HBO once again succeeded with last night’s Sopranos au voir in architecting the water cooler moment to trump all water cooler moments. As the Washington Post’s Tom Shales dubbed it, “the greatest double-take–by the audience–in the history of American television.” The anti-climactic, pick-your-own-adventure, visually and narratively impotent ending that left us all banging on our DVRs, thinking we were the ones who kaboshed missing Tony & co’s final moments. But thanks to the show’s creator, David Chase, he did it for us.
Whether you believe it was an artful existential statement, a cheap exit strategy, or just a cynical wink to insult Chase’s evangelical audience, it achieved buzz-worthy heights (HBO’s website crashed last night) any marketer would whack a member of the Lupertazzi clan for. But, as Hollywood blogger Nikke Fink suggests in her incisive analysis of the episode, fans are feeling so betrayed (myself included), “HBO could suffer a wave of cancellations as a result.” And, after the network’s recent Chris Albrecht fiasco and their scurry to ressurect more original programming magic now that iconic hits like Six Feet Under, Sex and the City, and The Sopranos, are now, well, six feet under, that’s not exactly a cozy position to put themselves in.
The beauty of The Sopranos has always been its nuance: its elaborate storytelling, visually provocative images, behind the curtain access to the inner-life of despicable characters. HBO knew that. And they had to know that giving their audience–their customers–none of that, would piss us off. It’s like a dating: no matter how many moonlit conversations you have over pinot and blue fin tuna, if on the fifth date the guy stands you up that’s all you’ll remember him by. HBO, we loyally stuck with you for eight years and you stood us up. Was it really worth all the buzz?