What's it all about? Even 'Sopranos' creator isn't sure.

March 07, 2004|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

On the eve of the fifth season of The Sopranos, David Chase, its creator and executive producer, offered a few thoughts on the show's meaning, his future, and the horror of network television.

How is The Sopranos different from the rest of television?

The function of an hour drama is to reassure the American people that it's OK to go out and buy stuff. It's all about flattering the audience, making them feel as if all the authority figures have our best interests at heart. Doctors, lawyers, psychiatrists: Sure, they have their little foibles, some of them are grouchy, but by God, they care.

So what's The Sopranos about?

It's not about that.

What, then?

If I could tell you, I wouldn't have to do it.

What distinguishes The Sopranos from other shows? From network shows?

Network television is all talk. I think there should be visuals on a show, some sense of mystery to it, connections that don't add up. I think there should be dreams and music and dead air and stuff that goes nowhere. There should be, God forgive me, a little bit of poetry.

Does anyone tell the truth on the show?

Within Tony and Carmela's relationship, I think they speak honestly to each other. Tony speaks pretty honestly about his feelings. Except for the fact that he's not faithful. And she, out of training, never brings up the fact of what he does. So there are two huge lies at the base of the relationship. But I think on a day-to-day basis they're honest with each other.

James Gandolfini says he won't miss playing Tony Soprano. Will you miss Tony?

I'm one of those people who miss everything once it's gone, no matter how much I've been complaining about it. I'm sure I will miss Tony Soprano and that whole universe. I am nostalgic by nature.

Do you think TV's bad for us? Worse than, say, movies?

Television is at the base of a lot of our problems. It trivializes everything. So there's no more mystery, we've seen it all 50,000 times. And in order to make the boring interesting, everything is hyped. I think, for example, terrorism is a television question: What those images do on TV -- how they're played and played and played until they have no meaning whatsoever. And the next one has to be even bigger.

Do you have moral qualms about working in TV, then?

Yes, I do. I never wanted to work in television. I did it for the money. I've always wanted to be working in movies, and I never could make that jump.

You could now. Will you take The Sopranos to the big screen?

I don't know ... The Sopranos has been the best creative experience of my life. None of us who work on the show ever expected to last beyond a season, if that. The whole thing came about because I thought I would be able to take HBO's money and make a pilot, which would catapult me into the very stratosphere of feature-film directing. But it didn't work out that way. ... I'm really lucky. People like the show, and I've got a great group of actors, a great group of directors. But I don't want to do any more TV. I'm tired of television. I'm tired of the form. I've always wanted to go into movies.

But before you do -- how's the show going to end?

We're going to tell you that everything's OK. And that you should go out and buy stuff.

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