Taking a whack at spoofing `Sopranos'

Clinton releases short film to introduce her campaign song

June 20, 2007|By Nick Madigan | Nick Madigan,Sun Reporter

The patron walks into a diner, ambles over to a booth, sits down and peruses the selections in a small jukebox at the table. A sullen man lingers nearby, his face vaguely menacing.

Sound familiar?

No, it's not Tony Soprano waiting for his dinner in the final, much-discussed scene of The Sopranos.

It's Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, in a short movie unveiled yesterday on her campaign Web site. In the scene, a slightly awkward parody of the HBO series' denouement, the New York senator and Democratic presidential candidate is ostensibly picking a campaign theme song from among the choices in the jukebox when her husband, in an untucked shirt, joins her.

The clip quickly landed on well-read blogs such as Gawker.com, and links to it were forwarded in e-mails as the campaign successfully made use of the "viral video" phenomenon.

Though Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" plays in the background (another nod to The Sopranos finale), that was not the choice of theme song, as an announcement from the campaign made clear yesterday. The song is Celine Dion's "You and I."

Besides spoofing the popular series - including an appearance by actor Vincent Curatola (Johnny Sack on The Sopranos) and a jarring cut-to-black at the end - the video showed amusing interaction between the former first couple.

"I've ordered for the table," Hillary Clinton says, and a plate of carrot sticks appears.

The former president, wishing for onion rings, appears chagrined.

The Clinton campaign's release of The Sopranos spoof, just over a week after the series' finale, was impressive, said Dan Manatt, founder and executive producer of PoliticsTV.com, which produces satirical videos. Yesterday afternoon, the site posted a link to the video, calling it "adroit and audacious."

"The Clintons are trying to use The Sopranos and their user contest to draw on a couple of different online and pop culture trends to create their own synergies and buzz," Manatt said by phone. "It's clearly meant to address the rap that Senator Clinton doesn't have a light side, that she's too hard and not an accessible person. Here, she and President Clinton are warm and funny and, frankly, do a pretty good job."

Their effort is far preferable, Manatt said, to "embarrassing" videos made by former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and "saccharine" ones posted by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, whose wife, Ann, recently was shown narrating scenes of a family Christmas vacation.

The Clinton campaign had turned to the Web to choose its theme song. Supporters around the country submitted suggestions from the Police, Tina Turner, K.T. Tunstall, Lenny Kravitz and the Temptations, the campaign said. "You and I" was among them.

The selection prompted accusations from Republicans that, because Dion was born in Canada, Clinton had "outsourced" her music, the Associated Press reported. The news agency said also that Dion's "You and I" has already done a turn as a theme song - for Air Canada in 2004.

Clinton formally announced her presidential candidacy on her Web site in January, saying she would hold online chats to discuss her plans. But Clinton has not always been shown to good effect in videos, particularly in one that showed her singing the national anthem off-key.

Her campaign also was thrown off-kilter in March by a 74-second Internet ad for one of her main

challengers, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. It mocked her, spoofing the classic "1984" commercial that introduced Apple computers.

The ad, which generated a great deal of attention, was not produced by the Obama campaign, and its provenance was a mystery until Philip de Vellis, a Washington video producer, confessed.

In an interview yesterday, de Vellis said that after seeing The Sopranos finale, several people had approached him about spoofing it.

"She's ruined that now - no one else can do it," said de Vellis, who was hired by Murphy Putnam Media, makers of New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson's campaign videos, after the success of the "1984" spot.

"But I have to give them credit," de Vellis said of Clinton's media managers. "It shows they're paying attention to pop culture."

In the future, he said, "I would hope they would find the right balance between humor, innovation and issues, because that's what the voters want to hear."

nick.madigan@baltsun.com

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