Sopranos Still a Killer


The Sopranos' fourth season ended with a hit on Dec. 8, although it wasn't the "whacking" that some TV critics were hankering to see. The finale, after a season in which some said the show lost some of its vitality, earned the show's second-best rating ever and 12.5 million viewers, second only to this season's premiere, which nabbed 13.4 million viewers.

Carmela's kicking Tony out of the house wasn't the finale's only surprise: NBC's chairman Bob Wright made a brief—and involuntary—cameo appearance, some eagle-eyed viewers noticed.

Against The Sopranos
that Sunday night, ABC's Alias
attracted 9.2 million viewers. CBS boasted 11 million viewers for its Sunday-night movie, and NBC's Law & Order: Criminal Intent
was the broadcast winner with 12.2 million viewers.

"The Sopranos
has certainly created a problem for the networks on Sunday night," said Roy Rothstein, head of research for Zenith Media. "When you already have big ratings and get all this publicity, viewers will come."

The Sopranos
was clearly on NBC Chairman Bob Wright's mind 18 months ago, when he sent a memo and a tape of a particularly graphic Sopranos
episode to entertainment-industry execs, questioning, rather philosophically, the show's impact on television and, in particular, NBC.

That earned Wright an unwitting bit part in the season finale. In a scene in which actress Drea de Matteo absently watches TV as her mobster fiancé, played by Michael Imperioli, sweats through stomach crunches, Wright appears on an apartment TV in the background, speaking at an NAB convention. Wright said later he saw the episode but never saw himself in it, which isn't surprising. It was a very brief cameo.