Tuned In: 'Meadowlands' not likely to take place of 'Sopranos'

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Now that "The Sopranos" is done, but surely not forgotten (see below), every TV network will be jockeying in hopes of being home to TV's next great drama series. Of course, odds are one won't come around soon. Medium-altering series don't happen that often. And with more choices that continue to fracture TV into smaller factions, the next "Sopranos" will only be harder to come by.

Ecosse Films
In "Meadowlands," from right, Harry Treadaway plays Mark Brogan, Felicity Jones is Zoe Brogan, Lucy Cohu is Evelyn Brogan and David Morrissey is Danny Brogan.
Click photo for larger image.

Showtime's "Meadowlands" (10 p.m. Sunday), a British import, certainly has the weirdness factor down, but as it goes on, the show becomes overly dark and sadistic. Not as opaque as HBO's mind trip "John From Cincinnati," "Meadowlands" is, nonetheless, decidedly outside the mainstream.

The series begins with the blindfolded Brogan family being taken to their new house in a new town, Meadowlands. Eventually viewers learn that Danny Brogan (David Morrissey, "Viva Blackpool"), wife Evelyn (Lucy Cohu) and twin teens Zoe (Felicity Jones) and autistic Mark (Harry Treadaway) are in a witness protection program following a fire that left Mark an elective mute with burned hands (he always wears gloves).

Once in their new, pre-furnished home in a community of look-alike modern houses, the Brogans begin to meet their new neighbors, including overly effusive Brenda (Melanie Hill), heavy-breathing handyman Jack (Tom Hardy) and determined cop Bernard Wintersgill (Ralph Brown). Turns out the entire community shares something in common with the Brogans, which is revealed at the end of the premiere episode.

Mysterious "Meadowlands" brings to mind "The Prisoner," "Twin Peaks" or "The Village," but it quickly becomes more sexually charged and more violent. It's a creepy show, but the slow pace and a brutal torture scene in a future episode made my interest wane.

The first season runs just eight episodes and concludes with a big revelation about Meadowlands, but I have to wonder if many viewers will stick with it that long. The show features some larger-than-life characters whose psychological pathology could be interesting to learn, and Treadaway's performance as a Jack White-coifed emo-boy is oddball-cool, but "Meadowlands" demands too much of a slog for too little in return.

Final 'Sopranos' thoughts

My first reaction to the series finale of HBO's "The Sopranos" was shock and disbelief when the screen went black. It seemed like another Comcast failure. (My latest Comcast DVR headache: The past two weeks it refused to record "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," and the same thing happened to a few co-workers who also had "Studio 60" series recordings set.)

My second reaction to "The Sopranos" finale was anger: Creator David Chase punk'd the audience! That was reflected a little in what I wrote in Monday's print edition.

But the more I thought about it Sunday night, the more I appreciated the finale, which hopefully came through in Monday's Tuned In Journal entry, an expanded review. And by Monday morning, when I kept thinking about the show during my morning jog, I was ready to declare it brilliant.

I know many fans feel ripped off, but anyone expecting closure wasn't paying attention to the show. Chase hates closure because often real life doesn't have tidy resolutions. That's why we never heard from the Russian in the Pine Barrens again.

It's tough to do a series finale today because there are so many expectations. What better way to defy expectations than to bring a show to a cold stop? No one expected that. And Chase tried to prepare those who felt played: He had the Soprano family members discuss the value of remembering "the good times."

Still, viewer discontent is understandable. That last scene built tension so strongly and ended so abruptly that it provoked a visceral, emotional response, more so than any series finale since Suzanne Pleshette turned up in former TV husband Bob Newhart's bed in the last scene of CBS's "Newhart" in 1990.

Cynics think there will be a "Sopranos" movie. I doubt that will happen, but if it does it will be a prequel. To film anything set after that final shot would be a betrayal of the open-ended, choose-you-own-adventure conclusion. Chase wanted viewers to imagine it for themselves rather than showing it to us, ensuring that the characters live on in our imaginations. Some people think it cut to black because Tony was shot in the head and died. It's a plausible theory. As is the notion that Tony got arrested. Or, maybe, life just went on as usual.

I was most intrigued by the morally ambiguous FBI agent who leaked Phil's whereabouts. At first I couldn't figure out why Chase was spending so much time on that character in the last episode, and then it made sense: He's us!

We say we hate crime, but we cheer for the murderous sociopath, we vote in polls that we want to see Tony join a witness protection program and escape punishment for his crimes. The FBI agent is supposed to want to put Tony away, but he helps Tony get Phil and cheers when Phil goes down. He's just as morally screwed up as Tony by sleeping with a woman who is not his wife. He's a hypocrite, just like us.

'Boston Legal' cast changes

There's been a cast purge at ABC's "Boston Legal": Rene Auberjonois, Julie Bowen, Mark Valley and Constance Zimmer have been shown the door and won't return as series regulars in the fall.

John Larroquette ("Night Court") will join as a series regular, playing an attorney who transfers to Boston from New York. Christian Clemenson, who's had a recurring role as Jerry Espenson, will become a series regular along with Tara Summers ("Dirt"), who joins as a new associate.

'Back to You' upgraded

Fox's Pittsburgh-set fall sitcom "Back to You" already had a lot of expectations riding on it, thanks to stars Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton. Now a big name has joined the series behind the camera as well.

James Burrows, who already directed the "Back to You" pilot, has signed on as an executive producer and director. Burrows, who was an executive producer on "Cheers," previously directed most of the episodes of the long-running NBC hit "Will & Grace."

Though he often has the Midas touch, his presence doesn't guarantee success: Last season he directed and executive produced CBS's "The Class," which was canceled last month.

Channel surfing

New seasons of "The Dead Zone" and "The 4400" kick off Sunday night on USA Network. ... Reruns of CBS's resurrected "Jericho" will begin airing weekly at 9 p.m. Friday starting July 6. "Return to Jericho," a recap of the first 11 episodes, will air at 8 p.m. July 13 and will be followed by episodes 13 to 22. ... The CW's low-rated "Hidden Palms" will make a hasty exit July 4, two weeks earlier than planned. Back-to-back episodes will air Wednesday and June 27. ... Spike TV, which premieres the Pittsburgh-set drama "Kill Point" next month, is retooling its original series strategy, focusing on comedies as much as dramas, Daily Variety reports. The network is not renewing the contract of executive Pancho Mansfield, who was instrumental in the development of "Kill Point." ... George Hazimanolis, senior director of corporate communications at WQED, has been elected secretary of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. KDKA feature reporter Dave Crawley has been elected to the organization's board of governors.

TV Q&A

This week's TV Q&A responds to questions about "Lost," "The Tudors" and everyone's favorite whipping boy, local news. Read it at post-gazette.com/tv.


TV editor Rob Owen can be reached at rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582.


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