“The Sopranos'” season-premiere screening and after-party last week did, truly, mark the end of an era in the zeitgeist of TV and of fabulousness in New York, capital of the land of the bold-faced, gotta-be-there A-list.
There will never be another media bash that can top those that ushered in new seasons for “Sex and the City” and “The Sopranos.” Invitations were to kill for. It was a challenge for HBO to find venues large enough to handle the hordes of hoi polloi and still offer the stars breathing room.
So for the last screening it was back to Radio City Music Hall, which could accommodate the crowd of some 3,000, including the producers, writers and directors, cast and crew, their families and friends, and perhaps the most diverse (not to mention lucky) audience ever.
Spotted: one-time Democratic VP candidate Geraldine Ferraro plus one (her husband). New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan plus one (not the ex-wife whose post-divorce allegations titillated the Big Apple tabloids last year). Hallmark Channel President Henry “If He Ain’t There It Ain’t a Party” Schleiff (and where was Sylvia Miles?). Don Imus repertory player Bo “I’m One Tough Former Cop” Dietl. James “Come With Me ‘Inside the Actors Studio'” Lipton. Model-handsome MSNBC Prime-Time VP Bill Wolff, who got in because he knows someone who knows Brad Grey, Paramount CEO and a “Sopranos” executive producer. A small contingent from “The Wire.” And a handful of actors (Chris Cooper and Bobby Cannavale) who have appeared in other HBO shows.
One by one, “Sopranos” actors — there were some 1,200 over the years, said creator and executive producer David Chase — formed a line that stretched nearly across the stage.
It’s amazing how far back in the large audience cleavage and/or skin-tight dresses play. Just ask the person sitting behind The Insider and her traditional “Sopranos” date, Bobby Rivers. When Lorraine “Dr. Melfi” Bracco walked out, he sputtered: “She’s had a boob job. Even way back here I can tell that.” The Insider couldn’t say that’s true, but in a ruched and stretched seafoam green, she seemed to be wearing headlights on high (and wide) beam.
Those who worked behind the scenes over the years were given face time in a precious reel that put most of them in police-lineup settings.
The first two episodes of the final season are quite different from each other and from what went before. But. They. Are. Not. To. Be. Missed. Episode 1 finds Tony and Carmela and Janice and Bobby in such lethargic contemplation of aging and changing and a gorgeous lake that The Insider’s note to herself was: “On Morose F-ing Pond.” There is a “monopoly” game (not Monopoly) that will live forever.
Episode 2, despite the underlying melancholy at every turn, is screamingly funny, from a classic Paulie Walnuts pop-cultural moment to Sydney Pollack’s role as a doctor in prison because he first did a lot of harm.
The following night, Bryant Gumbel moderated a lively discussion of death and the hit show. There were a lot of laughs and wit and dish as so-called “Whacked Sopranos” discussed how their characters died, how they learned their characters were going to die, and life after their characters died.
Drea de Mattea: “First they killed me on HBO, then I went to NBC to commit complete suicide.”
When the inevitable actress wannabe rose in the back of the room and broke the mood during the question-and-answer portion of the program by saying, “I wanna be whacked on ‘The Sopranos’ — where do I send my resume?” the answer was swift and cutting:
“There’s always ‘Grey’s Anatomy.'”