Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Bad episode, good show: "Christopher," The Sopranos

(I've gotten some guff about not linking to my HND articles, so here are links to the last two BSG reviews and the last two T.V. on TV columns.)

Every good show, even the best of them, has one or two episodes it would rather sweep under a rug somewhere. Because TV is an episodic medium, there's no way to expect that every week the quality will be all the way up there. The best a show can hope is to have the lows not be too low. And, for the most part, The Sopranos (which I haven't written about in six months or so, so it's time) has managed to avoid the absolute bottom. Every episode has had bits and pieces that were well worth watching the lesser stuff for.

But not Christopher. Written by series regular Michael Imperioli (pictured), the series doesn't really focus on his character (also named Christopher) but, rather, on Christopher Columbus, of all people. Christopher, which was in the series' otherwise excellent fourth season, is easily the worst episode of the show's long run. You hardly find fans who disagree with this assertion (though there are a few).

The central problem with Christopher is that it's preachy about an issue that just doesn't deserve the level of preachiness in the script: the anger of Native Americans over Columbus Day. The episode's Mob hijinks stop dead in their tracks for scene after scene of the characters debating why, exactly, the Indians are so mad at them. Did anyone still care deeply about this issue when the episode aired? Why, exactly, is this a big deal to the show's Italian characters? Wasn't Columbus 100% Spanish? (I mean, I KNOW he's from Spain, but did he have Italian ancestry?)

Christopher doesn't even tie into the show's overarching storyline -- it's one of the few almost completely standalone episodes of The Sopranos. One can enjoy the show without even watching it. So why would you anyway?

(Okay. That new feature didn't work out as well as I had planned. But if you have other nominees, let me know, and I'll try to give them the full weight of their awfulness.)


Dan E. said...

Columbus was 100% Italian. He just sailed for Spain. That may not make up for most of the episode's shortcomings, but it might go a bit of the way.

The Ten Angry Men said...

For what it's worth, Columbus Day is a big deal in the Italian sections of Boston. In that sense, Imperioli was indeed being true to the characters in the Sopranos.

Todd VanDerWerff said...

See, this is why I need to stop being lazy. Because I knew there was an Italian connection and I didn't want to go look it up.

At any rate, my complaints lie less with what I found to be factual inaccuracies and more with the teeth-grindingly obvious pontificating. It's like all of the characters are suddenly stuck in an Aaron Sorkin show, with none of Sorkin's fast-paced wit to disguise the proselytizing.