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Category:    Home > Reviews > Gangster > TV > The Sopranos – Season Six, Part One (Blu-ray + HD-DVD)

The Sopranos – Season Six, Part One (Blu-ray + HD-DVD)

 

Picture: B     Sound: B-     Extras: C+     Episodes: B-

 

 

At its peak, The Sopranos be came one of the increasingly rare hit TV shows that was also a phenomenon and not because it was some phony, happy hit about a group of adults who don’t act like it.  Instead, crime family or not, it was the kind of gutsy, intelligent, daring, gritty and groundbreaking show TV has been sorely lacking since the 1980s.  It was the return of the repressed.

 

Now, in its final episodes, the show is as bold about showing decline, apathy and burn out as it was about showing the good times.  Some actually enjoy this phase, others are no as happy and this critic would point out that the show is being as thorough about this period as everything else.  Not that the shows always work at this point, but it remains ambitious enough.  The episodes are:

 

1)     Members Only

2)     Join The Club

3)     Mayham

4)     The Fleshy Part Of The Thigh

5)     Mr. and Mrs. John Sacrimoni Request

6)     Live Free Or Die

7)     Luxury Lounge

8)     Johnny Cakes

9)     The Ride

10)  Moe & Joe

11)  Cold Stones

12)  Kaisha

 

 

The cast is still good growing into their roles so seamlessly (and they were good from the start) and directing remains top-notch, but another problem the show has is that it has done so much already.  It can only conclude its project and hopefully not hit any sour notes.  In that, it is doing better than some are giving it credit for, but in true Gangster loyalty tradition, some are going to be more loyal than others.  Chase was likely expecting that considering the arc of this show.

 

Unlike Chris Carter and X-Files, at least he did not build up something grand and suddenly “forget about it” as if the fans did not matter.  Chase cannot be accused of this, which is why this show will hold up better than Carter’s in the years to come.

 

After making a little-scene Horror film, Chase went to television and reinvented the Horror genre with clever doses of humor in Kolchak: The Night Stalker, then deconstructed Detective fiction with The Rockford Files (both reviewed elsewhere on this site) and made the con artist/police situation funnier and smarter as story consultant on Switch.  He then produced on Northern Exposure, which was an offbeat deconstruction of TV dramas since the 1980s.

 

The Sopranos digs back to the Gangster genre and its origins during the 1930s, when sound ushered mobsters into cinema permanently.  Tony Soprano becomes a hybrid look at so many lead gangsters up to recent times, for which the series becomes a deep mediation thereof and works through the genre like Chase’s previous series.

 

But this time, Chase had the freedom of cable TV and took off on a genre that was finding new popularity for all kinds of reasons.  James Gandolfini was becoming a big movie star interesting character role after interesting character role when this show hit big.  The same for Edie Falco, with just those two having remarkable and convincing chemistry, Lorraine Bracco (from Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas) and Aida Turturro showing up as more than just token women in the man’s world of mobsters, Michael Imperioli became a new actor on the rise and Steven Van Zandt established himself as a major actor after years of success as the musician known at Little Steven.  They are among the fine players who have created some of the most memorable TV characters of the last quarter century.  No wonder this is a huge hit and the first TV series to arrive in both HD formats.

 

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image is better than the many standard DVD boxes that have come out of the show and is even a tad better than HD broadcasts we have seen.  That does not mean it is always as impressive as it could be, but it looks good and better since it is shot in Super 35mm film than HD.  Smallville looked better in HD-DVD more often, but this is a grittier shoot, with the transfer in both versions very much the same.

 

The Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 sound on both sets is better than standard Dolby Digital 5.1 from the previous DVD sets, but is somewhat limited because this is not a show with constant surrounds to begin with.  Especially at this point, Chase and HBO make sure this is nicely recorded just the same.  The same can be said for the commentary tracks.  This is the first time we have seen the Dolby Plus logo on Blu-ray product of any kind.  Also, the Blu-ray package claims it offers both Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 and PCM 5.1, but it does not have the room for both and there is no PCM here we could find.  Unless we are having technical problems with our Blu-rays, we are considering that perhaps two sound versions were somehow manufactured, but will keep you posted.

 

That leaves four audio commentaries on 12 of the shows with Chase, writers Terence Winter & Matthew Weiner, and actors Falco, Imperioli, Robert Iler, Jamie-Lynn Sigler and Tony Sirico.  You also get episodic previews, episodic recaps and a featurette, none of which are noted on the boxes.

 

So now, it looks like the next set will be the last and give or take a feature film that may or may not happen, the story is coming to an end.  What that will mean for Tony in particular, we don’t know, but everyone is going to find out.

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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