Why didn’t anyone tell me how good The Sopranos is?
Now, to be totally fair, I have actually been told by many people on many occasions how great The Sopranos is, but the same people have also told me how much I would definitely love programs like Gavin and Stacey.
“Alright,” they’d say “Horne and Corden’s sketch show isn’t very good, but you should see Gavin & Stacey. That’s really funny. You like funny stuff, Matt. I remember that time you made me read that silly Internet thing you wrote, the one that had all of the little jokes in it and that.
Gavin & Stacey has got loads of jokes in it, ones that are actually funny. Honestly, you’ll love it. They’re always doing the most outrageous things. Especially Smithy, with his antics. Someone like you who likes telly and comedy, you’ll love it. Do you want to borrow my new Peter Kay DVD? Have you watched The Sopranos yet? What about Transformers 2? How brilliant was that? My wife’s having another baby. Isn’t it great that we’re the people who have chosen to breed?”
I will concede that Gavin & Stacey is better than Horne and Corden’s sketch show, but in much the same way that having your limbs hacked off with surgical tool by a trusted doctor is better than having your limbs torn off by ferocious lions in the wild. So it really isn’t surprising at all that I’m running 10 years behind on The Sopranos; I’ve been severely delayed by a mass of talkative idiots. I’ve now got three years to catch up on it before I can start to run 10 years behind everyone else on The Wire. Can’t wait.
I’ve barely cleared the first season of The Sopranos and I’m already blown away by the quality of the writing. In fact, nearly every element of the show is top notch. Okay, there were a few early wobbles with the sound design and occasionally the sets suggest that money was tight, but for so much to have fallen into place so quickly is quite an achievement. The best part is that I still have about 75 more episodes to enjoy, although I suspect it won’t take me long to get through them. Each episode gently sows the seeds for the forthcoming plots and entices you into watching the next one. Eventually you’ve ‘just one more episode’-ed away an entire evening.
Whilst indulging in further manly entertainment, I found myself thinking of another HBO series. The first hour and a half of Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino plays out like a particularly warped version of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Clint himself takes the Larry David role, as a man perplexed by social convention and unwilling to take part.
He soon finds that the people he had blamed for the collapse of moral society are among the few who share his views. Cue racial harmony and barriers being broken down as people of different cultures bond, but not in a gooey sentimental way. Meanwhile, conflict simmers away in the background before finally boiling over in the last twenty minutes of the film.
Something Gran Torino does a good job of is marrying tension with a fairly predictable story. It’s something that Shane Meadows did particularly well in This Is England and basically involves you liking the characters enough to desperately hope that the tragic conclusion, which seems impending and inevitable, never materialises. Then when it does, you feel sad and maybe a bit hopeful.
Clint’s performance in the director’s chair is terrific, as usual. His performance as an actor is entrancing and commanding. Clint Eastwood is able to growl the request “Get off my lawn” with more authority than I could muster to scream the command “Stop these ferocious lions from tearing off my limbs!”. There is literally nothing Clint couldn’t tell me to do if he growled it at me like that. If you ever see me running naked through a busy town sporting a tattoo professing my love of the BAFTA award-winning sitcom Gavin & Stacey whilst singing a medley of some of Lily Allen’s best loved songs, then presume that Clint Eastwood has told me to do it. You know. In that voice.
Between Gran Torino and The Sopranos I’m concerned that I’m giving off too much of an air of masculinity. As far as I can tell, the only way to nerd things back up to an appropriate level is with the triple threat combination of Scrabble, Ghostbusters and sunburn. All three of which played a pivotal role in my weekend.
Being as pale as I am, the sun and I regularly fall out, which will often result in me spending the summer months bright red and wincing in agony (I think that effectively killed any impression of masculinity, but just in case…). Instead I stayed at home playing the excellent new Ghostbusters game on the PS3 and the excellent old Scrabble game on the dining room table.
Scoff all you want, ‘laxative’ based on an existing ‘i’ with the ‘x’ landing on a double letter score and a 50 point bonus for using all 7 tiles is an achievement that I think even Clint Eastwood would be proud of.