'Sopranos' Start Date Gets Kneecapped

TelevisionEntertainmentFootballSportsHBO (tv network)James GandolfiniNFL

HBO announced Wednesday that its series "Rome" would begin its second and final season at 9 p.m. ET Sunday, Jan. 7.

On the surface, that's a no-big-thing piece of news; tidbits about premiere dates are a staple of the Television Critics Association press tour, where the announcement was made.

It's a little bigger deal, though, considering the fact that HBO had previously said "The Sopranos," which also airs at 9 on Sundays, would begin its final run of episodes in January. And sure enough, network chief Chris Albrecht says "Sopranos" fans may have to wait a little longer for their last looks at Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) and his families.

"Jimmy had a little knee surgery, unexpected knee surgery, which pushed us back a couple of weeks," Albrecht says. "And then we looked at the fact that we would be launching sort of in the middle of the [NFL] playoffs and the Super Bowl and all that stuff, and it seemed that for everybody's sake we would push back a few weeks."

What "a few weeks" means, exactly, HBO hasn't worked out yet. "Rome" is slated to run for 10 episodes, so if "The Sopranos" were to follow its finale, that would put the premiere date for the mob drama somewhere in March. The network is still working on its scheduling plans, but Albrecht says "it definitely won't be in January."

Filming on the final eight episodes of the series gets underway this month, and though the final storylines will no doubt be kept top-secret, that didn't stop one critic from asking Albrecht about how it ends. Specifically, the question was: "Can you tell us, is Tony going to live all the way through the series?"

Albrecht looked genuinely dumbfounded for a moment before recovering to joke, "Sure. I'll tell you. Is anybody elseinterested in that? I don't want to bore you.

"Are you high?" he continued. "I might as well shoot myself in the head if I tell you that."

For the record, the questioner insisted she was not, in fact, high.

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