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Back on December 28, 2006, in my “Thirteen Resolutions I am NOT Going to Make this New Year’s,” I assured you that I would not resolve to “watch the decimated version of The Sopranos on A&E.

Charlie McCollum, writing in today’s San Jose Mercury News, agrees with me.

Sanitizing ‘Sopranos’ for A&E removes needed grit

Mother-son interplay between Nancy Marchand and James Gandolfini was a highlight of the first two seasons of “The Sopranos.” I’m of two minds about the edited-for-basic-cable repeats of HBO’s “The Sopranos” that begin airing Tuesday (9 p.m.) on A&E.

Mind No. 1 says that if you’ve never seen an episode of the seminal mob drama, you’ll probably be perfectly happy with the cleaned-up versions, which eliminate all the #%$%-ing language, dampen some of the violence and put the strippers at the Bada Bing in clothes.

Mind No. 2 says that whether you’ve seen the show or not, you should run screaming from this bastardized mistreatment of a great television series.

Before the suits at A&E think I’m picking on them, let me say that I feel the same way about the TBS-syndicated reruns of “Sex and the City” and Bravo’s repeats of “Six Feet Under.” There’s just enough missing, particularly on “Sex and the City,” that you’re not getting anything remotely resembling the real deal. (That hasn’t kept the revised versions of both shows from drawing decent audiences.) [Note: I’ve never tried watching either. Why bother? I watched the originals on HBO!]

But even more than “Sex” and “Six Feet,” there is a rhythm to the language on “,” and that rhythm gets lost when one word that starts with the letter F gets replaced with something like “hell.”

When mob boss Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) calls someone an “ungrateful little jerk” and his mouth keeps moving silently for even a fraction of a second, you know something is missing. In the edited versions sent out by A&E, there are several scenes involving Tony and his shrink, Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco), that lose more than a bit of their steam without the language.

You’re also likely to get the giggles from watching the scenes set at the Bada Bing, the mob family’s strip club hangout. You’d see more skin walking through downtown San Jose in the summer.

But if the only way you’re ever going to watch “The Sopranos” is to do so on A&E, there are some rewards, particularly in the early episodes. The storytelling remains first-rate. Gandolfini and Edie Falco — who plays Carmela, Tony’s wife — give two of the finest performances in the history of television. The late Nancy Marchand is positively brilliant as Livia Soprano, Tony’s Lady Macbeth of a mother who dominated the first two seasons. (Marchand died before the start of Season Three.)

My bottom line advice, though, is to spring for the DVDs of “The Sopranos” and watch the series as it was meant to be seen.

Amen! So what are you waiting for? Close this browser window, go to your local video store and pick up the DVD’s!


  1. I’ve never watched a single show of the Sopranos, but I might now that it has been sanitized. I hate ugly, pornographic language–ruins the story for me–even if it is natural for the speaker, it doesn’t set well on my ears.

    Thanks for stopping by my Monday Memories.

  2. Janie Hickok Siess, Esq.

    The Sopranos may not be the show for you.

    Mobsters don’t say “oh, darn!” or “shucks”! I laughed out loud at the example in the article of Tony Soprano calling someone an “ungrateful little jerk” because it is preposterous. I could never take such a version of the show seriously because it will lose all credibility and, in my opinion, destroy the brilliant work of all involved.

    The beauty of Tony Soprano is the character study. Gandolfini flawlessly and meticulously demonstrates the collection of dichotomies that comprise Tony’s life and beliefs, and there is so much complexity — layer upon layer — that you can watch the episodes over and over & see something new every time.

    However, to have the words out of synch would be so jarring that I could not stick with it. Moreover, as I said, the characters will no longer ring true absent the cadence and content of their speech, thereby destroying their essence.

    But, as McCollum said, if it’s the only way you’re going to watch it . . . enjoy!

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