Ken Tucker
January 05, 2007 AT 05:00 AM EST


TV Show
Current Status
In Season

We gave it a B+

It’s commonplace among popular-art consumers of a certain type — call ’em middlebrow, NPR/PBS lovers, baby-boomer rationalizers, take your pick — that good entertainment doesn’t ”need” profanity and nudity to achieve its dramatic power. These are the same folks who say that comedians who ”resort” to the F-word aren’t that funny in the first place. Yeah, tell it to the ghost of Richard Pryor and I’ll bet he’d whisper something in your ear I can’t print here.

All these thoughts occurred to me while watching two of the edited episodes of The Sopranos as they’ll air on basic-cable channel A&E beginning Jan. 10. So did these:

1. Boy, does everyone look younger — not just a pudgy, sweet Robert Iler as AJ, but also an almost-dashing James Gandolfini.

2. The Sopranos remains superior soap opera — no matter how familiar they are, the Mob and family subplots instantly ensnare you.

3. It’s pretty ridiculous to hear Gandolfini’s Tony call Michael Imperioli’s Christopher an ”ungrateful little jerk” or to have Tony tell Lorraine Bracco’s Dr. Melfi, ”You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about,” especially since his lips are clearly saying another four-letter word that begins with the letter f.

4. The Bada Bing! dancers with clothes on? What schmo would sit in a dump like that and toss dollars to chicks wearing what look like bathing suits? Rent the f—ing DVDs.

Original Sopranos: A
A&E Sopranos: C

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