The Sopranos – Season 2

 Title: The Sopranos- season 2

Genre: Comedy / Drama

Stars: James Gandolfini (Actor), Lorraine Bracco (Actor), Alan Taylor (Director), Allen Coulter (Director)

Watched: Second season: April 29-May 3, 2011

Status: Six seasons, series finished

Summary: Ups the ante


With season 2, The Sopranos takes the formula they successfully developed in season 1 and really notches it up.

While the foundation of fun characters is great, fundamentally I think the improvement has to do with a slight toning down of the comic element (it’s still there, just slightly muted), and a concentration on the mob aspects at slight expense of Tony’s maternal and psychiatric relationships. It’s not to say that any major elements changed, the writers merely tuned up the balance.

The mob stuff is great this time around. First of all, we have a lot more violence. It actually feels pretty real. This underscores a fundamental aspect of the show, in that we are made to become very fond of a bunch of “cold hearted killers.” I’m not personally sure that this is unrealistic because everyone’s the hero in their own story. In any case, there are some great episodes here.

I particularly enjoyed “Commendatori” in which Tony, Chris, and Pauli go to Napoli for a little pow-pow with some old country gangsters. Having spent some time in Naples, this is extremely well handled, showing off that ancient city’s blend of violence, seediness, and beauty. “D-Girl,” is another really fun episode. This is predominantly a Christopher show, and in the first season his subplots were dull, but maybe it’s just living in Hollywood, or perhaps that I know Jon Favreau myself (he’s a friend of a friend), but I found it sexy and amusing.

A few new characters spice things up. I’m not that big a fan of Tony’s sister Janice, but Richie Aprile is awesome. Channeling a very short Al Pacino, he’s quite a character. This couple follow in Tony’s Ma’s tradition of stirring up trouble, both serious and comic. It all gets a little twisted — particularly his mafioso-style bedroom fetish.

Particularly in the first half of the season, there isn’t much for Dr. Melfi to do, and during the second she arcs in a way I didn’t find realistic. Family life and relationships are still paramount, but juicing up the crime intensity a bit, I felt improved the balance, moving things closer to the modern HBO style of great writing, great action, and shock.

For my review of season 1, see here.

For my review of season 3, here.

ps. What’s up with Meadow’s weight? It bounces around like a super ball. The rest of the cast (except for Christopher and his Jersey girl fiance) mostly stay what most of the characters would call, “fat fucks.”

Ultimate Pizza – The Dough

For New Years those with toddlers tend to stay in, but we’re having friends over and making our Ultimate Homemade Pizzas. This is an involved process so I’m going to split both the prep itself and the event itself into multiple posts. We’ll begin with the dough. I’d put our pizzas up against even the likes of Mozza, and it all starts with the dough. While it doesn’t take long to make, you have to do it 48-72 hours in advance. Slow fermentation in the fridge is key to yummy dough with the right texture.

And high quality ingredients like this single vineyard olive oil.

Here is the slate of ingredients. Olive oil, two kinds of flour (more on that later), salt, ice water, and bakers yeast.

The righthand flour will be familiar, but on the left we have an essential ingredient to great Neapolitan pizza. Farina “00”. Imported from Naples. This is finer and makes a stickier dough than American flower. It’s key to a very thin crispy pizza. However, 100% “00” makes for a very thin and challenging dough — difficult to shape and maneuver. So we mix the two 50/50.

Flour, yeast, and salt go in the mixer under the “dough hook.”

The hard part is getting the consistency right is hard. You slowly add ice water.

And olive oil.

Until you can get it shaped into a big alien cocoon-like blob. It takes some practice.

Then you flour up the board.

Do some serious whacking of the dough to break up the glutens.

Then slice and ball.

The waiting pizza larve.

We wrap them up in plastic wrap and toss them into the fridge for 2-3 days. The cool temperature retards the fermentation of the dough, slowing it down to allow nice small bubbles to form. When the time comes, I take them out of the fridge two hours before baking time to warm them up.

Ultimate Pizza CONTINUES HERE.