It started with a bang: Uncle Junior popping Tony in a fit of dementia. But most of the fireworks in this brilliant sixth season of The Sopranos
have been more emotional than visceral, a psychologically riveting study of the corruption (of soul and spirit) that taints anyone within whacking distance.
That long list includes poor Gene, the hit man who hanged himself; hapless Artie Bucco, whose restaurant and psyche are in tatters; jailed Johnny Sack, whose daughter's wedding ended in his tearful public humiliation and loss of esteem; and Tony's delinquent son A.J., who can't live up to anyone's expectations and whose attempted revenge hit on Junior was truly pathetic (the kid can't even vomit like a man).
"It's not in your nature," Tony told A.J. in one of the season's many wrenching scenes of anguish and regret.
Not that there hasn't been comic relief, most notably Christopher's trip to Hollywood, where he mugged Lauren Bacall (Bogie's widow!) for a gift basket. What would Tony think?
Lately, since his near-death experience, Tony's been distracted by thoughts of human nature and second chances.
All of which ties into the remarkable subplot involving gay Vito (Joe Gannascoli), Tony's corpulent top earner who fled to "Live Free or Die" New Hampshire after being outed. In bucolic exile, he falls for a manly volunteer fireman/short-order cook while still torn up about the life he left behind. If Vito's smart, he'll stay far away from Sopranoland. The rest of us wouldn't dream of leaving.
The disaster-movie clichés pile up in 10.5 Apocalypse (May 21 and 23 at 9 pm/ET on NBC), especially when victims in a buried Las Vegas casino start acting like they're in another Poseidon sequel: "The only way out is up!" This blissfully brisk sequel to 2004's 10.5, which wrecked the West Coast, wastes no time in laying waste to the Hoover Dam and to Mount Rushmore with eruptions and sinkholes, while threatening to divide the United States down the middle. On the junk-food scale: a 6.5.
In the first-season finale of CBS' likably silly, if not quite Friends-level, romantic sitcom How I Met Your Mother (May 15 at 8:30 pm/ET), nice guy Ted continues his ardent pursuit of the ethereal Robin, despite best friend Marshall's complaint: "How many times do you have to watch this crash and burn before you say 'enough'?" I was tempted to say "enough" when Ted attempted a rain dance to woo Robin. So they're not the next Ross and Rachel. Still, they're sweet. So's the show. I'm glad it's coming back in the fall.