Friday, June 08, 2007

Life after Tony

Today's (long) column previews "John From Cincinnati" and "Big Love," both of which I have mixed feelings about:

Can HBO replace Tony Soprano with a levitating surfer? How about a hardware salesman with three wives?

Sunday night shortly after 10 (depending on how much pre-"So pranos" padding we get at 9), the pay cable giant enters Year One A.A. (After Anthony) with the debut of "John from Cincinnati," a new surfing drama from "Deadwood" creator David Milch. The next night, "Big Love" begins its second season, as well as HBO's second attempt to colonize Monday primetime. ("Six Feet Under" tried briefly a few years ago and moved back to Sundays within weeks.) Each show is interesting in its own way, but both illustrate the challenge HBO is going to have filling Tony and Paulie's large white shoes.

"The Sopranos" was the perfect ratings storm for HBO: a blend of highbrow and lowbrow, of equal parts male and female appeal, a market researcher's fan tasy project. Come for the whacking and vulgar humor, stay for the relationships and dream analysis!

Neither "John from Cincinnati" nor "Big Love" can offer that. In better times for the channel, when "Sopranos" was younger and "Sex and the City" still existed, there wouldn't be pressure on it to be all things to all people. But come Sunday around 10, HBO's going to need a new flagship, and I don't see either of these dramas being it.

To read the full thing, click here.

12 comments:

Louis said...

I liked the premise of Big Love, but I just lost interest after a while. It felt to me as if they had too much time and too little story to tell. Plus, Bruce Dern and the crazy-looking woman as Bill Paxton's parents were hammier than Easter dinner.

Don't go, Tony!

Brian said...

I never really got into "Big Love," because when it premiered, my brother hinted he wanted me to leave so he and his wife could go to bed halfway through, and because I didn't have HBO in my apartment at school last year. And I'll try to get into "John,' if for no other reason than to see the way it plays out and give a new show a chance. But you're right: it's unlikely, at least upon first glance for me, that either of them will replace "The Sopranos" as the network's signature drama.

I'm actually somewhat glad about that, mind you. I've long thought, even after I've become a fan of the network, that it's somewhat arrogant and overrated. Perhaps a few slow starters or high profile failures will remind people that like any other television network, HBO isn't perfect.

Anonymous said...

I liked Big Love, but agree that it was slow at times. And I was always more interested in what was going on with Bill and his wives than in the stories about the compound or the store.

John from Cincinnati sounds a lot like Carnivale to me: weird for weird's sake. I tuned out of that show after 2 episodes and it doesn't sound like I'll be bothering to tune into this one at all.

Anonymous said...

To quote Liz Lemon, "It's not HBO. It's TV."

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed Big Love last year, and didn't feel estranged from the characters or situations at all. Like The Sopranos I think it's about family, just done in a very un-real milieu. But unlike The Sopranos I think it's also about relationships/friendships among women which feel very familiar to me despite coming in a vastly different guise on the show. The strength of the show is definitely the female characters.

Brian said...

"To quote Liz Lemon, 'It's not HBO. It's TV.'"

If there's any show that deserves an uptick in viewers, it's "30 Rock." I've actually wondered why NBC doesn't push its sister networks, like USA and Bravo, to run marathons of shows like "The Office," "My Name Is Earl," and "30 Rock" so that they can gain more exposure. I don't expect them to suddenly take down "GA," but if they can attract some viewers who normally wouldn't attempt to sample these shows, perhaps they'll gain some momentum heading into the fall. Combined with some possible Emmy wins, that's exactly what they need.

What else could be standing in the way, besides a lack of desire to do so?

Abbie said...

Big Love is no Sopranos, but it doesn't need to be. It's still better than most of what's on my Tivo. I didn't expect to like it much, but I ended up watching and enjoying it every week last season.

I'll give these HBO shows a fighting chance because I've made mistakes in the past when I pinned too many Sopranos expectations on shows, and gave up too easily only to be swayed by the DVDs a few years later (Six Feet Under, The Wire).

bebe said...

>> "I'm not sure I understood it," said one.

"That's okay," he assured her. "You're not supposed to." <<

Yikes. That's never a good sign. All creative people MUST have some sort of alternative answer to this comment ready, just in case they are ever asked it. Even if you really aren't supposed to understand it, you really shouldn't tell people that.

Jennmcn said...

I'm still not over Deadwood getting canceled or what ever HBO wants to call it. It was the best crafted and most literate show on television, period. I watched every episode more than once.

Rome was another series that hit home with me in a way that The Tudors does not. Telling a story we all know but in a new way. That's The Sopranos, Deadwood and Rome.

Big Love is OK but it lacks a real heart or a compelling character such as Tony Soprano or Al Swearengen.

I may tryout John but will probably long for Bullocks' frustration, Al's Machiavellian moves and E.B.'s wormy little ways.

Frankly, I may just cancel HBO after this Sunday. Weeds and Dexter are coming back.

Dark Tyler said...

Oh my God, everybody calm down! (LOL)

Just because "John" isn't as good as two of the five best shows in the history of television, doesn't mean that it's not going to be, you know, good. In its own terms.

Plus, every time anyone mentions David Lynch as a negative influence, I scratch my head and realize that I love the guy! Anyway, I guess we'll see.

Just... you know, try to see the whole thing outside the terms of how will it measure up to "The Sopranos" financially or if it's going to be as good as "Deadwood". Nobody can outdo himself every single time. Not even David Lynch. ;)

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but I have no interest in big Love and as for John, why the fuck bother? HBO and Milch will both lose interest after a year or two and shitcan the show just when it is taking off. I don't trust either ofthem. Face it fokks, after The Wire (the best show ever made for TV!!!) goes off the air after the 5th season, HBO will not be worth subscribing too. Also, they should've ended Sopranos years ago.

ooda said...

True Blood might be decent, but other than that, I can't see anything to really get excited over in HBO's future.