'Sopranos' Finale: A Nod to Nothingness

Creators of successful dramas start to resent the popularity of what they've done — and take it out on the audience. It is hard to come up with a good ending. But that doesn't excuse what David Chase, creator of The Sopranos, put on HBO Sunday night.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Last night was the final episode of HBO's wildly successful series, "The Sopranos." And commentator Peter Sagal is ticked off.

PETER SAGAL: I write plays and I know from experience how hard it is to come up with a really good ending, particularly an ending that defies the audience's expectations. You carefully set them up to expect either A or B and then you give them Z, which they never saw coming but it works perfectly, better than A or B ever could've.

"The Sopranos," over most of its eight years, excelled at this. If the show hadn't been so consistently clever, surprising and complete, if it had indulged in the kind of wooly-headed ambiguity seen in its finale, no one would have ever cared about it.

But there's a certain kind of hostility that sets them of creators, of really successful ongoing stories. They start to resent the popularity of what they've done and they take out their resentment on their audience. Think of Arthur Conan Doyle, sick to death of his most famous creation deciding to kill off Sherlock Holmes at Reichenbach Falls, and then having to bring him back to life when nobody wanted anything from him but more Sherlock Holmes.

For David Chase, the creator of "The Sopranos," it must have become tempting. Faced with the audience's desire for better and better endings to give them nothing. Giving the audience nothing may feel like a surprise, but it's really nothing. And with all those pretentious shots and moments in the final scene, the guy in the restaurant, the trouble parking, it was a pointed tease of a nothing, a hostile nothing.

We loved it too much, Mr. Chase, we're sorry. In the end, you proved that you, not the audience, owned these characters. And you, not us, are going to decide what happened to them. You win. If you can find it in your heart to forgive us, we'd really like another TV show now, please.

SIEGEL: Peter Sagal is the host of NPR's WAIT WAIT, DON'T TELL ME.

(Soundbite of "The Sopranos" theme "Woke Up This Morning")

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

This is NPR, National Public Radio.

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