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''Sopranos'' and Other Tidbits (With Some More ''Veronica'')

By RD Heldenfels Published: April 24, 2006

I laughed -- very hard -- at ''The Sopranos'' on Sunday night. Wasn't alone, either, since this was a night in our regular ''Sopranos'' gatherings with co-workers, so the laughter was not mine alone. The Ben Kingsley stuff was funny enough. Mugging Lauren Bacall -- one of those things where you think, oh, no, they wouldn't DARE, and then they did. I know at some point, probably even next week, that the show is going to get back to serious business. Still, as I've said before, the makers of the show know that every episode counts these days; they're obviously determined to leave people with the sense that this was a great show, one that could do anything, including comedy -- and last night was gut-busting.

I didn't get around to "The West Wing'' until this morning. An all right episode. Liked the way Josh went to Sam, since it invoked the scene where Josh brought Sam into the Bartlet campaign; unfortunately, these being smart characters, they then had to talk about how this was similar to that earlier moment, which took some of fun out of it. (Rob Lowe's oddly stylized performance also grated quickly.) The switcheroo at the end of the Bartlet/Santos conflict wasn't much fun either. And I hope the NBC promo was deliberately misleading with its hint that Santos might pick Vinick as his new VP; that's way too tidy for a show that was built in a lot of ways on messiness. As we were reminded every time Josh had to handle a pile of papers.

This was a weekend that began with frustration; I had called a guy Friday morning for a story I thought I would need to write and still hadn't heard back from him by the time my workday officially ended. There was some frustration near the end, too, when the office called about the passing of Linn "Barnaby'' Sheldon, to ask if I wanted in on the story. By that point, we had company coming, and I had to pass. I did know Linn, a little, and will probably have some notes about him here later.

In between those points, though, were domestic pursuits -- painting, yard work, cleaning house -- involving all the folks in the House of Heldenfels, ending with a home that looked and felt better. There were also chances for TV in the gaps.

''Gilmore Girls'' was very good for about half the episode, where we saw that Mrs. Kim has her own Mrs. Kim; a vivid reminder how deep the cast is, with Emily Kuroda doing a terrific job. Then, as the show got back to its arc -- the Luke/Lorelai wedding or not -- it struggled. Lorelai's drunk scene, while showing off the way Lauren Graham can play multiple dramatic notes effortlessly, felt too grimly, deliberately sad, especially when we remember that Lorelai has put herself into this situation. At the same time, though, with Amy Sherman-Palladino officially leaving ''GG'' at the end of this season, I have to wonder how the new creative team will maintain the show's tonal approach -- and if, Aaron Sorkin-like, she is going to leave the show in a horrible little box that the new team will struggle to escape.

I very much enjoyed ''Veronica Mars'' although I have no idea what I really know about the bus crash. Liked the way that grasping Kendall is now connected to the Fitzpatricks, although I do wonder why no one came across this connection before. Of course, Neptune is a town where most people spend a lot of time NOT looking for the truth. The Duncan clue at the end baffled me, though. Are we really to think that Aaron was not a murderer. And if not, weren't his dealings with Veronica at the end of Season 1 just the tiniest bit extreme? Still, I liked the Wallace-Jackie scene where Wallace spoke so cruelly to her, since it reminded us of how skillful young people are at saying horrible things.  And always enjoy Tina Majorino's presence; her reactions to the unexpected prom date were delightful.

''Veronica'' addendum. One reader sent these notes along: ''Remember Kendall went to Logan's to "sell" him real estate?  She took hair out of Duncan's drain in the shower and they planted the evidence.  All he has to do is have reasonable doubt with one jury member.  OJ Simpson, Robert Blake, if you are famous and rich, sometimes you get off.  Veronica speculated that Arron killed Lily with an ashtray.  Rumor has it that the actress that plays Lily will be in the last episode so I am thinking another flashback at what happened that night. As for him trying to kill Veronica, more interesting storyline if Arron is out of jail.  Remember, Logan mom's body has not been found.  Here's hoping the new CW gives Veronica another season with it being available to most of the country and not getting moved for a game of some kind of sports.''

Thanks for the info. But that shower scene has bugged me because it was so unclear about what was going on -- and I remain dubious about Kendall's ability to extract a hair and know whose it would be, especially considering the traffic through that place. Let us now resume the original post...

The bride and I also took in the two-hour return of ''Alias.'' I am not a fan of the show, which always feels exciting for about an hour and then just exhausting. The return was entertaining, and I have a mild curiosity about where it's going, but I can't get too crazed. Seeing Jennifer Garner playing pregnant with her thinner, post-pregnancy face was intermittently amusing. And the closing scene was a giggle simply because one of my TV mantras is that no one ever really dies on ''Alias.''

And now let's all charge into the new week. I'm really looking forward to ''When Andrea Met Kellie...''

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