Sunday nights are pretty much taken care of until the end of October, because the final series of The Sopranos (*** don't follow this link if you don't want to see spoilers - I cut and pasted from it with my eyes shut ***) started last night on E4. It was something of a scene-setter, so you get the distinct feeling that all hell will let loose in the remaining episodes.
Two things about this programme endlessly fascinate me. One is the moral aspect - you feel a bit strange, to say the least, about identifying with or rooting for such a collection of psychopaths, but you keep going in the belief that all will get their just desserts in the end, one way or the other. Maybe from the law, maybe from a rival mob, maybe from their tortured consciences (yes, most of the characters have them). It gives it all the feel of a real tragedy, because even when characters try to break out of the cycle of violence, they slip back in, as Tony's cousin, played by Steve Buscemi, did a couple of series back. Or like last night, when nice guy (we're talking in relative terms here) Bobby found himself having to make his first hit to ingratiate himself with Tony again.
Secondly, there's the fact that this is a series that British TV just couldn't make. I don't mean in terms of the production values, because that probably goes without saying. I mean that it trusts the viewer to remember little plot twists or revelations from years ago, rather than signposting everything as drama series over here too often do. The characters, too, are consistent - there's none of that thing where people undergo a personality change overnight just to serve a new plot development. We CAN do it over here, most notably with period dramas, but we do so too rarely.
On a Sopranos theme, it was interesting to see during yesterday's Villa vs Chelsea game that Jose Mourinho's hair increasingly resembles that of Paulie Walnuts, Tony Soprano's unhinged henchman. Which Chelsea player is going to go for the Silvio Dante look, I wonder?