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''Sopranos,'' ''Carnivale''

By RD Heldenfels Published: July 15, 2005

HBO Chairman Chris Albrecht didn't even wait for the question. ''I don't know,'' he said during opening remarks at an HBO press conference today. ''I read what you read.''

The question, of course, was will there be even more ''Sopranos''? The next season is due on HBO in March 2006, and that's supposed to be the last. But there have been hints in the press that series creator David Chase would be willing to do more.

While he didn't know, Albrecht was at least willing to let his daily mood swings on the subject include some optimism.

''David was so charged after last season and the response to the show from last season, and he's so happy with what he's doing now that I honestly believe that he feels like there's more to tell than just what he's got planned for the (coming) season,'' Albrecht said. ''I know he knows he can tell more.''

Then Albrecht's mood swung.

''David has always been most concerned about leaving the audience feeling great about the show. ... If he felt he's got 12 more episodes in him, but only 11 of them were going to be really good, and the last one wasn't going to be, he would in his mind make the decision not to do (the 12th episode).''

So we'll just have to keep waiting for Chase to make the call.

Among the many other subjects Albrecht addressed was the demise of ''Carnivale,'' a show I liked very much, but which HBO has ended after two seasons.

''Never have we gotten besieged the way we have been by 'Carnivale' fans,'' Albrecht said. ''Literally 50,000 e-mails over a weekend. And I don't mean the first weekend (after the decision). ... It is so over the top, not just in terms of the number but in terms of things that they say and threaten.''

So did HBO miscalculate in dumping the show? ''After reading the e-mails, I'm not sure,'' he said.

But he argued that ''Carnivale'' just did not make financial sense.

''If 'Carnivale' was a $2-million-an-hour show, we'd keep going with it,'' he said. ''But a period piece shot all on location, a huge cast like that .. and you've got to order at least 13 episodes to give something a real shot -- it is an enormous investment.''

The show did not sell well overseas, he said, so the expense could not be covered that way. ''So you just have to say, 'Can I take this money and allocate it in other ways that appeal to the same audience?' ''

As for how the show ended, viewers weren't the only ones taken by surprise. Albrecht said he originally thought the plan for the second season was for an ending ''where you didn't have to go on. At the end, (the makers of the show) decided to kind of change that a little bit, which turned into a little bit more of a cliffhanger.''

And who can love a cliffhanger that remains eternally unresolved?

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