Monday, June 30, 2008

The Fear of Separation

I recently finished watching the full six years of The Sopranos TV series a couple of weeks ago, in sequence in my living room on Netflix DVDs. Through the last weeks with the famous "Mafia" family, I had come to dread the inevitable end of the disks, so great was my attachment to these people.

I even did that dumb thing that people do--that I thought I'd never do--when someone close is dying. I started to withdraw in advance, in order to ward off the full impact of the blow.

I was surprised at myself. If there ever an example of "cowards die a thousand times before their deaths, the brave but once" or whatever that quote is*, this was it. And provoked by nothing more serious than the loss of fictional characters I can always rent again.

Ideally, one stays involved full-tilt to the end, even with fictional people. At least that's what I think. That strikes me as the boldest and most satisfying approach. No numbing out, no missing of the final intensity. That's what I mean to do should I ever face another such loss.

But I can't even imagine it. I agree with New Yorker editor David Remnick: The Sopranos were the best thing that ever hit TV. I also think the show was the best characterization I've ever seen on film. I'm pleased that this particular piece of art unfurled in my lifeime.

Surely that deserves full engagement.

I'm doing one thing right in this process though. I thought about immediately starting to rent The Wire or My So-Called Life or some other series. But I'm not yet ready for another relationship. First I need time.

Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.
from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar

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billie said...

I had the same experience with West Wing on DVD. I was so attached to the characters.

I felt similarly about thirtysomething when it was on TV, and since it's not available on DVD, we all watched My So-Called Life this year. What an amazing series - you'll like it when you're ready.

We're just finishing up Angel after a long time with Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The Sopranos has been in my queue for years but it will be such a long engagement - I'm not quite ready to settle in with it.

Peggy Payne said...

Oh, I envy you having the Sopranos ahead of you. I've seen some of My So-Called Life, back when it was "live," and loved it then, want to see what I missed.

It's such wealth to be able to go back and see old stuff. A friend of mine Dan Wakefield was the originator of James At Fifteen; I wish the DVDs went back that far, since I missed that at the time.

I'll bet some clever soul will eventually make earlier shows like that available.

Larry Lehmer said...

I know exactly what you mean, Peggy. My wife and I watched the Sopranos exactly the same way though we have yet to watch the final season. We also watched the entire run of Six Feet Under by checking them out in sequence from our local library. We tried the same with 24 but lost interest in season three. Now, after watching Dexter on commercial broadcast TV recently, we'll be keeping up with that series as it comes out on DVD.

Peggy Payne said...

I'm getting a good list of series for my queue. Thanks for reminding me of Six Feet Under, Larry.

I'm starting to think there's a rental series phenom going on. I have friends who are on there second time through West Wing.

Debra W said...


Great post! When The Sopranos ended, I felt as if someone I cared about had died. Silly attachment to fictional characters, but understandable in many ways. Like you, I loved the series, My So-Called Life, and was sad when they took if off the air. The same thing went for Thirtysomething, and Six-Feet Under. Good characters, like interesting people, find a way into our hearts and minds.

I think I will rent My So-Called Life because I think my daughters would enjoy it. It was such a well-written show and I am very glad to know that it is out on DVD.

Peggy Payne said...

I'm still insulted that that show was taken off the air. I felt that my sensibility was dissed somehow.

This weekend, I asked my husband: what's the name of that soprano who....? I was talking about an opera singer, but I've said so much about the program that he assumed I meant a mobster.