Monday, June 11, 2007

Tony and the Tonys

A rare summer TV season faceoff has ended in our house, and it was pretty much a tie. Like others in my theater- and Sopranos-loving circle, I thought we would watch the first televised hour of the Tony Awards on CBS, switch over to The Sopranos series finale on HBO, then track back to the awards, followed by a middle-hour recap of the Radio City Music Hall action on our DVR. But once the Tonys started, and The Coast of Utopia and Spring Awakening began their marches through the categories, we had to stick with them. Tony cooled his heels for a while.

The Tonys were pretty much a surprise-free zone, as if anyone could topple Christine Ebersole from winning for Grey Gardens (as I predicted a whole year ago). Coast picked up seven awards, a record for a Broadway play, and Spring dominated the musicals category. Company and Journey's End, whose journey has ended, were deserved revival winners. The shocker, if it could be called that in this most genteel of awards telecasts, was David Hyde Pierce clipping Raul Esparza's wings; I can only assume the voters felt sympathy for Pierce's having to carry the iron Curtains on his back through sheer professionalism and likabilty.

My eyebrow went up a little when Julie White won best actress in a play, her show, The Little Dog Laughed, a rare comedy, having closed some time ago. But it had a healthy off Broadway run and if she had lost we would have been deprived the most entertaining acceptance speech of the evening. Other excitement came from John Mahoney's belated bleep during his poorly scripted bit and the pre-bleeped Awakening number. The Tonys bashers are out in force but despite missteps here and there I always find the show a refreshing way to recap and wind down from the season, and there was a nice symmetry to CBS' former first lady of Sunday nights, Angela Lansbury, begin and end the program.

The Tony bashers will clearly be baying for Sopranos creator David Chase's blood over the final episode. I never bought into its greatest TV show ever rep; once the crucial Nancy Marchand had passed away the program was rudderless for some time, with very uneven stretches thereafter. Its sadly-never-ended HBO stablemate, Deadwood, may lay claim to the title. But the first two seasons are extraordinarily good, and over seven it never ceased to be appointment television, even when we went about two years between appointments. Last week's tense and shockingly action-packed episode satisfied viewers who were into whackings; the finale was more reflective and "Chase-ian," with its big hit exaggerated into over-the-top black comedy, and a sudden-death fade, after a nerve-jangling buildup putting us squarely into Tony's shoes, scored to the (ironic?) strains of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing." Not that there wasn't some information for us to go on to create our own perfect ending, but I suspect viewers will be dissatisfied at the perceived cop-out. Check here for what will be provocative postings.

And now I can prety much catch up on my DVD viewing for a few months.

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