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Archive for Saturday, June 9, 2007

Tony Soprano lives forever on DVD sets

June 9, 2007

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Yes, this is the end for "The Sopranos" (8 p.m., Sunday, HBO). The final episode is written and directed by series creator David Chase.

How do I sum up a show this compelling and influential in just a couple of paragraphs?

While thinking about "The Sopranos," I was struck by the many references to DVDs in the first season. Tony's minions boosted a truckload of expensive players, allowing Tony to watch old films and Carmella to hold late-night movie sessions with the flirtatious Father Phil. When Tony got suspicious, Carmella responded with one of my favorite lines from the very quotable series: "This ain't the frickin' 'Thorn Birds, Tony!""

Now, eight years later, "The Sopranos" will endure on DVD. The DVD phenomenon has allowed and indeed encouraged people to enjoy TV shows from the past, to re-experience them like favorite movies or cherished books. And television has responded. Like "The Sopranos," shows as complex and diverse as "Arrested Development," "24" and "Lost" seem made for DVD consumption.

So here's to you, T. No matter what happens to Tony tonight, "The Sopranos" will never go away.

¢ When horses die, they become metaphors. This was the lesson of "Seabiscuit," at least two Barbaro documentaries and now "Ruffian" (8 p.m., Saturday, ABC), a glance back at a filly of the Ford era that demonstrated great promise but died too soon after a mishap at a much ballyhooed and arguably unnecessary race with the 1975 Kentucky Derby winner Foolish Pleasure.

Sam Shepard is well cast as famous horse trainer Frank Whiteley, a taciturn and not altogether nice man who doted on Ruffian but could not even bring himself to say "Merry Christmas" to his stable hands. Perhaps that was his way of punishing them for all of the forgettable things they uttered while pampering Ruffian. The always-dependable actor Frank Whaley plays sports writer Bill Nack, the man most responsible for the Ruffian legend. Unfortunately, he leaves his best words about Ruffian in his Underwood and spends a lot of the movie awe-struck by her majesty. This is not a dialogue-driven movie.

¢ Is America ready for a paranormal surfing soap opera? "John From Cincinnati" (9 p.m., Sunday, HBO) is the co-creation of David Milch ("Deadwood") and novelist Kern Nunn.

"John" is really the story of the Yosts, three generations of gifted, legendary surfers who all suffer in their own way. Grandfather Mitch (Bruce Greenwood) all but defined the sport before his knee blew out. His son Butchie (Brian Van Holt) destroyed his promise with drugs and bad habits abetted by shady surf promoter Linc (Luke Perry), who now wants to hype the promise of Mitch's 13-year-old grandson, Shaun (Greyson Fletcher).

Strange things begin to happen with the arrival of a stranger (Austin Nichols) given to enigmatic statements and a fashion sense that appears to have stopped around 1984. The stranger takes the name John and claims to be from Cincinnati, but his origins and destiny remain unclear. Is he an angel? He's certainly otherworldly and has an awkward relationship to his body, or at least bodily functions.

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