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Watching Too Much Television

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Watching Too Much Television
Season 4, Episode 7 #46
Air date October 27, 2002.
Written by David Chase, Robin Green, Mitchell Burgess and Terence Winter.

Teleplay by: Terence Winter and Nick Santora

Directed by John Patterson
Episode Guide
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"Everybody Hurts"
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"Mergers and Acquisitions"
"Watching Too Much Television" is the 7th episode of Season 4 the HBO original series The Sopranos. It is the 46th overall episode of the series. Written by Terence Winter, Robin Green, Mitchell Burgess and David Chase from a teleplay by Terence Winter & Nick Santora, it was directed by John Patterson and originally aired on October 27, 2002.

Synopsis Edit

Paulie Walnuts gets out of jail and a huge party is thrown for him at the Bada Bing!. The next day, Tony and Ralphie get an idea from Brian Cammarata to defraud the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) fund with bogus housing deals. Tony recruits Assemblyman Zellman and a friend of his, Maurice Tiffen, the formerly idealistic head of a non-profit low income housing program, to put the plan into action. They also recruit Dr. Ira Fried as a straw buyer to initially buy derelict, poor neighborhood property. After one of their clandestine business meetings at a sauna, Zellman privately confesses to Tony that he met and has been seeing Tony's ex-girlfriend Irina and asks Tony's approval. Tony seems to be understanding and claims he is happy Irina is no longer his problem. Later, during an unannounced visit at Zellman's house, Tony finds Irina making lunch for him and learns Zellman is paying for her English language classes.

Adriana's surreptitious meetings with the FBI continue. After seeing a drama show on television, she gets the idea that a spouse cannot be forced to testify against her marital partner. Believing the FBI will stop hassling her if they can't use her testimony, she asks Christopher to finally set a date for their wedding. But, when he mentions having children, she also tearfully reveals him she could be sterile, which greatly angers her fiancé and sends him storming out in a fit of rage. Christopher gets high on heroin and seeks advice from his crime family members who (except Paulie) urge him to marry Adriana regardless, with Tony believing modern medicine could solve infertility and Silvio jokingly cautioning him he could become like Junior, or worse Paulie, by being single. Christopher returns to his fiancée and agrees to marry her. Adriana discloses the news to her friends and family, with Carmela being the first to hear about the marriage plans. However, later, during a casual conversation with her friend when trying out a wedding dress, she finds out that marital privilege may not apply to her after all. She secretly goes to a lawyer, who tells her that marital privilege will only apply to conversations that take place after they get married, are not in the presence of a third party, and do not further any criminal enterprise. As no incriminating conversation she's ever had with Christopher meets all these criteria, marriage will not solve her legal problems. This is reinforced by the FBI agents, who discuss the likelihood of her nuptials among themselves and voice no serious objection, in fact being marginally in favor of the proposed union. Adriana is later seen cheerlessly unwrapping her bridal shower presents in front of friends and family.

Tony takes A.J. for a ride describing for him his family's proud history of dedication to work by showing him the church in Newark that his stonemason grandfather helped build and teaching him a business lesson to buy real estate by taking him to see the run-down houses that he bought for the HUD scam. However, to A.J., his interest in the old times goes only as far as to being surprised how little room service would cost in hotels back then. A. J. only gets impressed by his father when he talks back to and insults a drug dealer and his crack-addicted sister. Tony speaks out about his frustration with his son to Dr. Melfi, but she shifts her focus to warning Tony to control his unacceptable outbursts of anger against her during their psychotherapy sessions.

Before selling the acquired real estate to the federal government, Tony tells Assemblyman Zellman that the crack addicts should be moved out, especially since there is about $7,000 in copper piping where they squat, and threatens him with a lighter payment if the situation is unresolved. Since using white thugs in the ghetto would rouse suspicion and believing police would only solve the situation temporarily, Maurice Tiffen is paid a visit by Zellman and, after similar threats of earning less from the deal, told to take care of it by sending in some "gang-bangers." Four young armed teens show up at the property. They shoot in the air and beat the squatters with baseball bats, including the family previously seen by Tony and A.J., while a small child watches. During the raid, the man of the family catches a ricochet bullet and is wounded in his genitalia. Later, a crew led by Vito Spatafore can be seen ripping the houses apart for copper and "mantle pieces." Dr. Fried sells the land to Tiffen's organization at three times his purchase price, based on fraudulent appraisals, and receives his sale price with funds loaned from HUD. Zellman and Tiffen get paid at the Bing. They discuss the deal and dispense with their lingering moral compunctions. Tony rewards Brian with a Patek Philippe watch worth $15,000.

Elsewhere, Carmela and Furio Giunta's tentative flirtation continues, as he calls her with the pretense of looking for his missing sunglasses. Later on, when Furio goes to pick up Tony in the morning, he refuses Carmela's offers to come inside for coffee, claiming he needs to sit in the car because it is having engine problems.

Meanwhile, Paulie is giving up more information in his meetings with Johnny Sack. They meet for a meal at the River Cafe in Brooklyn and he divulges the HUD scheme, while also seeking assurance from Johnny that their discussions are kept private.

At the end of the episode, while driving, Tony hears the Chi-Lites' "Oh Girl" on the radio and becomes teary. He stops at Irina's apartment and asks her if she has anything to drink. He goes upstairs, where he encounters Assemblyman Zellman and pummels him with his belt, causing Zellman to cry in front of Irina.

Episode Cast Edit

Title reference Edit

  • Adriana watches the TV series Murder One and learns that she doesn't have to turn state's evidence against Christopher if they get married. But, her friend tells her that according to an episode of Murder, She Wrote, that is not always the case.

Other cultural references Edit

  • Silvio makes a reference to the movie Papillon to Paulie when they first meet each other after he gets out of jail, naming Paulie after the eponymous character who was sentenced to live in a penal colony on Devil's Island.
  • Paulie tells Johnny Sack he missed Good & Plenties while in prison.
  • In separate scenes Adriana watches Murder One and The A-Team on television.
  • Tony listens to WCBS-FM.

Connections to prior episodes Edit

  • Like he did with Meadow in the pilot episode, Tony takes A.J. to see the church his grandfather built when he first came to the U.S. from Avellino.

Music Edit

  • The song played to welcome Paulie back ("Paulie's song") is "Nancy (With the Laughing Face)" by Frank Sinatra; it's never explained why it's significant to him.
  • The song which is played over the end credits is "Oh Girl" by The Chi-Lites. The song was also heard earlier at the Russian bath house, where Tony, Zellman and Tiffen discuss it.
  • In the diner scene where Brian, Tony, and Ralph discuss the HUD scam, a muzak version of "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" by Steely Dan plays in the background.
  • When Zellman and Tony are talking in the changing room after the sauna, the Booker T. & the M.G.'s song "Green Onions" is playing.
  • During a discussion between Tony and Christopher, the Foghat song "Slow Ride" is playing in the background.
  • On Tony's car radio, en route to Assemblyman Zellman's house, "Oh Girl" is preceded by "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" by Bachman–Turner Overdrive.

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