Sixteen months after the conclusion of The Sopranos’ third season, the drama’s fourth go-round delivered 13 bang-’em-up episodes that critics say could finally earn the oft-nominated show Emmy gold.
David Bianculli, television critic for The New York Daily News, said, “The series built the way The Sopranos builds. It certainly was a strong season.”
Tom O’Neil, author of The Emmys: The Ultimate, Unofficial Guide to the Battle of TV’s Best Shows and Greatest Stars, said, “It was worth the wait. The Sopranos sustained its quality in a commendable way.”
Mr. Bianculli said that what The Sopranos did better this season was more in what was not said. “The characters did not say what they meant,” he said. “The real communication happened with glances, pauses and avoided stares, especially in the last episode, when Tony and Carmela’s marriage fell apart.”
Mr. Bianculli also cited the death of the character Ralph Cifaretto, portrayed by Joe Pantoliano, as a standout moment from the season. It is not clear whether that episode will be submitted for nomination consideration. HBO declined to discuss its submission strategy.
Insiders are split on whether the recent high-profile contract dispute between HBO and series star James Gandolfini will bear on the show’s chances of nabbing the drama series Emmy.
Mr. O’Neil said it won’t. “It does not hurt the show,” he said. “With the voters watching the submitted episodes at home, it’s the tape that counts and how emotionally impacted the voters are by that tape.”
Mr. Bianculli said voters may be less forgiving. “Are the Emmy voters looking altruistically at the artistry of the episodes or are they acting in a cliquish, judgmental manner? With human nature as it is, I think it is a tossup and if anything, more toward the cliquish.”
Then again, the Emmy voters may have a pent-up desire to reward a highly respected program that not only has never won for drama series but was ineligible for Emmy consideration last season due to that break between seasons 3 and 4.
As far as Mr. O’Neil is concerned, “Having been ineligible last year definitely helps its chances. It’s going to have an advantage because it was missed so much last year.”
In the end, Mr. Bianculli said, “However slowly The Sopranos is delivered by HBO, it is one of the all-time-best series on television.”