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Cable Programmers React to Sopranos Ending

The ambiguous finale of The Sopranos -- in which series creator David Chase let the screen go black to the accompaniment of Journey's “Don't Stop Believin'” without final resolution to the fate of Tony and his immediate family -- sparked widespread viewer and blogger reaction.

Did the menacing man in the Members Only jacket emerge from the men's room at Bloomfield, N.J., ice cream shop Holsten's Brookdale Confectionery Michael Corleone-style and blow Tony's brains out?

Did Meadow merely sit down at the table and the Sopranos family's life goes on and on -- with her father's fate to constantly look over his shoulder?

Despite comments mostly to the contrary, did Chase leave the door open to a movie somewhere down the line?

Although cable executives last week were reluctant to share their personal perspectives on what happened to HBO's and the nation's favorite mob family in "Made in America," they expressed appreciation for the way Chase presented the tension-filled final moments and how the show will be remembered in TV annals.

"It was interesting how David Chase worked it," HBO vice president of program planning Dave Baldwin said. "Now it's interwoven into the fabric of Americana. People always will talk about the surprise ending. They will have their opinion like they were [New York] Yankees or [Boston] Red Sox fans, or if they favor Ohio State or Michigan [in college football]."

To that end, A&E Network executive VP and general manager Bob DeBitetto said: "I think I get it. Some people wanted closure one way or the other. But it was fitting that [Chase] didn't do that. He left it open for different interpretations. It was a very clever way to end a truly epic show."

Lifetime Networks executive VP of research Tim Brooks agreed, saying that it ensured an even longer-lasting legacy for The Sopranos. "Nobody expected that. People are not only going to talk about this for days or weeks, but for years to come. It was an appropriate finish to a show that often left story lines open.”

Brooks -- who believes the finale will rank "as one of TV's greatest moments" by the likes of TV Guide -- places The Sopranos’ conclusion alongside top series endings like those for Newhart and The Fugitive. He noted that The Sopranos’ finale would certainly be added into the pages of the ninth edition of The Complete Directory of Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present, of which he is the co-author. The book is scheduled for release this fall.

But those seeking the definitive word about the conclusion haven't found it -- yet. Principal players like James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano), Tony Sirico (Paulie Walnuts) and Steve Van Zandt (Silvio Dante) have revealed little, while Chase's only interview with The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., includes cryptic remarks such as "it's all there" in the episode, with those hoping for a theatrical left to take some solace -- or not -- from these words.

"I'm not being coy," Chase said. "If something appeared that really made a good Sopranos movie and you could invest in it and everybody else wanted to do it, I would do it. But I think we've kind of said it and done it."

Little help was forthcoming from one of The Sopranos’ executive producers and writers. Matt Weiner, interviewed by Multichannel News after a panel discussion about his upcoming series AMC series, Mad Men, which explores the professional and personal lives of a fictitious New York advertising agency circa 1960, maintained omerta.

Asked how he would have ended the series, Weiner only replied: "I'm not allowed to talk about that. I supported the ending."