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Bring Me The Head of Phil Leotardo: Sopranos Numbers Are In

9:15 a.m. PDT

The numbers are in:  in spite of the tsunami of press, The Sopranos finale only managed to attract a little less than 12 million viewers.  That’s a far cry from 13.5 million viewers glued to the season four launch on September 15, 2002.  MultiChannel’s Mike Reynolds provides further analysis.

Kansas City Star critic Aaron Barnhart wins the blogsphere for one of the wittiest one-liners to come out of TheSopranos finale wreckage.

Said Aaron, winking at Tim Goodman (my local critic) and working hard to find the silver lining:

"Tim Goodman can’t write, ‘Bring me the head of Phil Leotardo,’ because it ain’t there. Whew."

The more level-headed midwesterners on Aaron’s blog are ably dismantling the "three men in the diner" (oh, sorry - ice cream parlor) and other theories.

Internet speculation exploded on HBO’s badly designed message board (c’mon HBO, you can do better) but spread like an Outlook virus as users cross-posted throughout the ‘Net.   Rampant speculation included but was not limited to:  the three men and a diner (all involving characters from the past) theory; Tony’s shirt vs. the jacket he was wearing over the shirt; the Nikki Leotardo trot to the bathroom theory; Janice entering the diner; and the west coast feed vs. the east coast feed debate etc.

Viewers swore - swore! - it was all true.  By 1 a.m. on Monday morning the only thing we could say with any certainty was - it’s all one big inkblot.

Then, the cherry on top of this massive ice cream parlor game: the speculations were repeated - yes, repeated! - on national television as stone truth, as if the Internet is somehow…biblical.   Some pundit on MSNBC declared Tony dead based on the "evidence."

By this morning, most of the theories had been debunked.  Nikki Leotardo (the bathroom guy) turned out to be pizza shop owner Paolo Colandrea who earned $3,000 big ones for his walk to the bathroom.  Paolo says he can’t talk about his work because he "believes some of the footage might be used in a feature film based on The Sopranos."

Said NJ Star-Ledger television critic, Alan Sepinwall, who is arguably the critic most steeped in all things Soprano:

"Not from Chase, but I feel the need to debunk the e-mail that’s making the rounds about all the Holsten’s patrons being characters from earlier in the series. The actor playing Members Only guy had never been on the show; Tony killed at least one, if not both, of his carjackers; and there are about 17 other things wrong with this popular but incorrect theory."

Thank you, Alan.

Stargate showrunner Joe Mallozzi and I don’t always see eye-to-eye.  (You know what I’m talkin’ about, Joe.)  But, unlike  NY TimesBill Carter’s solicitous interview with Hollywood writers, Mallozzi was more forthright on his blog with this astute observation:

"some … speculate that Tony is killed. But this doesn’t make sense to me for several reasons, the chiefest being that if it was Chase’s intent, he would have cut out of Tony’s POV (maybe Meadow coming through the door toward him) rather than a shot OF Tony. I’m sorry, but to argue otherwise would be to accuse Chase of sloppy direction and I just don’t buy it given how meticulous he’s been. It wasn’t Tony and his perspective that was experiencing "never hear it and then there’s nothing" but the perspective of the viewer. In other words, it was we the viewers who got whacked in those last few seconds. And in a big way."

Bring me the head of David Chase.  Bring me the head of HBO.  Bring me anyone who can clean up this inkblot so we can return to our regularly scheduled obsessing over the new and worthy summer cable season.

Jimbosil onTelevision Without Pitywins the Urban Dictionary Nobel for coining a most handy new term for our lexicon.  Could this also be a verb?  As in "wow, that finale totally meadowparked!"

Jimbosil, Just Tuned In, Jun 10, 2007@10:15 pm, Post#883

I propose a new term for the TV culture lexicon:

Meadowpark (noun): An ambiguous, sudden ending to a long-running television series.

"Oh my God, did you remember that last episode of the X-Files?  What a f*cking meadowpark that was…"