Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Sopranos Redux

We’re in a new condo over here, and for the life of me I can’t figure out the wi-fi TV. And my cable TV company, my useless cable TV company, which I was longing to dump anyway because I hate CNN, and the tennis grand slams and the NBA playoffs are a pretty shitty trade-off for paying them $720 a year, the cable tech came to move the service and decided after a half hour of examining every wire in the condo and scratching his head that it couldn’t be done. So I cancelled that. And the wi-fi, proca miseria, the menus on this thing have levels within levels and I can’t figure it out. Only about a year old, too, the TV. That’s a fast developing field. The new ones are an open book.

The DVD player, however, is superb. A Blue Ray Samsung, although I’m not quite sure what Blue Ray is.  So I looked through my boxes of DVDs and decided to watch season one of the Sopranos again.

This time around I hardly thought of it as a show about wise guys at all. This time I saw it as a show about terrible wives and mothers, with terrible children thrown in for comic relief.

Arty Bucco’s wife is bad. Tony’s wife is even worse. And of course Tony’s mom is the worst wife and mother in the history of television. Only her namesake on “I, Claudius,” that other Livia long ago, comes close. I cut Livia of the Caesars some slack, because she always had reasons for the terrible things that she did. Livia Soprano, on the other hand, does terrible things on a daily basis just for the shear, blistering hell of it.

I cried out to God a few times watching Carmella torture Tony over every little thing. This guy is some provider, too. He’s not the typical “good husband,” but he really brings home the bacon (and the capicolla). I love Edie Falco, she’s great, but Carmella Soprano is a very unsympathetic character. She’s happy to help out with the guns and the money, and she knows that sometimes someone has to go, and still she’s only too happy to spend the money. I call that ratification, making her as guilty as Tony. At all other times, however, she is complaining in that screechy voice.

At one point, Anthony Junior is in a snit and is acting out by playing awful music at high volume. Carmella starts screaming up the stairs, drowning out the stereo. “AJ!!! How can you play that music so loud when you know your father is sleeping!!!” Well, Carm, he’s awake now.

Poor Tony.

But Carmella is only the insult that comes after the real injury. His mom takes the whole bloody cake. Hold your entries! We have a winner! After a lifetime of jabbing all of the people close to her with exactly the right wrong thing to say, she tops it all off by trying to get Tony killed by his own homies. By his own uncle, no less!

The flashback scenes, where Tony’s dad Johnny and Livia are young marrieds and Tony and his siblings are children, are almost hard to watch. Livia says the damnedest things. She talks, yells, about smothering the children with pillows. She belittles Johnny, and she blocks his advancement. She nags Johnny even more viciously than Carmella nags Tony, and with the same constancy and intensity.

Livia is finally diagnosed from a slight remove by Tony’s psychiatrist, another failed wife and mother with a bitter ex-husband and a pain-in-the-ass son. The doc comes up with “borderline personality” for Livia. That’s a bad one. I looked it up, just to make sure that I wasn’t guilty myself. I’m way short of that, but for my own mom it was four corners, a direct hit.

Maybe that’s why I like the Sopranos so much, and why, for me, Tony is almost the only sympathetic character on the show. Our moms are in the same club. We’ve walked in the same moccasins. I watched, again, and again I felt the guys pain, I was genuinely sorry for him.

It’s a good show. I bought the season one DVDs years ago when a place I liked went out of business. A bootleg DVD place in my favorite mall. Rent got too high, I suppose. It was a clearance sale. I picked it up for about four dollars, the whole season on four DVDs. I love Thailand.

(I’ll deny that if the authorities are monitoring my blog. Maybe I just threw it in for local color!) 

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