June 23, 2008

Ultimate ‘Sopranos’ DVD Set Throws Weight Around

By Gary Levin

Can Tony Soprano play a secret Santa?

That's what HBO is hoping with its latest -- and most anticipated -- DVD gift set: the complete collection of The Sopranos, the top-rated and most-lauded series in cable history.

Due Nov. 11, just in time for the holiday gift season, it weighs in at 10 pounds, with 86 episodes on 28 DVDs. Three CDs of soundtrack music. And two discs of bonus material, including 16 "lost" scenes, an interview of creator David Chase by Alec Baldwin, roundtable discussions with writers and stars and Sopranos spoofs from The Simpsons, Saturday Night Live and Mad TV. There's also a panel discussion from the Paley Center for Media among "Whacked Sopranos" actors reflecting on their regrettable but necessary exits.

But it won't come cheap: The suggested list price is $399.99, $100 more than the complete Sex and the City.

"It's really the biggest DVD gift set we have released to date, and that means both physically and metaphorically," says Sofia Chang, the channel's senior VP of DVD marketing. HBO is promising a huge marketing push for the release.

"We put a lot of work into it," creator David Chase tells USA TODAY. He conducted interviews for the extras early this year, about seven months after the surprising (and anticlimactic) finale aired on HBO.

Chase discusses with Baldwin his childhood, his early career and the show's history. And there's much discussion about the controversial final episode, which ended abruptly, midscene, as the Soprano family enjoyed a quiet meal in a diner.

Scenes rescued from the editing-room floor include Tony kissing Dr. Melfi in her office; Big Pussy being interrogated after a drug arrest; and Meadow visiting her ailing grandmother, Livia, in the hospital, where Janice falsely claims Tony tried to kill Livia, instead of the other way around.

Chase says he was surprised when he looked back how few filmed scenes he had left. He says most were cut because they "in some way emotionally hold up the show or derail it" or were "overexplaining" things when viewers "have an instinctive sense of what's going on."

Now Sopranos fans can only dream of a movie, given the box-office success of Sex and Chase's recently signed deal with Paramount Pictures, run by Sopranos producer Brad Grey.

"I'm not anxious to do one; I'm not looking to do one," Chase says. Never mind that star James Gandolfini has said he has moved on from Tony. "What I really don't want to give is the impression I'm being coy." The finale "makes it problematic to continue the story; I'm not interested in going forward." So any movie would go backward, set midway through the series' run.

"If something great came along, we might consider doing it," Chase says. "But we don't have people in rooms trying to come up with ideas." (c) Copyright 2008 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc. <>