April 21, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

Though it’s the most watched cable TV program, The Sopranos‘ ratings have taken a bat to the kneecaps lately. Start with season 6’s premiere: On March 12, 9.5 million viewers tuned in — a 21.5 percent dive from the previous opener, and the lowest numbers since season 2’s launch. By April 9, only 8.6 million folks were hanging with Tony and his crew on HBO, compared with the 9.7 million who turned up for season 5’s fifth episode. So why has the family business been bad? EW breaks it down for you.

1. WAIT WATCHERS
Keeping us sitting around almost two freakin’ years for its return — not the best move. Remember last season when Carmela had a fling with AJ’s counselor? Or when Tony stumbled upon his dad’s mistress at the cemetery? Anyone?

2. CUTTHROAT COMPETITION
Back in 2004, The Sopranos had no problem strong-arming Sunday-night rivals like NBC’s Law & Order: Criminal Intent and ABC’s Alias. But times, they’ve changed. While Tony’s been able to muscle some viewers away from Wisteria Lane, ABC’s Desperate Housewives still pulls in an average of 22.2 million each week.

3. GIVE US SOME ACTION
Wow, Tony taking a bullet from Uncle Junior? No one saw that coming. Two episodes with Tony in a coma, confined to a hospital bed? Seems like most folks wish they hadn’t seen that. Here’s hoping that with the big man back on his feet (and Vito on the run in New Hampshire) things will turn around.

4. BUT IN TONY’S DEFENSE…
The net claims that after factoring in the six Sopranos replays on HBO and HBO2 — which Nielsen doesn’t track — weekly ratings would jump to roughly 13 million. Also not measured: On Demand or DVR viewership — to say nothing of the chilling effect of AJ’s hair.

type
TV Show
Genre
run date
01/10/99-06/17/07
Status
In Season
Available For Streaming On
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