ADVERTISEMENT

If you're a regular of the season finales of "The Sopranos," you probably were more surprised Sunday that it was Christmastime in June than that no one died.

The big moments usually are handled in the semifinal episode, which two weeks ago included two murders. The most notable was of gay mobster Vito, whose treatment by the mob was examined all season.
However, the artistic Christmas episode didn't lack suspense and presented some interesting scenarios for the show's return in January for the final eight episodes.

At various times Sunday, viewers might have suspected that Christopher (Michael Imperioli) was going to get whacked on the order of Tony's nemesis, Phil Leotardo (Frank Vincent), and that Phil was going to die either from a bombing, a heart attack or a bedside warning from Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) that turned mushy instead.
That's one of the beauties of "The Sopranos" -- it often toys with expectations. In the end, this finale was like many of the previous ones that had been directed by the late former Buffalonian, John Patterson. It ended with a family scene that reminded viewers about how complicated Tony Soprano is as a character. He does some horrible, violent things, but he loves his family. Of course, the complications are the reason we love watching him.
The episode was dedicated to Patterson, who was the best friend of series creator David Chase. Chase now has the near impossible task of meeting viewers' expectations for the final episodes.
It was difficult to completely buy Christopher's relationship with the sexy real estate agent that Tony was interested in, a drug addict played by Julianna Margulies. That seemed the kind of stretch you expect from network dramas. But it is a minor quibble.
For the next six months, viewers will have to contemplate which member of the Soprano crime family has been targeted by Leotardo's bunch and whether Tony can use the Christmas present tip he received from a federal agent to prevent it.
Will Christopher, who is playing with fire, be the target? Tony? Will son A.J. (Robert Iler) find himself and find happiness with his new girlfriend? Will Carmela (Edie Falco) find out what happened to Adrianna? Will Tony finally find any success in therapy?
Of course, we know the answer to the last question. It is about as likely as Tony wearing that French beret ever again. From the looks of things, "The Sopranos" is headed for a compelling conclusion.

***

The sex-free season finale of HBO's "Big Love" was eventful Sunday as the big Henrickson family secret that they are practicing polygamy was exposed when Barb (Jeannie Tripplehorn) was humiliated and disqualified from a mother-of-the-year contest.
The exposure threatens more than the family arrangement. It also threatens husband Bill's (Bill Paxton) home improvement store business. The big mystery is over who was behind the revelation -- Bill's business rival and evil father-in-law (Harry Dean Stanton), one of his employees, one of the wives in a fit of jealousy, a suspicious neighbor or anyone who has been suspicious over the year. The exposure should radically change the dynamics of season two in this series, though we may discover that the family fears are going to be worse than the reality in a world that is increasingly difficult to shock and police.

***

The series finale of Katie Couric on "Today" was a huge ratings hit locally and nationally. The first two hours of the May 31 program had a 9.6 rating on Channel 2, which the NBC affiliate would gladly accept on any night in prime time. The final hour had an 8.6, which is still very high by daytime standards.

***

I foolishly buried an item on the departure of Laura Steele from Channel 2 in a story about a soggy old pool advertisement featuring morning anchor Jodi Johnston. For all of those people who missed the item and asked about Steele, be advised she left the NBC affiliate after her contract expired.

e-mail: apergament@buffnews.com