Lisa de Moraes
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — Since the final episode of HBO's ``The Sopranos'' closed with a 10-second-long simulation of a nationwide TiVo recording error, a fusillade of anger has broken out in the blather-osphere, the likes of which this country had not seen since ... Friday, when the sight of a weeping, designer-dress-less, makeup-less, hair-extension-less Paris Hilton being forced out of her Hollywood Hills retreat and back to court triggered widespread Paris verbal effigy burning.
If, as one HBO exec told The Post's Tom Shales, the angrier people are about the ending to his eight-season-old mob drama the more creator David Chase will feel he's reached them, Chase must be thrilled by the response to the finale.
HBO, on the other hand, may feel otherwise, with the line being so fine between an angry HBO subscription-paying ``Sopranos'' fan and an angry HBO subscription-canceling ``Sopranos'' fan.
In case you missed the very last scene of the very last episode of ``The Sopranos'' Sunday night, Tony Soprano, his irritatingly suburban wife, Carmela, and his useless son, A.J., sit in a booth at Holsten's diner waiting for Tony's mob princess daughter, Meadow, who is struggling to parallel-park her vehicle. While they wait, they eat onion rings, and customers of varying degrees of shadiness come and go. Those include one especially suspicious-looking guy who heads into the men's loo, causing ``Sopranos'' fanatics to get the ``ooh, it's `The Godfather' all over again!'' vapors.
But the guy does not emerge with a gun and blow away Tony, like Al Pacino's Michael Corleone did to corrupt cop Mark McCluskey and mobster Virgil Sollozzo in ``The Godfather.''
Instead, Meadow finally uses the Braille parking method -- pull forward until you hit the car in front of you, then pull back until you hit the car behind you, then split the difference -- and runs inside to join her family.
But then the TV screen abruptly goes black and completely silent for 11 excruciating seconds, during which millions of viewers frantically search for their cable- or satellite-provider customer-service number to register their outrage over an outage during the most important scene in the most important series in the history of TV. Then, the end credits start to run, letting viewers know their cable or satellite did not go out -- it was just Chase's way of thanking them for their nearly 10-year investment in his show. THE END.
According to Yahoo.com rep Carolyn Clark, Yahoo searches on ``Sopranos sucked,'' ``Sopranos finale sucked'' and ``Sopranos ending sucked'' pretty much sum up the feeling of many viewers who felt they deserved an actual, um, ending, which, of course, is one of the trappings of the television medium Chase so deplores. Clark didn't have exact numbers but said the quantity of searches had to have been ``significant'' to register on the Yahoo buzz-o-meter. ``The fact there are more searches (on ``Sopranos'') than on Paris Hilton today is very significant,'' she told The TV Column.
So many angry ``Sopranos'' fans tried to register their complaints on HBO's Web site, the channel shut it down temporarily Sunday night.
Then fans stormed other sites.
A bunch, who were way mad at the way Chase had messed with them in the finale, started messing with his Wikipedia entry, adding lines such as: ``(Chase) gained mainstream recognition for creating and then destroying the HBO series `The Sopranos' which is currently being debated as the worst ending to an American Television series in history.''
Finally, the brain trust at Wikipedia locked the page from further ``editing'' until June 18, citing ``vandalism.''
Similarly, because of obscenities, Freerepublic.com had to pull a discussion thread in which people were commenting on a Salon piece it had linked to. The Salon article wondered, ``Is Chase brilliant for so thoroughly subverting our expectations or ... is he just an (expletive)?''
Chase, an HBO rep told this column Monday, ``is in France and letting everybody discuss (the ending) amongst themselves.'' He said Chase had ``no plans to discuss the ending with people.''
Plenty of people wanted to discuss the ending with Chase. And not just viewers -- some TV critics, too:
``Poor ol' David Chase -- sitting poolside in the south of France right now, laughing his (heinie) off at the angry patter of a million fans,'' blogged a clearly miffed Verne Gay of Newsday.
``David, you are an arrogant man -- ultimately trapped by the very medium you so haughtily dismissed for so many years, even while you availed yourself of its generous pay scale,'' he continued.
``We waited 8 years for this?'' chimed in the headline writer at the New York Daily News. Not to be outdone, the New York Post went with ``Show's Finale Fires `Blanks.' ''
``Chase clearly didn't give a damn about his fans. Instead, he (relieved himself) in their faces. This is why America hates Hollywood,'' noted LA Weekly's Deadline Hollywood blogger Nikki Finke.
``So this is how it ends: with a big, raised middle finger aimed straight at the TV audience,'' added Eric Deggans of the St. Petersburg Times.
Angry viewer comments ranged from ``David Chase recently said he was influenced by Fellini and European films ... hey Chase, this is Jersey we're talking about. If I ever get the chance I'd like to kick you in the (groin)'' to the more streamlined ``MOST HORRIBLE EPISODE EVER and you think it was good wake up.''
In fairness, not everyone hated the ending; some leapt to Chase's defense:
``Personally, I think the ending was perfect,'' wrote one on the Web site of trade publication TV Week.
``You can believe it ended the way you wanted it to. If you think Tony got whacked, then he got whacked. If you want to think things are continuing `business as usual' then you can have that too.''
English-lit fans who liked the ending really got a chance to strut their stuff Monday. Some insisted the ``Sopranos'' final scene was a clincher for that great line Macbeth got off in his play -- you know, the one that goes, ``Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more; it is a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.''
There was some disagreement as to whether the final nine episodes represent the nine circles of Hell in Dante's ``The Divine Comedy.''
And, theologians debated onion rings as Eucharist.
Some critics, most of whom came from the ``Sopranos''-as-greatest-TV-drama- of-all-time camp, also liked the finale.
``Whether you were waiting for one of the more popular predicted endings -- Tony in Witness Protection, Tony killed by Phil's guys, Furio and/or the Russian coming back for revenge, what have you -- or just for an ending, period, chances are that cut-to-black had you pulling a William Shatner in `Wrath of Khan,' pointing your face at the heavens and bellowing, `CHAAAAASE!!!!!!' '' wrote Newark Star-Ledger critic Alan Sepinwall.
``And yet the finale, both the first 55 minutes of it and that sadistic last scene, fit perfectly with everything Chase has done on this show before.''
Dallas Morning News media critic Tom Maurstad asked rhetorically: ``So `The Sopranos' ends with what may be the most frustrating episode ever. Could there be a more appropriate conclusion to a series that all along refused to cater to audience desires?''
In conclusion, for all you ``Sopranos'' fans who speculated Tony died when that last scene went black because those people in Holsten's were various characters from the series' past who had tried to do in our Tony, you are mistaken, according to the HBO rep.
And, if you are hoping to weigh the final scene that aired against the two alternative endings, that will never happen because, contrary to reports, there were no alternative endings shot, the HBO rep said.
But most important, if you were counting on ...
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