Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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Hitting the TV Jackpot: Sopranos Season Three Marathon on A&E

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 28, 2007

You’re one in a million, you got to burn to shine

My brother and his girlfriend used to mock me for watching The Sopranos on A&E when I was living with them, since they owned all the seasons on DVD, obviously without commercials and without censoring (both of which A&E’s re-runs have in spades). But as any real TV fan knows, there’s a world of difference in watching something on DVD whenever you please and watching something as it airs on TV. When you actually choose to watch something that you could conceivably watch at any point in your life, there’s litlte excitement to it, but if you just happen to catch it on TV, the excitement of watching it without having had to select it yourself is infintiely more rewarding. And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, trust me, you’re probably better off.

Anyway, for me, extended Holiday weekends are all about marathoning, and as I was finishing up the 2044 Essentials countdown on XM’s 80s alternative channel Fred (The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” narrowly beat out “London Calling” and “How Soon is Now?” for top honors, btx) I noticed that A&E was doing a run through the episodes of the third season of The Sopranos. They’ve been airing them twice a week for the last few months, and I’ve caught ’em when I could, but it’s still pretty nice to be able to watch a whole bunch of them in a row like this.

The Sopranos third season is sort of an interesting one. Unlike most of the show’s other seasons (with the all-too-large exception of the first half of season six), there’s really not that much that actually happens. The only through thread of importance that comes to a head in the season is the cautionary tale of Jackie Aprile, Jr., ne’er-do-well son of former Soprano boss Jackie and nephew to the recently deceased (by Janice’s hand, in what remains the series’ most stunning monet) Richie. His downward slide isn’t terribly gripping, though, and it’s not surprising at all–aside from season two’s idiotic duo of out-of-their-leaguers Sean and Matt, no character’s death was as obvious from the first moment he got ideas in his head than Jackie Jr.’s.
So without a really strong arc to anchor the season, what you get instead is a lot of wheel-spinning, character development and “what if?” scenarios. So Meadow experiences her first love and deals with a psycho roommate, A.J. attempts high school football, Christopher gets his button, Uncle Junior Tony deals with his mother’s death and gets a new goomah, and Dr. Melfi gets raped and toys with the morality of calling in Tony for revenge. It’s filled with episodes that don’t make as much of an impression as other seasons, but that makes them arguably more intresting to re-watch–I forgot that episode with Burt Young as Bobby’s cancer-ridden father going on one last hit even existed, for instance.

And that’s not to say that there aren’t any classic episodes in the season, either. “University,” which mainly focuses on the fruition and eventual dissipation of Meadow’s relationship with first boyfriend Noah and the story of Bing stripper Tracee, who ingratiates herself to Tony right before Ralphie (whose baby she’s pregnant with) beats her to death, is easily one of my favorites in the entire series. The scene where Ralphie kills her, after faking a seemingly sincere promise to take care of her and her baby, is still extremely harrowing, and the uncomfortability of the situation with Meadow and her roommate, whose freakouts drive a wedge between Meadow and Noah, will strike a chord with anyone who had a, um, difficult Freshman roommate situation (mine wasn’t quite so bad, but at least twice I heard him not-so-quietly sobbing about his ex while listening to Evanescene on his headphones).

Only problem with the marathon? Incessant, largely unfunny commercials for Ocean’s Thirteen. I’m strongly considering refusing to see the movie in theaters in protest, and I was even one of the handful of people on this planet to actually prefer Twelve to Eleven.

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One Response to “Hitting the TV Jackpot: Sopranos Season Three Marathon on A&E”

  1. nick said

    1. Did meadow roomie fuck Noah the hassiadic homie (EASILY the most annoying, smug asshole in the whole 6 years!!

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