March 13, 2006

HBO's big night: "Big Love" and "The Sopranos."

I hope you got a chance to watch HBO last night. "Big Love" premiered, along with the first episode of the last season of "The Sopranos." Go ahead and discuss everything in the comments. Those who haven't watched thus risk seeing spoilers.

"The Sopranos."
• Consider this recent post of mine on the subject. It was prescient... up to a point.

• Don't you feel that you need to watch it again to pick everything up?

• Character I feel the most revulsion toward? Carmela. I can't stand her. Everything she does disgusts me, whether she's stuffing sushi in her mouth, or preening over her SUV of a Porsche, she makes me sick. You viewers who root for her when she thinks she has another chance at sexual fulfilment? What's wrong with you?

• Actor having the most fun this season? Dominic Chianese!

• They waited so long to do another season that the actors changed physically, a bit ridiculously. The fattest guy got a lot less fat, but most of them got fatter, and some look a lot older. Lorraine Bracco looks huge on the cover of Entertainment Weekly, but on the show they just forefront the legs and let the rest of the body-of-Melfi fade into the shadows of the chair.
"Big Love."
• Highly original in subject matter and treatment!

• Has there ever been anything like that last line, spoken in that condition? Hilarious and disturbing.

• Just when you start to get used to the family's polygamous lifestyle and begin to (queasily) to accept it as a form of normal, we relocate to the compound and see a horrifying version of polygamy. Bruce Dern on the floor! Harry Dean Stanton being slimily evil! You find out that young girl is his wife and you're really sympathetic... until you're not.

• Hey, it's Susan's mom from "Seinfeld"!

• I haven't read any reviews. They're good, right?

IN THE COMMENTS: For some crazy reason, there's a lot of discussion of the phrase "built like a brick shithouse."


Dave said...


Carmela is hardly the most revolting character. Janice is rather more revolting. But yes, Carmela's need for both sex from Tony and piety are rather tiresome.

Big Love: Could not get into it. The scenes on the commune, in which the 14 year old girl is essentially raped, represents for me one of the worst manifestations of religious belief. That makes me more angry than interested.

Jen Bradford said...

Hey, it's Susan's mom from "Seinfeld"!

I'll always associate her with Twin Peaks, although I remember almost nothing about it.

JodyTresidder said...

Well, there goes Sunday night...

Assuming Tony's condition isn't terminal (can't be! unless creator David Chase is the bravest bod in TV history), Carmella is clearly in the gorge phase of her moral/Catholic bulimia, isn't she?

The intention, surely, is that we are meant to see she's making herself sick?

As for "Big Love".
Adored it.
Warily favorable early reviews are in at the sometimes fascinating site:

Definitely worth reading: Jon Krakauer's best seller "Under the Banner of Heaven" for an astringently digestible look at Mormon Fundamentalism.

This is one of those delightful times when quality US TV is wiping the floor with the British. (I have a foot in both camps.)

Dave said...

Jody--I kept thinking of Krakauer's book while watching Big Love.

Which was probably why I had trouble getting into the show.

Ann Althouse said...

Yeah, I've read "Under the Banner of Heaven." I wonder how having read that affects how you see "Big Love." Dave's "could not get into it" response might have been different if he had more background about these fundamentalists.

Dave said...

Ann: What background are you referring to?

Ann Althouse said...

Sorry, Dave. I wrote that comment before your more recent one. Do you generally have a problem with programs that mix comedy and drama in deliberately disturbing ways? Personally, I love material like that. With this show, I could understand feeling so disturbed about the implicit child rape that no enjoyment could be possible. The fact that we are invited to detest that girl might feel too ugly, like something we ought to resist.

Dave said...

Ann: Good questions.

I don't have answers.

Maybe I'll try it again next week.

knoxgirl said...

"I'll always associate her with Twin Peaks"

Me too, Jen Bradford... she's forever burned into my brain, like all the other characters on Twin Peaks. She was Laura Palmer's catatonic mother.

I loved that show. Alas.

TWM said...

I haven't felt sorry for Carmela since she threatened (subtle, yet so obvious at the same time) that lawyer into writing that college recommendation letter for Meadow. She is no different from Tony and deserves any pain she gets.

I skipped Big Love. Bring on Deadwood and Rome.

Elizabeth said...

We tivo'd "Big Love" but I'm resisting watching it. These comments are making me curious; the promos tended to ignore the underlying reality of child rape and patriarchal nastiness I associate with polygamy, but now I'm interested in how they deal with it. I've been consistently wowed by HBO originals over the years.

Carmella went through her dark night of the soul in the first couple of years, when she struggled with her role as Mafia wife, accepting ill-gotten gains. I don't remember exact details, but there was an episode where Tony brought home stolen goods that were quite intimate--jewelery, I think--and she got over her qualms. She's been hellbent for leather since, and making Tony pay for his infidelity has just made her more acquisitive, and more inclined to be credulous. Gee, what could have happened to Adrianna? But I love how Edie Falco plays this. And as for how the actors have changed, my first thought last night was "My gosh, Edie F. is built like a brick shithouse!" She's looking good.

katiebakes said...

I found Big Love remarkably intruiging. I can't wait to see how the characters develop and watch the relationships between the characters -- the three wives, particularly -- evolve as well.

Boy, was that compound ever creepy.

Question: Do people know that they are polygamists? It seemed like the "my father is a state trooper" comment rattled Sarah, but then they show all the family members standing around while the father announces the opening of the new store.

Also: Sarah is the stupid girl in Mean Girls, and the girl whose father is the state trooper (blanking on the name) is Trisha from Napoleon Dynamite.

amba said...

Lorraine Bracco's legs were fine, but her face was fat.

How'd you like WIlliam Burroughs reading the Egyptian Book of the Dead! For it was he.

Ann Althouse said...

Egyptian Book of the Dead...

Is that what that was? I found it irritating, but I'll try to appreciate it when I rewatch.

Jennifer said...

Elizabeth - looking like a brick shithouse is good? Or did I miss some nuance?

I've never heard that saying before and now I'm intrigued. Intrigued and confused.

LarryK said...


The final word on looking like a Brick Shithouse comes from the classic Commodores song "Brick (deleted)House." You may remember the lyrics

She's a brick (pause) HOUSE
She's mighty mighty, letting it all hang out

I could go on, but I'm sure you get the general idea.

tcd said...

Did anyone else get a craving for sushi watching Carmella & Tony gorging on it? My mouth is watering thinking about it right now.

Jennifer said...

Thanks, LarryK. You cleared up that it was, in fact, a compliment.

I still wasn't grasping how that was in any way flattering, though, so I went to the Straight Dope. Cecil says When said of women, one 1938 source notes, the phrase usually meant a "heavy, cloddish, sexually unappetizing female." But even in the 1930s a few wiseguys were applying it to attractive women, and in the U.S. that usage has now supplanted all others.

Ah, ok. Glad we cleared this up. I can assure you had any man compared me in any way to, well, any type of shithouse, I would have been a little put off. But now, bring it on!

Elizabeth said...

Jennifer, yep, that's a positive assessment. Larryk offers up the Commodores classic, but it's a Southern saying from way back. I suppose one could be offended by it, but I like how it appreciates solidity and strength. I'm not a fan of the emaciated starlet look, so bring on the brick houses.

Ann Althouse said...

Jennifer: "I can assure you had any man compared me in any way to, well, any type of shithouse, I would have been a little put off. But now, bring it on."

LOL. Literally.

Anyway, it seems that the expression is an apt way to say "well built," which is a very well understood way to say someone has a nice figure. A "shithouse" is normally a crudely made shed, so to make it out of brick would be to go way beyond the normal construction standards. Making a house of brick is considered a high standard of construction, but to make a shithouse out of brick is way beyond anything remotely necessary. So, that's how good that woman's figure is.

Bonus information: That Commodores song was once used by the law students here for a parody song about me at the school show. I didn't attend, so I don't know the details, but apparently my last name fit into the lyrics easily. Maybe someone has a audio file of that to send me.

Jennifer said...

Ahh, thanks, Ann. That makes sense. The things you learn at Althouse!

I hope someone does send you that audio file and you post it here.

Dave said...

I've heard very well built men referred to as being built like a brick shithouse, as well.

As in "Schwarzenegger is built like a brick shithouse."

That meaning makes more sense, to me at least, than to refer to a woman in such a way.

To each their own as they say.

LarryK said...

Could the brick shithouse thread be coming full circle (so to speak)?

Several years ago (about '92), I was at a party in Madison where someone popped in a video of a parody show put on by UW law students. My memory is extremely vague, but I think the Brick House song was one of the skits. Ann, does the timing sound about right? In any event, if someone can send you an audio copy, it would be the ultimate podcast!

rhodeymark1 said...

Edie Falco? After Jamie-Lyn did that little dance in her undies you all are going on about freaking Carmela??