Matthew Weiner on his time at "The Sopranos" (video intervie

#1
This is a seven part interview series with Matthew Weiner. The section of most interest to me (and, I'd imagine, most people here) is part 3, which covers his time on The Sopranos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5UGt2a823Tc. Very interesting, and plenty of things I hadn't heard before. Recommended.

You can find the rest of the videos, covering his sitcom career all the way to Mad Men, at http://emmytvlegends.org/interviews/people/matthew-weiner

Re: Matthew Weiner on his time at "The Sopranos" (video inte

#2
Wow! Jouster, terrific, terrific interview. Wonderful anecdotes and revelations, obviously the biggest of which was the completely open story about what happened with Green/Burgess and Chase. I think we all knew there must have been a deep schism there for them to have left so abruptly. While the official story early on was they were leaving to pursue their own opportunities -- and they later revealed that there were some very serious "creative differences" -- I had no idea that Green and Chase "fought all the time" (or at least all of the time that Weiner was part of the show and in a position to observe.) When Weiner revealed that there were a lot of "voices in the room" that really crapped on the idea for The Test Dream despite his and David's enthusiasm for it, I'm of a mind that Weiner must have primarily been talking about Green/Burgess (and, really, Winter would have been the only other possibility during that time frame). Put that together with their own admitted aversion to/inability to grasp/feel/identify with the direction of the coma stuff in season 6, and I can understand better now why Chase would finally have wanted to part ways with them since I think these are the kinds of episodes and themes that probably most fascinated Chase and where he got to most differentiate The Sopranos from anything that had ever happened on television before.

Listening to Weiner describe his tenuous position and utter lack of confidence, especially early in his tenure with the show, I can see exactly how it correlated in my own assessment of the episodes he penned. I remember posting at the old Sopranoland forum in season 5 my utter disappointment with Rat Pack on many grounds. I actually thought (and still think) it's one of the worst episodes in the show's history and a lot of it due to noticeably weaker scripting (as opposed to just story elements themselves). I also didn't think Sentimental Education was anything to write home about from a script standpoint. But I absolutely LOVED, LOVED Unidentified Black Males. So I can see why Weiner would have come in, stated off the top when he submitted that episode, "This is the best I can do. If you don't like it, I probably shouldn't be working on this show." I thought Mayham was a brilliant script (in addition to the story skeleton itself), so Weiner definitely improved as he went along.

It's nice to hear confirmed what I think is implied from everything we've ever read about how the writing process on The Sopranos proceeded (and probably a lot of other shows, too), which is that the show creator/runner is the one who originates virtually every major story element/development that you see and most of the others as well. The other writers contribute a lot of their own ideas and creativity, no doubt (something like The Weight would be a prime example where circumstances afforded an opening for Winter's wonderful creativity). But Chase's vision and "control freak" attention to detail was all over every script whether or not it bore his name under writers' union credit rules.

Anyway, the interview is so utterly candid and leisurely that it's a must for anyone interested in the creative goings on behind the last 3 seasons.
Tony, his spirits crushed after b-lining to the fridge first thing in the morning: "Who ate the last piece of cake?"

Re: Matthew Weiner on his time at "The Sopranos" (video inte

#3
Totally agree, Fly. Weiner is a great interview subject, in general, but particularly so here. While I've heard him speak about The Sopranos before, it was always only for a few moments at a time, so to have nearly an hour, unfiltered, is a real gift.

Am I exposing myself as a hopeless fanboy if I say I found that the stories about David Chase only raised him in my esteem? Not only does Weiner clearly revere him, but even his most seemingly 'unkind' moments (his lack of compliments for his writers; his bluntness when it came to a script's weakness, and willingness to fire writers for it) speak to his total commitment to his vision for the show and his drive to make it as great as he possibly could.

On the same site is a good interview with Tim Van Patten, for those who might be interested. It's not nearly as compelling as this interview, though, which I imagine I will return to at some point in the future, that's how enjoyable and fascinating it is.

Re: Matthew Weiner on his time at "The Sopranos" (video inte

#6
Pope Corky the IX wrote:And being that Winter went on to do "Boardwalk Empire" and Weiner went on to do "Mad Men" while Green & Burgess went on to do "Blue Bloods" I think David Chase made the right decision.


Obviously Chase had his reasons, and we may never know exactly what they were. But I am loath to rewrite history and am confident that Green/Burgess made invaluable contributions to the quality of the show throughout their tenure. When HBO saw the pilot and first gave the green light to Chase to write and produce a whole season of episodes, the first people he called were Green and Burgess because he "knew what they could do." Chase may have been stingy with verbal compliments, but actions speak louder than words, and it's very significant to me that the first people he wanted for collaborators were these writers with whom he'd worked before.

Also, it wasn't t like they were fired in season one . . . they lasted over 5 and a quarter seasons. Weiner's interview makes clear that Chase had a VERY short leash and new writers were given very little time (usually one episode) to prove they were up to the challenge. So obviously Chase admired and was comfortable with their basic abilities as writers: their ability to see and communicate nuance through characters in a very natural and organic way, their ability to craft economic dialog and action that accomplished multiple dramatic goals all at once, their appreciation for the black, subversive sense of humor that Chase brought to the show, etc. Whatever the problem(s) were, they must have surfaced relatively late in their tenure and perhaps even involved more personal than professional dynamics. They claimed they couldn't understand or identify with what Chase wanted to do in the coma episodes (which Chase himself refused to term a "dream" -- in other words, he was crafting a true metaphysical reality into which Tony entered in the spiritual dimension, and that was apparently too esoteric, too speculative, too weird, too dark, for Green and Burgess). Someone I asked that worked on the show as an associate producer said that Chase felt they were "burned out" by the end of their tenure, and maybe that is as full and accurate a picture of what happened as any. Probably it was a combination of all the factors mentioned and perhaps some others as well.

I have never watched a single episode of their new series (not my cup of tea, I don't think, just knowing the basic scenario). But I did see a bit of Madmen and a quarter of the first season of Boardwalk Empire, and I saw NOTHING in either one that came even close to the multifaceted brilliance that was evident in nearly every Sopranos episode ever made. David Chase tapped into and became the conduit for something clearly bigger than any individual who participated in the making of that show -- he called it "zeitgeist", Jung would have called it the collective unconscious, I suppose. God, the universal consciousness -- or whatever you want to call this unifying intelligence that permeates every atom in the cosmos -- had something it desperately wanted to say at that time in history about an enormous complex of interrelated issues reflecting and affecting human beings, and the Sopranos became the vehicle for that multifaceted creative urge. The weave of so many ostensibly disparate but ultimately cohesive threads into the incredibly rich tapestry we witnessed (mirrored in the large size and diversity of the demographics and sensibilities of the audience) is not likely to be duplicated very often, and that's why, IMO, the greatest work Weiner, Winter, Green, Burgess, Gandolfini, Falco, and even Chase himself is ever likely to be associated with is The Sopranos.

Of course that's just my opinion.:icon_wink:
Tony, his spirits crushed after b-lining to the fridge first thing in the morning: "Who ate the last piece of cake?"

Re: Matthew Weiner on his time at "The Sopranos" (video inte

#7
jouster wrote:Am I exposing myself as a hopeless fanboy if I say I found that the stories about David Chase only raised him in my esteem? Not only does Weiner clearly revere him, but even his most seemingly 'unkind' moments (his lack of compliments for his writers; his bluntness when it came to a script's weakness, and willingness to fire writers for it) speak to his total commitment to his vision for the show and his drive to make it as great as he possibly could.


One of the things that really got my attention was when Weiner said, "The part of David Chase that is Tony Soprano." Think about that for a minute.

No doubt, many great creators have had a ruthlessness about them when it came to their work and what mattered most to them. If that's what it took to keep the quality of the show as high as it was, I certainly don't fault it. On the other hand, if I imagine myself in the place of one of those writers, revering him yet hanging by a thread waiting for an axe to fall and daring to hope for some crumb of encouragement, I don't think I could have survived, even if I managed a first script that didn't get me fired. It would be like the last scene of the pilot between Tony and Christopher.:icon_biggrin:
Tony, his spirits crushed after b-lining to the fridge first thing in the morning: "Who ate the last piece of cake?"

Re: Matthew Weiner on his time at "The Sopranos" (video inte

#8
I have to agree with the Fly about Green and Burgess. If you look through all the episodes they wrote and co-wrote they were all very good stories. I haven't seen "Blue Bloods" but if it is at all unsatisfying it probably has more to do with it being a network show which can limit creativity.

Could you imagine The Sopranos if it was made by the major networks?

Why the falling out between Chase and Green & Burgess? If it was over the coma/spiritual themes it might seem a shame. Still we can be thankful that they did write the more "grounded" episodes that they did.

But by the same token I am thankful that Chase explored Tony's mindset at another level. It helped make the Sopranos a much more complex, intense, wildly stimulating, and quite literary work.

I do enjoy Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, as well as thoroughly enjoying shows like The Wire, Treme and Deadwood.

But there is no doubt about it. The Sopranos set the ultimate standard. Kudos to all involved. Not surprsingly the aforementioned "creative differences" helped make it what it was.

Re: Matthew Weiner on his time at "The Sopranos" (video inte

#9
I'm sorry, I didn't mean to come off as shitting all over Green & Burgess' accomplishments and capabilities. It's a fair statement to say that the Sopranos either wouldn't exist or certainly not in the way it is now without their involvement.

But if you go by projects that have started since the Sopranos, they're contribution is a major disappointment compared to Weiner and Winter. While I agree that neither "Boardwalk Empire" nor "Mad Men" have come close to the Sopranos in quality, among other things, I don't think that anything has or will for quite some time. But they're both a lot better than "Blue Bloods". I guess my reaction came out of having high hopes for the two of them after they'd basically disappeared for three or four years, and it looks like they spent all that time coming up with a formulaic cop/family drama with Tom Selleck. And the whole "from THE Executive Producers of the Sopranos" thing certainly didn't help.

Anyone hear if "Blue Bloods" is in danger of being up on the chopping block now that the season is coming to an end?
What violin?!
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