"Sopranos" creator defends uncertain ending

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Many “Sopranos” fans were furious at Sunday’s unresolved ending, but show creator David Chase said he didn’t mean to annoy anybody, and for those left wanting more he didn’t rule out a movie based on the series.

After building tension for six seasons over 8-1/2 years, “The Sopranos,” one of America’s most critically acclaimed television shows, ended with a black screen. But for the nearly 12 million viewers tuning in, there was no clear answer to the big question -- would mob boss Tony Soprano survive or get whacked?

“I have no interest in explaining, defending, reinterpreting, or adding to what is there,” Chase told New Jersey newspaper The Star-Ledger in an interview from France where he was on vacation while avoiding the media frenzy.

“No one was trying to be audacious, honest to God,” the paper quoted him as saying. “We did what we thought we had to do. No one was trying to blow people’s minds or thinking, ‘Wow, this’ll (tick) them off.’”

“People get the impression that you’re trying to (mess) with them, and it’s not true. You’re trying to entertain them.’”

The Star-Ledger, the real-life local paper in northern New Jersey where the show is set, said Chase agreed to the interview before the season began and before he decided to go to France to avoid day-after debates over the final episode.

In the final moments of the show, Tony Soprano, played by James Gandolfini, was munching onion rings in a New Jersey diner surrounded by a smiling family.

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A guy looking like a hit man had entered the restroom behind Tony and might be expected to come back out and kill the entire family, but then the screen went black for several seconds, leaving viewers to guess what happened next.

The blackout left many viewers dismayed or convinced they had lost reception. HBO, the Time Warner Inc.-owned pay-cable channel that launched “The Sopranos” in 1999, was immediately flooded with e-mails.

Asked whether the ambiguous ending was a way of setting up a movie, Chase said: “I don’t think about (a movie) much.”

“I never say never. An idea could pop into my head where I would go, ‘Wow, that would make a great movie,’ but I doubt it,” The Star-Ledger quoted him as saying.

“I’m not being coy,” he added. “If something appeared that really made a good ‘Sopranos’ movie, and you could invest in it and everybody else wanted to do it, I would do it. But I think we’ve kind of said it and done it.”

Sunday’s show drew 11.9 million viewers, making it the fourth most-watched episode ever behind the 2002 fourth season debut (13.4 million), the finale of that season (12.5 million), and the debut of season five in 2004 (12.1 million), HBO said.

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“The Sopranos,” which averaged 7.8 million viewers in its Sunday airings this season, also topped the night’s most watched program on broadcast television -- CBS news magazine “60 Minutes,” which drew 9.5 million viewers.