CRITICS DEBATE FINAL MOB SCENE

Many fans of HBO's The Sopranos who tuned in to Sunday night's finale to see whether Tony (James Gandolfini) would finally get whacked concluded after it was all over that they were the ones who had been. The final, ambiguous scenes not only failed to reveal the fate of the lead character, a New Jersey crime boss, but also left other story lines unresolved. TV writers and critics took sides along with viewers. Alessandra Stanley in the New York Times described the finale as "almost like a prank, a mischievous dig at viewers who had agonized over how television's most addictive series would come to a close." L.A. Weekly columnist Nikki Finke took creator David Chase to task for robbing the audience of "visual closure." She added: "And if it were done to segue into a motion picture sequel, then that kind of crass commercialism shouldn't be tolerated." Commented Mary McNamara in the Los Angeles Times: "While it is one thing to flout the conventions of television, it's another to flip dramatic tradition, not to mention your audience, the bird." Linda Stasi in the New York Post called the ending "spectacularly disappointing." But Melanie McFarland, TV critic for the Seattle Post Intelligencer, remarked that the ending was "so cruel, it's brilliant." She concluded, "Chase wasn't going to kowtow to the whims of an audience gambling on whether the hero would fall. Instead, he chose to satisfy his own demands. He always has." Jonathon Storm in the Philadelphia Inquirer applauded "the genius of an ending that set up every one of the signs of Mafia doom, without pulling the trigger." Alan Sepinwall of the Star-Ledger of Newark, the paper that Tony is seen retrieving in many episodes, wrote, "Why wouldn't a show that's taken such pleasure in rewriting the rules of storytelling -- from making a sociopathic thug its hero on down -- go out in the least conventional way possible? It may be maddening, but it's what David Chase does." And Tom Shales in the Washington Post concluded his review by observing, "Wherever two or three are gathered around a water cooler this morning, The Sopranos is likely to be a subject of discussion. It's a classic now, and one that will live on for years."

CENSORS ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL?

Last week's court ruling that the FCC could not bar the use of "fleeting expletives" during live telecasts may have resulted in a more relaxed atmosphere in the control booth during Sunday night's CBS coverage of the Tony Awards. The upshot was that when actor John Mahoney departed from the script and used the profanity "goddamn," it went out over the air, despite a five-second time delay. It was followed by a second or two of dead air, "as though someone were slow on the button," as Broadcasting & Cable observed on its website. The offending word was later removed from the West Coast feed. "It was an unwelcomed adlib," a CBS spokeswoman told the trade publication. The musical Spring Awakening received eight Tony awards, including best musical and best score by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater, while the Tom Stoppard drama The Coast of Utopia took seven awards, the most ever handed out for a drama. Ratings for the awards were down 19 percent from a year ago.

WILL GE TRY TO BUY WALL ST. JOURNAL?

Apparently worried that Rupert Murdoch's bid to buy Dow Jones, publisher of the Wall Street Journal, could result in strengthening Murdoch's planned business channel, General Electric, which owns NBC and its affiliated business channel CNBC, discussed joining up with Microsoft to make a competing bid for the company, the Journal reported today (Monday). The newspaper said that GE may yet seek another partner. However, an NBC-Universal spokesman told the newspaper, "These were simply exploratory conversations that ended more than a week ago."

RATINGS REMAIN HIGH FOR THE VIEW AFTER ROSIE QUITS

The departure of Rosie O'Donnell from The View did not result in plummeting ratings, according to figures released over the weekend. In fact, ratings for the week following her much-publicized spat with Elisabeth Hasselbeck were up 12 percent from the previous week when the blow-up actually occurred and 16 percent over the comparable week last year. Meanwhile, it was reported that Barbara Walters had landed an exclusive telephone interview with Paris Hilton in jail and would provide details today (Monday) on Good Morning America and later on The View. The interview was reportedly not recorded.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.