IRS?

I doubt I'll put out for the double-digit ticket price if and when The Soprano’s are resurrected on the big screen.

Episode 86 was enough for me.

Commandatore, Ciao.