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Tony Soprano never died: David Chase

- August 27th, 2014

Did Tony Soprano die?

It’s a question Sopranos fans have been pondering for eight years, the topic of heated debates in the middle of empty dive diners at two thirty in the morning.

Okay, maybe the last part was just my specific group of friends.

Regardless, legendary showrunner and creator David Chase finally confessed that Tony hadn’t died after the screen faded to black at the end of the show’s sixth season.

“No, he isn’t [dead],” Chase told Vox’s Martha P. Nochimson, shaking his head.

Chase has been hounded for years by journalists, critics, fans, and other screenwriters alike for the answer to television’s proverbial finale.

There’s no rhyme or reason for why Chase finally admitted the answer behind closed doors now, but after almost a decade of constant battering and annoying pleading from both complete strangers and close compatriots, the simplest answer is probably the correct one: he was sick of it all.

As Nochimson explains in the profile of Chase, this was a man who fell in love with cinema, poetry, philosophy, and the carefree, do it yourself attitude of the ‘60s. He enjoyed crafting material that ignited imagination in its audience and for years felt nothing but disdain for the very medium he would be come famous for.

“Chase wasn’t just playing with our heads when he designed the conclusion of The Sopranos; he was part of the ongoing evolution of the American imagination,” Nochimson wrote.

Nochimson explained that at the end of the series, with Tony sitting morosely with his wife and son inside a New Jersey restaurant, ready to settle down and possibly leave behind his vicious illegal life, he’s entered his own version of hell after seasons of sifting through purgatory.

It’s all very Dante Alighieri, a comparison the high-browed Chase would gladly accept, I’m sure.

Chase admitted to Nochimson that poetry played a strong part in both the creation and the conclusion of HBO’s show, citing Edgar Allen Poe’s, “Dream Within a Dream” piece as the major inspiration for fading to black instead of producing a more conclusive end.

Other key inspirations came in the form of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, a show that played heavily with dreamscapes and fantastical sequences that marveled television audiences.

It was important to Chase that The Sporanos end on a high, and most importantly, positive note. A picture of Tony Soprano the family man, not the blood stained, maliciously maelovant  monster that he sometimes appeared to be.

The finale is a contradiction that asks a little something out of its audience, Chase explained. Life is full of contradictions, much like Tony’s. Good versus evil, right versus wrong, personal ambition and gain versus the betterment of others. The decision to fade to black was a simple one for that very reason.

At the end of the day, was Tony a monster or a beloved family man?

The debate that sparks from that very question, even in the dingiest of dive bars at two in the morning, is exactly what Chase wanted.

Update: David Chase’s PR team alleged Wednesday night that Chase’s answer was “misconstrued” and taken out of context. According to Chase, “To continue to search for this answer is fruitless. The final scene of THE SOPRANOS raises a spiritual question that has no right or wrong answer,” the press release stated.

Vox has yet to respond to the allegations that they changed the quote to fit their story.

This story will be updated as details come to light.

SPOILER ALERT: Finale details, as True Blood has been spilled for the last time

- August 24th, 2014

true-blood-season-7-teaser-trailer

The series finale of True Blood turned into a sequel of sorts.

So consider this a SPOILER ALERT if you don’t want to know what happened in the finale, which aired Sunday night on HBO and HBO Canada. But if you saw it, you understand that the episode would have fit snugly within the Kill Bill collection of movies. Call it, Kill Bill: Volume III.

The main drama in the finale turned out to be a battle of love, and wills, between Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) and Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin).

Bill was dying from “hepatitis V,” and had refused the cure, thinking he was doing Sookie a favour by finally getting out of her life in a permanent way. The twist, though, was that he asked Sookie to kill him with her “fairy light,” which would have put him out of his misery and also turned her into a normal girl, which is what she claimed she always wanted.

Ultimately, yes, Sookie killed Bill, with a little help from Bill himself. But they did it the old-fashioned way, with a stake. Sookie came to the conclusion that being a fairy is what she was meant to be, and she actually didn’t want to give it up.

Now, had it been up to me, True Blood would have ended with Sookie walking away from the cemetery.

But there was a flash-forward “happy ending” tacked on, with Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) and Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten) getting rich off “New Blood,” and everyone gathered for a happy thanksgiving three years down the line, including the previously departed Sam (Sam Trammell). Sookie was pregnant with the baby of a mystery guy, but I suppose he was meant to be just the random “normal dude” that Bill Compton never could be.

In other developments, after an entire season building up Mr. Gus (Will Yun Lee) and his evil henchmen, they all were eliminated with relative ease within minutes of the start of the finale. That whole plot line was kind of ridiculous. And by the way, now that I think of it, why were Eric and Pam so keen on stealing Mr. Gus’ idea about “New Blood?” Why do vampires need to make money? Can’t they just take whatever they need, including vast sums of cash? Oh well, side point, not to ruin the mood.

Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) and Hoyt (Jim Parrack) got married. They’re living in Bill’s house, which he left to Andy (Chris Bauer), on the condition that he rent it to Jessica and Hoyt at a decidedly below-market rate. And also in the flash-forward, Jason (Ryan Kwanten) and Brigette (Ashley Hinshaw) had a mess of kids, but overall it seemed pretty manipulative to add Brigette to the mix with just a few episodes remaining in the series, merely as a closure device for Jason.

Regardless, after seven seasons, True Blood is gone. In the end, even though it broke her heart in the short term, Sookie had to “kill Bill” to be happy in the long term.

There will be no more sequels. Blood has been spilled. TV is a little less red.

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

Margaret Atwood wonders how HBO will adapt wagging blue penises

- August 20th, 2014
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Canadian author Margaret Atwood at her Toronto home (Fred Thornhill/Reuters).

When beloved Canadian author and one-time Sun guest columnist Margaret Atwood sat down with Vulture to discuss HBO’s upcoming adaptation of her Oryx and Crake trilogy, she tackled such high-brow literary topics as Godzilla cosplay and the mechanics of getting blue penises to wag on television.

Atwood’s speculative fiction series features bio-engineered humans called Crakers, who are  simple-minded, orgy-loving nudists who purr and get bright blue erections that wag like puppy-dog tails. Asked how HBO, no stranger to nudity but not big on the male genitalia, would adapt the Crakers, Atwood admitted: “I’ve not got any inside information on that.”

But being a speculative fiction writer, she speculated.

“Well, that will be easy to simulate. Perhaps with little motors? We’ll see how far they’re willing to go, and how much people are willing to put up with it.”

She also discussed the potential for, God help us, Craker cosplay.

“It would require quite a bit of chutzpah to do that! Are they going to use shrubs? Nude behind the shrub, and just let the top half stick out? Are they going to go Adam with the fig leaf? How daring will they be?”

HBO’s MaddAddam is being developed by Black Swan‘s Darren Aronofsky.

 

 

 

 

Jonah from Tonga finds Partners and Mistresses at The Knick; TV must-sees for the week of Aug. 3

- August 3rd, 2014

The Knick cast, with Eve Hewson as Lucy Elkins, centre rear

Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of Aug. 3

1 The Knick
Debut: Set at a New York hospital in 1900, Dr. John Thackery (Clive Owen) becomes chief surgeon but quickly is pressured by benefactors to hire a black assistant, Dr. Algernon Edwards (Andre Holland).
When: Friday on HBO Canada

2 Partners
Canadian debut with back-to-back episodes: On a bad day for both of them, community lawyer Marcus Jackson (Martin Lawrence) meets unscrupulous corporate reject Allen Braddock (Kelsey Grammer). An unexpected alliance forms.
When: Thursday on Global

3 Jonah from Tonga
Canadian debut with back-to-back episodes: Chris Lilley revisits one of his characters from Summer Heights High, but this update caused a lot of controversy in Lilley’s native Australia earlier this year.
When: Friday on HBO Canada

4 Bachelor in Paradise
Debut: Twenty-five of the franchise’s most controversial contestants, both men and women, are back again, still looking for love. It all begins in an isolated romantic paradise in Mexico. Hey, what doesn’t?
When: Monday on ABC, City

5 The Strain
A secret autopsy demonstrates the bizarre progression of the mysterious virus, while Ephraim (Corey Stoll) and Nora (Mia Maestro) race to find the father of the youngest victim of the plane tragedy.
When: Sunday on FX Canada

6 Halt and Catch Fire
First-season finale: Gordon (Scoot McNairy) and Joe (Lee Pace) prepare to transport the Giant, but a suspicious defect threatens the partnership and Cameron (Mackenzie Davis) takes control of her future.
When: Sunday on AMC

7 Perception
When an FBI agent is found dead, Pierce (Eric McCormack) must face the one case he never solved. It could mess him up mentally, but he agrees to help Moretti (Rachael Leigh Cook) anyway. What a guy.
When: Tuesday on Bravo

8 True Blood
As Eric (Alexander Skarsgard) and Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten) close in on Sarah (Anna Camp), Adilyn (Bailey Noble) finds refuge with Violet (Karolina Wydra). Um, don’t trust her.
When: Sunday on HBO Canada

9 Unforgettable
Al (Dylan Walsh) becomes the prime suspect in the murder of a parolee he helped put in jail, forcing Carrie (Poppy Montgomery) to conduct an off-the-books investigation to prove his innocence to Internal Affairs.
When: Sunday on CBS, CTV

10 Mistresses
April (Rochelle Aytes) worries her past is coming back to haunt her after receiving a shocking phone call, while Savi (Alyssa Milano) reaches out to her long-absent dad. Hey, could it be Tony Danza?
When: Monday on ABC, CTV

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv

The Killing, The Quest, Sharknado 2 and Hell on Wheels; TV’s must-sees for the week of July 27

- July 27th, 2014

Sharknado 2

Bill Harris’ TV must-sees for the week of July 27:

1) The Killing
Debut of fourth and final season: Sarah (Mireille Enos) made a really questionable decision at the end of season three. She always has been really tough, but is she tough enough to live with what she did?
When: Friday on Netflix

2) Sharknado 2: The Second One
Debut: It’s fin-tastic. See it with a chum. More bite for your buck. Something to chew on. Give it a hand. Ian Ziering and Tara Reid are back to battle double shark storms headed for New York City.
When: Wednesday on Space

3) Hell on Wheels
Fourth-season debut: Awaiting the birth of his baby, Cullen (Anson Mount) toils under the thumb of The Swede (Christopher Heyerdahl), while Durant (Colm Meaney) feels the chill after an icy miscalculation.
When: Saturday on AMC

4) The Quest
Debut: This sounds like a reality-competition series for Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings geeks, as 12 contestants are transported into an imaginative realm, with ogres and dragons and a dark lord.
When: Thursday on ABC, City

5) Running Wild With Bear Grylls
Debut: Bear leads actor Zac Efron on a survival journey into the Northeast Appalachian mountain range. But then Zac dances his way out of it, dammit! Take that, danger! East High forever!
When: Monday on NBC, Global

6) The Bridge
Marco (Demian Bichir) gains a new ally while discovering that cartel leader Fausto (Ramon Franco) has a wider reach than anticipated. Meanwhile, a disruption at a local bank provides new intel.
When: Wednesday on FX Canada

7) The Leftovers
A hate crime tests the resolve of Laurie (Amy Brenneman), while Kevin (Justin Theroux) turns down an offer of assistance and Matt (Christopher Eccleston) brings his pulpit to the street.
When: Sunday on HBO Canada

8) Masters of Sex
When Bill (Michael Sheen) delivers a baby with ambiguous genitalia, he encourages the parents not to surgically assign a gender. Meanwhile, Virginia (Lizzy Caplan) learns about Bill’s troubled childhood.
When: Sunday on The Movie Network, Movie Central

9) Under the Dome
After a bad plan by Big Jim (Dean Norris) and Rebecca (Karla Crome) leaves the town divided, Julia (Rachelle Lefevre) takes over as leader of Chester’s Mill. But that’s not actually a paid position any more.
When: Monday on CBS, Global

10) Masters of Illusion
Debut: Hosted by Dean Cain, this series features illusionists performing everything from sleight-of-hand to great escapes, all in front of a live studio audience. I watched it. Or did I?
When: Friday on CW

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

@billharris_tv