December 13, 2007 at 12:00 PM EST

Did you know that the one-of-a-kind mind responsible for The Sopranos belongs not to show creator David Chase, not to star James Gandolfini, not even to real-life ex-con Tony “Paulie Walnuts” Sirico (pictured) — but to a former municipal judge and prosecutor named Robert Baer? Neither did I. But Chase is in court this week defending himself against that very claim. According to Baer, the landmark HBO series — probably the single richest, most complex English-language work of art in the past 30 years — sprang from “services he provided to Chase during a three-day tour of northernNew Jersey and subsequent conversations in 1995.” So now, he argues, he’s entitled to a piece of the multi-million-dollar action.

Now, maybe this is just me, but if you’re a judge who goes around giving screenwriters in-depth tours of the New Jersey mob-land and inspiring sympathetic looks at a vicious career criminal’s inner life, wouldn’t that sorta not be the kind of thing you’d want to advertise to your colleagues in the legal profession?

Still, I can’t complain, considering that the lawsuit has gifted the Sopranos-loving public with this 12-page deposition,wherein Chase lays out his own far more convincing account of theshow’s decades-long genesis. It’s packed with fascinating littledetails: “At fourteen,” he tells the court, “I made the mob the subjectof my oral presentation in sophomore speech class.” This has to havebeen the most awesome sophomore speech class of all time. I’d also loveto see Chase’s apparently unproduced 1981 script for a movie called Female Suspects,in which the main characters wind up in “the back room of a pork storeowned by a guy named Tony.” Chase later recounts an incidentfrom the late ’80s involving Robin Green, who would ultimately becomean executive producer on the show: “Robin… was aware that I wasundergoing therapy to deal with my own ‘mother issues,’ and proposedthat I write a script about a television producer in therapy; Iimmediately recognized that ‘mob boss in therapy’ would be far moreinteresting.” No kidding.

But hey, maybe that was an extraordinarily thought-provoking three-day tour of North Jersey. What do you lot make of this mess? Would you tell Baer, “Don’t stop believin'” or “Fuggehdaboudit”?

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