Sunday, July 22, 2007

David Chase speaks again! (But not really)

From the tour blog: David Chase uses me to set up a punchline at the TCA Awards.


SJ said...

So The Sopranos won Best Drama, and I'm fine with that, but c'mon critics, I was hoping you people would be the ones who would give The Wire it's due (though really it's because of the critics the show will be able to end properly).

Alan Sepinwall said...

Preacin' to the choir, SJ. I voted for "The Wire" as Program of the Year (a category where Sopranos wasn't nominated), but it lost out to "Heroes."

SJ said...

So Heroes won Best Program and not Best Drama? And The Sopranos wasn't even nominated? How does that happen?

I'm confused...shouldn't Best Program come down to the Best Drama and Best Comedy?

Undercover Black Man said...

I could actually quibble about "Sopranos" winning for Best Drama.

Except for a couple of standout eps., this wasn't a great season for "The Sopranos." Whereas critics were comparing Season 4 of "The Wire" to Dickens, Shakespeare and Euripides.

What a dark shadow is cast over the TCA... going for the comic-book shit...

dark tyler said...

This "Program of the Year" stuff doesn't make all that much sense to me, too. But I know that, as UBM noted above, it's beyond ridiculous that the critics would award crap like "Heroes" over the 3 HBO masterpieces or even smash hits like "American Idol". (In a sense, this could be considered one of the programs of the year. It's not about quality, the way I understand it.)

But "Heroes"? How does that happen? It's got half the viewers of "Idol", "House", "Grey's" or "CSI" and less than 1/1,000th of the HBO stuff's quality. So, how was this Program of the Year?

People who voted for "Heroes" deserve every bit of "Boston Legal" overshadowing the "Wire" in the Emmys. Ugh.

Anonymous said...

Hate to say this, but as a fan of "The Wire", I'm much more disappointed by this than I am by the emmys. I expect the emmys to be full of shit. But the critics have been the ones who have been getting behind this show and championing it. There the ones that gave its most recent seasons what are quite possibly the greatest review of all time for a TV show. So how the hell does Heroes, a show with a kind of mixed critical following end of winning the critics' awards? When push came to shove, the critics ignored "The Wire" and went with the more popular pick just like everyone else. There should be no self-satisfied patting each other on the back from the critics this year. They're knee deep in it just like everyone else............Not that I'm criticizing your profession Alan.

That Dude Over There said...

Nothing for The Wire?!!? What utter [expletive deleted].

Where's the love, Alan? Where's the mother******* love?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Look, I ain't disagreeing with any of you. The Wire should've won a significant award, and I even added in something to both the blog entry and the version that will be in print tomorrow saying as much.

The TCA's a large group, and a lot of the members happen to be very into the skiffy. That's the only explanation I can give.

Anonymous said...

I really want to reiterate dark tyler's thoughts on the Heroes love that seems to be coming from the critic types and awards shows.

What the hell?

While I admittedly watched every episode this past season, it was mainly because I had the glimmer of hope that eventually, they'd do something so cool that all the very very horrible acting, horrible execution and confusion of powers, nearly listless plot, and subplots that ultimately end up nowhere were going to be worth it. Ultimately, it didn't. The season finale was a complete mess with a huge anti-climax that nearly had me enraged.

So why all the love? It can't be that I'm the only one who sees this.

(And I'm sorry to admit but I'll probably be watching next season, too. What's wrong with me?)

Anonymous said...

Amidst the outrage against all kinds of awards, I'd like to ask what happened tothe TV Guide Awards. With the People's Choice being a Gallup Poll of randomly seected people via phone (I think) and just barely covering TV amidst everything else - It seemed a good idea that the people who actually *watch* TV (for fun, not business) and prove it by reading at - at the time useful - guide to TV listings, should be able to choose to award various shows which were likes by The Viewing Public. But the awards show lasted - what? two years?
Even though I no longer bother with TV Guide, I feelsad that my opinion (as the consumer) only mattered briefly.


Anonymous said...

Undercover Black Man:

We are in fundamental agreement that The Wire is every bit or more deserving of these awards than anything else on TV.

That said, putting aside the fact that you are hardly the least biased person to comment on this matter (given your involvement in Season 4 of The Wire), and also putting aside the fact that your lukewarm response to the final 9 episodes of The Sopranos is very much in the minority of the critical consensus, your apparent call for greater reason and fair judgment in the TCA seems a tad hypocritical. In a previous talkback to a Sepinwall article on the Sopranos finale, you said that you had missed the finale and that you were glad that you did. Especially given that the comment followed an article by a critic who took a very positive stance on both the finale and the final season, such a dismissive response was not unlike the way that The Wire is unjustly passed over and seemingly dismissed out of hand by these various award ceremonies.

Also, not that we should be writing essays here, but given that you are using a contrarian position on The Sopranos final season to make a larger argument about a "dark shadow" being "cast over the TCA", I would be interested to see you elaborate on that opinion. Simply saying that the final season wasn't great is hardly a truism -- especially given, once again, that the critical consensus disagrees with you. If I was to say simply that the final season of The Wire wasn't that good and deserved to be overlooked (without elaborating what is an overwhelmingly minority position here) to make a point that the TCA is doing a great job with its awards, I would be scoffed at on this message board, and rightly so.

Undercover Black Man said...

Jessica, I wasn't being literal about the "dark shadow" over TCA... a bit of ironic overstatement.

Nor do I wish to dump on "The Sopranos." But yeah, since you asked, I still haven't seen the series finale of "Sopranos" and don't need to. The ep. when Tony killed Christopher and the penultimate ep. with three extraordinary action set pieces and a fantastic scene paying off the Tony-Melfi relationship... those were the true final chapters.

My problem with the last season of "The Sopranos" is that it meandered. It didn't build like a freight train all season long to its climax. Matter of fact, Melfi's cutting Tony loose... there was no pipe laid for that whatsoever in previous eps. That whole story turn/character turn just came out of nowhere.

And I don't think Alan has said -- nor would say -- nor have I seen any other critic say -- that this was the best season ever of "The Sopranos." But because it was the farewell season, I think a lot of critics wanted to reward it for that.

And I say all of this as a TV fan. I'm not now, nor have I ever been, full-time employed by "The Wire." I don't have any pride of authorship of Season 4. But good Lord... go back and read some of the reviews these critics wrote when Season 4 debuted. I've never seen anything like that.

Matt said...

I expect two things played a role in "Heroes" getting there:

1. The "Buffy" residual love that's still kicking around. I'd bet there was a lot of linkage between the two in voters' minds.
2. That in the absence of the success of "Heroes" (and particularly the success of "Company Man"), there'd be no "Pushing Daisies" next year, which is already a major critical darling.

It's also worth noting that "Best Program" seems to have been an award that goes more to a program of "cultural significance" than a "best thing on." Recent winners include "Desperate Housewives," "American Idol," and "Grey's." Perhaps the best example of that? 1995. "My So-Called Life" deservedly wins best drama, but is beaten by "ER" for "Program of The Year."

(Also, looking at the 1999 Best New Program race? Wow, that was a good year for new stuff--"Cupid," "Felicity," "It's Like, You Know," "Sports Night" and "Sopranos".)

Undercover Black Man said...

Matt: That raises another question. Why would a critics' organization hand out an award that doesn't reflect a critical judgement... but more of an assessment of impact?

Alan, I'm not being pissy... but that is an interesting question.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the follow-up, UBM.

I know you weren't being dramatically literal with your "dark cloud" statement, but your essential point about the TCA was that they screwed the pooch. And again, we are in agreement on that judgment: the reviews for The Wire were/are ecstatic and yet, the TCA didn't follow up or reflect any of that critical worship with any of its awards, even though that is their mandate and their function. We expect such an oversight from the Emmys, not from the critics themselves.

The point I was trying to make is that you are a direct contributor to (if not full-time employee of) the show you are arguing for, and as such, I would expect more than a hit-and-run three-word value judgment against its (awards) competitor, and a better argument from you overall on the subject than I would expect from the rest of us TV bystanders. You expanded and elaborated on part of it and I thank you for that.

Regarding The Sopranos, its finale, and its awards, though you have not seen anyone rank the final season as the best season ever, that is hardly necessary when we are talking about one of the most acclaimed series to ever air in this country. Greatness is greatness, even if it's not as great as last year or 5 years ago. I prefer Vertigo to Psycho, but I still think both should have won awards for their respective years.

As for my own reaction to the final season of The Sopranos, as a person who has bothered to watch the finale and to base my opinion on actual direct experience of and reaction to it, I, and many others, thought it was, in fact, a perfect final chapter. I suggest you give it a chance. Also, the fact that you think it is being rewarded only for being the final season should give you hope: as long as The Wire doesn't somehow go off the rails in its final season, perhaps it will be similarly rewarded after its conclusion. Besides, on the subject of being rewarded for the wrong reason, the gushing reviews for The Wire sometimes border on the hyperbolic -- perhaps to counter its below-the-radar popular status. Certainly, in terms of critical reaction if not actual awards, the series is no stranger to being rewarded, whether it's for its genuine quality or for its hipster cachet.

To say that the final season of The Sopranos meandered on the way to its conclusion seems to me to miss an important point as regards the show's approach to narrative. A season of The Wire, of course, has always been self-described by its creator as being an accumulation of chapters in a larger novel; that is, the season is the story and every episode is a building block to the finale. I would argue that The Sopranos, on the other hand, has often been misinterpreted as being of the same kind when, as David Chase has said, he preferred to create episodes as mini-movies. Some seasons reflect that more than others, but ultimately, if you go back over the series, you'll find that every season has meandered at some point, because that is the intention. Episodes are supposed to digress from previous ones, and are supposed to tell divergent stories, even if they may build on continuing themes, characterizations, etc. Whatever the case, I would argue that, if anything, the final season did this less than any other (there were no completely stand-alone episodes like "Luxury Lounge" or "University" or the Imperioli-written episodes of past seasons).

Also, I would argue that Melfi dumping Tony was supposed to be a blow-up, and supposed to be the result of a somewhat impulsive action. We've seen her wrestle with the moral dilemma of having Tony for a patient many times over the course of past seasons, and she has always ended up eventually convincing herself to continue (even the issue of the impossibility of properly treating a sociopathic patient was referred to way back in the early seasons, which Melfi dismissed). That pulling the plug would finally be dependant on a moment of capriciousness and borderline selfishness on Melfi's part was somewhat fitting. The whole series has been an on-going cycle of character epiphanies and reversions. The only way Melfi was going to get off that merry-go-round was to pull the plug as she did, without thinking, without rationalizing.

And pull the plug is exactly what Chase ultimately did at the end of the last episode -- one way of interpreting it, anyway. In it, bereft of Melfi's continuing influence, Tony and family complete their respective reversions (Tony from his coma awakening, for example) when -- even though they began the episode on-the-run and in hiding, with no reason to continue staying in Jersey and with an excellent opportunity to leave the life -- they return to their old home and their old ways and get immediately comfortable back in their old life. To say that the penultimate episode is the real final chapter and that viewing the finale is unnecessary is to miss that final reversion, and that final point being made -- not only in regards to Tony, but Meadow, AJ, and Carmela as well. The final scene is about Carmela and the kids each re-entering Tony's orbit one at a time, each of their own volition, even though they should all know better by this point. That's the final point, and that's the end of the overarching story of the season, if you will. To skip it under the assumption that the previous episodes worked well enough as an ending or because the finale doesn't sound appealing to you on paper is, frankly, kind of silly.

But now I've meandered.

Undercover Black Man said...


Anonymous said...

"Meh," said everyone who heard about the greatness of The Wire but decided that some show about a bunch of drug dealers and depressed cops didn't appeal to them.

"Meh," said everyone who watched The Wire and knew they respected it more than any other show on television but decided to vote for the warmer, fuzzier "comic-book shit" instead.


I'll raise a "meh" to your "meh".

Anna Laperle said...

Meh seconded. I don't think there is any need to go on about the genius of David Chase vs. the genius of David Simon just because that genius David Mills shared some of his gentle thoughts with us non-geniuses not named David. Seriously. As Joey Tribbiani would say, it's a moo point. The Sopranos is excellent for x reasons. The Wire is excellent for y reasons. You got chocolate on my peanut butter! You got peanut butter on my chocolate! etc.

The thing is, like Anton Ego says, critics are supposed to champion the new, not comic book shit. Now, most people do enjoy comic book shit ("the skiffy"), but it takes a critic to point out the less obvious masterpiece about cops chasing drug dealers in Baltimore as opposed to, you know, the one about the fat crook from Jersey.

Anonymous said...

The critics should be ashamed of themselves, plain and simple. Not only for voting for Heroes but also for slobbering all over David Chase- there was a reason this year's Sopranos wasn't nominated for best program...and to give the Sopranos a Heritage Award is a joke unto itself.

I don't know why Simon and company should ever bother showing up (assuming they did this time) for any other award invite if they can't get recognized this year by people who should know great television. If I was a critic, I would have felt the need to go apologize to them after the show and at least buy them a drink for flying all the way out to California to be snubbed like that.

Anonymous said...

I was hoping to read people's comments about Chase's comments about the finale of Sopranos. Alan (and others)... it's been a while and I forgot your interpretation on what the ending 'meant'. His comments to you seem to mean he got killed. I've heard others talk the same way about POTA. That one, I figured out as soon as I saw it. This, has me scratching my head!

Anonymous said...


I was not arguing the genius of anyone versus the genius of anyone else. In fact, one of my initial points was speaking to (or was trying to, anyway) the exact opposite: that to say that The Sopranos is not as worthy as The Wire for a critics award when it also receives near-unanimous acclaim is to contradict the central argument that The Wire was robbed by not being given the same award instead for its near-universal acclaim. If Mr. Mills was only saying that he prefers The Wire to The Sopranos, he would hear no argument from me. Rather, what he said was that the TCA messed up by giving its award to the recent season of The Sopranos (critically beloved) rather than The Wire (critically beloved) which makes little sense given that it is a critics award meant for critically beloved television, and that the award given The Sopranos is entirely consistent with the critical attention and reaction that it received during its final season, even if Mr. Mills disagrees with the consensus with his gentle thoughts. That "Heroes", much less acclaimed than either The Wire or The Sopranos, is undeserving we can all agree on, which is where the real x vs. y argument can be made.

Moreover, to dismiss The Sopranos and call it undeserving having not bothered to watch the final episode (and to make claims about what the real ending to the story is without actually seeing the finale) seems to be the same kind of attitude shown by critics and awards voters who overlook The Wire, having not bothered to fully engage with it.

Undercover Black Man said...

Anna, gentlelady, thank you for your kind words.

Jessica, I don’t know why you’re dragging this out. But the flaw in your argument is that “The Sopranos” and “The Wire” were NOT “critically beloved” to an equivalent degree this past season.

Amidst the rapturous reviews for Simon’s work... alongside the invocations of Dickens and Dante and Shakespeare... quite a few critics made the case that “The Wire” was HBO’s best show. (Better, that is, than “The Sopranos.”)

Let’s revisit the love flood, shall we? (Boldface emphasis added.)

“When television history is written, little else will rival ‘The Wire,’ a series of... extraordinary depth and ambition.... What Simon and his collaborators achieve is breathtaking...” (Brian Lowry, Variety)

“[T]he argument over whether ‘The Wire’ is the best show on television needs only two other participants -- also from HBO -- in the form of ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘Deadwood.’ Rather than split hairs, let’s just say that the breadth and ambition of ‘The Wire’ are unrivaled and that taken cumulatively over the course of a season... it's an astonishing display of writing, acting and storytelling that must be considered alongside the best literature and filmmaking in the modern era. ... [It’s] the absolute best of what television has to offer...” (Tim Goodman, San Francisco Chronicle)

“... literary television that broadens the mind and blows the heart open... ‘The Wire’ is a beautiful, brave series. This is its best season yet.” (Virginia Heffernan, New York Times)

“ ‘The Wire’... is surely the best TV show ever broadcast in America.” (Jacob Weisberg, Slate)

“It’s a masterpiece. ... on a level with the best work in television history.” (Maureen Ryan, Chicago Tribune)

“The sense of realism is uncompromised and rigorous. ... ‘The Wire’ might be the most authentic epic ever on television. ... Taut as a trampoline, straightforward and riveting... and with more raw heart than any other crime drama on television.” (Tom Shales, Washington Post)

“ ‘The Wire’ keeps getting better, and to my mind it has made the final jump from great TV to classic TV — put it right up there with ‘The Prisoner’ and the first three seasons of ‘The Sopranos.’ It’s the sort of dramatic cycle people will still be writing and thinking about 25 years from now.... ‘The Wire’ is a staggering achievement.” (Stephen King, Entertainment Weekly)

“...HBO’s most consistently satisfying show...” (Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

“If there ever was a series that makes HBO a necessity, ‘The Wire’ is it. ... Stick with ‘The Wire’... and you’ll get a series that not only is the best on HBO, but also the channel’s most lifelike.... Intense and wonderful...” (Melanie McFarland, Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

Now, Jessica, leave me and my viewing choices out of it. Look at these reviews. Isn’t it baffling that the TCA wouldn’t reward this show with a trophy? (Actually, the TCA never has bestowed a trophy on “The Wire,” if the Wikipedia tally is accurate.

Perhaps, at the end of the day, the TV critics want to associate themselves with “hits” as much as the rest of the show-biz establishment. Perhaps they figured it would be much cooler to party with David Chase than David Simon. Whatever.

But don’t give me a hard time for pointing out that this makes no sense, given what they wrote last year.

Undercover Black Man said...

P.S. I know Stephen King's not a professional critic. But his rave only further illustrates how deserving "The Wire" was of some trophy love.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I'd be happy to put this to rest, UBM. It is an awards ceremony we are talking about, after all.

But I must say that I was not, and am not, attempting to drag anything out; rather, I was clarifying what I had already said to a comment that seemed to misinterpret my words. I don't think that's out of line. And what that comment suggested was that I was making a comparison of one genius to another, which was not the case.

On the issues of both dragging things out and comparing highly regarded (I'll leave the word "genius" out of it for now) series, your last comments suggest that you are doing more of the same. And since you are basically responding to things that I have not said rather than to what I have said, I feel the need to clarify one more time.

Did I say that the acclaim that has met The Wire and The Sopranos is exactly equivalent and that the measurements I have taken prove it to be as such? Have I said that The Wire is not an excellent television series and that it does not deserve some sort of recognition from either the TCA or anyone else for its most recent season? Did I say that I require blurb evidence of the massive and seemingly unprecedented level of acclaim that met The Wire last year? And, have I not, in fact, left your viewing practices out of the matter, UBM, particularly when I wrote in my last comment that if you were simply stating a personal preference between The Wire and The Sopranos, you would hear no argument from me?

What I am saying, and what I have already said in different words, is that to attempt to numerically differentiate the acclaim of two series that are each more acclaimed than any other series on TV (save maybe Deadwood) to suggest where a critics award should go is where the true Genius vs. Genius argument is being made. What I have also been saying is that it is hardly unjustified that The Sopranos wins a critics award for being critically acclaimed, even if the degree of its critical acclaim is slightly less pronounced than another series. The argument against Heroes that we can all agree on is that it has simply not met or even approached any of the critical attention of either The Sopranos or The Wire and as such, hardly seems worthy of its bestowed honor. But that's different than saying that The Sopranos is unjustified.

Basically, UBM, if I was trying to make the issue personal, as you seem to suggest when you say that I am dragging things out and not leaving your viewing practices out of this matter, I would tell you that I love all of your past and current work, that I enjoy your website, and that I admire greatly your association with one of the greatest series in the history of television. Alas, that was also not what I was saying and is also totally beside the point.

Also, on a different topic but still responding to something in your comments, I feel like pointing out that The Shakespeare, Dickens, Dante, et al comparisons have been made with The Sopranos as well, time and again. Perhaps, the fact that these things have all been said before, and the fact that The Sopranos is as popular as it is, makes it redundant to continue showering the series with praise, and leaves critics to champion less well known series as The Wire. Just as The Sopranos should not be awarded for its popularity by a critics award, it should also not be punished for its success or longevity, nor for the fact that the swell of overstated critical attention given the series has been exhausted at this point. But again, that's another matter.

Anonymous said...

Girls, girls! You're both pretty!

Anna Laperle said...

I feel like Louis Del Grande right before his head exploded.

I believe that the accusations of bias and hypocrisy were adequately and politely answered by the accused party who does not profess to be a TV critic but has certainly worked long enough in television and journalism to give an opinion on the TCAs awarding a show that he felt to be lacking.

There is no need for further lecture on one's personal opinion. Blogging is supposed to enhance the exchange of ideas, not to serve as a crucible.

Anonymous said...

It's true. That's all I really wanted to hear.

Anonymous said...


I was not trying to attack anyone. The thing I wrote first was that I was "putting aside" the issue of bias on the matter. Admittedly, the issue would be better left aside by not being mentioned at all, but I felt that it needed to be gotten out of the way off the bat. Obviously, that didn't work.

As for hypocrisy, well that is an exchange of an idea, isn't it, if it is directly related to the debate at hand? If I was just being generally self-righteous, I would see your point, but I was responding to the argument directly: how we can't make the argument that one show is more deserving than another without having seen the other to completion while also making the argument that critics are dismissing a particular show without giving it a proper chance. I think that's an adequate and proper idea being expressed, not the moral accusation you inferred.

Undercover Black Man said...

Jessica... I think I’m falling in love with you.

Hey, just joking around... I likes to joke.

But since you had to “go there” again with my personal viewing choices... since you were compelled by your demonic inner lawyer to proclaim that “we can’t make the argument that one show is more deserving than another without having seen the other to completion”... I want to say one more thing (which I actually wanted to say last time but figured I had gone on quite enough). And that’s this:

If David Chase had resolved the Tony Soprano story definitively... if he had chosen anything except an ambiguous ending... certainly I would feel an intense need to watch the series finale, for my own sense of closure after investing many hours in this narrative over the years.

But precisely because Chase went with an open ending, I just don’t feel that need. That doesn’t mean I can’t (or shouldn’t) form opinions about the show’s up-and-down final season based on those episodes I did watch.

It’s the storyteller’s job to engage me as much as it’s my job to engage with the show. And my frustration with Chase’s meandering narrative style has been a major aspect of the viewing experience for me the last two seasons.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I love you too, David. Just wait until you find out that I'm actually a 75-year-old man masquerading as a female here.

Just kidding.

But you're right. I think we've all gone on long enough, and by posting this, I really don't mean to communicate that I want to have the last word on the matter. Besides, I think it's Anna's turn anyway.

However, just to return to your viewing practices and to prod you (but not to lecture you, believe me) towards giving the Sopranos finale a chance, I think the talk of the ambiguous "non-ending" of the finale has actually been overstated. Really, a lot was resolved in that episode in the last 3 minutes and in the previous 57, not the least having to do with Paulie. It's a shame the last scene had to steal attention from what I think is generally agreed was a great episode, at least until the final scene. If anything, watch the finale for the nuance, the humor, the performances, etc. Not everything is narrative. And if everything is narrative, just remember, you did like the previous 3 episodes. Why not continue going with it?

Actually, that does sound a bit like a lecture doesn't it?

No matter. Last words (which, interestingly enough, have little to do with what we've been discussing for the most part): things certainly are resolved in the final scene. Everything else changes, Tony stays the same, and his family joins him. No "redemption", no punishment, a million missed opportunities put in the rearview mirror, and a liftime of the hell of having to look over your shoulder. That's the end of the story. Which is nothing to say of the cut-to-black = death interpretation (I don't think I'm spoiling anything at this point). It's a different kind of resolution than we'd see or expect from, say, Deadwood or many other great shows, but in the series' own context, it's perfectly appropriate. If you watch it, you might find that it wasn't as meandering or inconclusive as has been reported. Or not. Either way, at least you'll know.

Of course, now I really have expressed a personal opinion of the show that has nothing to do with the TCA or what we've been debating, but consider it a side note. My inner lawyer digresses.

To bring it back to the TCA, one last thing. The reviews for The Wire came out half a year before The Sopranos acclaimed final season, and after what many thought was a disappointing finish to the previous season (or half-season, or whatever). In fact, one could argue that by giving an award to The Sopranos, critics voting for the TCA awards reevaluated their choice of The Wire as the best show on television or the best show on HBO, having seen the last episodes of The Sopranos. I wouldn't make that argument because it's purely speculative (and unlikely), but so is the notion that the already-appreciated and praised Sopranos was only voted for because of its popularity or success.

But again, it's like Citizen Kane vs. The Godfather at the top of the AFI list. At the end of the day, who gives a shit? Now, if The Godfather Part III suddenly appeared at the top...

Anyway, I thought that was worth pointing out at this late juncture. Just an idea being expressed.

Thanks for your time.