The newspaper is fluttering in the driveway. In any other episode of The Sopranos, Mafia patriarch Tony (James Gandolfini) would come flapping out in his bathrobe to pick it up. But at the beginning of the HBO drama's fifth season, Tony's long gone, thrown out by his wife Carmela (Edie Falco) at the end of the fourth season. He's not around to bring in the paper or to deal with the animal intrusion that once again opens the season premiere. In the past, the Sopranos have had ducks in the swimming pool and squirrels in the bird feed. This time, a marauding black bear has taken over the back yard.
Sex and the City's last scenes seemed to echo its very first: Both the series' opening credits and its concluding moments feature a self-satisfied Carrie Bradshaw (played by Sarah Jessica Parker) strutting down the streets of her beloved Manhattan. There they part, however. In the opening sequence, a bus going through a puddle sprays the daydreaming, tutu-wearing sex columnist. In the last scenes of the series finale, which wrapped up six seasons of the HBO show on Sunday night, there is no such peril, only Carrie, grinning mightily, folded into the anonymous embrace of a crowd of fellow New Yorkers.
It's a rare TV rerun that can both inspire nostalgia and impress with its prescience. Tanner '88 fits the bill -- a "documentary" miniseries that follows the presidential campaign of fictional candidate Jack Tanner (played by Michael Murphy) against the real-life likes of pre-Donna Hart Gary Hart and pre-Viagra Bob Dole. The series owes part of its present-day resonance to its scheduling: Its 11 episodes air on a timetable that mirrors the arc of the 2004 campaign season nearly perfectly. We can watch a crowd of primary hopefuls running against a Republican named George Bush on the Sundance Channel on Tuesdays at 9 -- and then flip to an oddly similar scenario on network TV.
"I would not call myself a feminist," says Natalie, a University of Michigan junior. "I'm experiencing a lot of the advantages that feminists worked to achieve, and I'm thankful. ... But I don't know that women are still that much uneven from men, especially in the workplace." Told that on average a woman today makes only 76 cents to a man's dollar, Natalie is shocked. "I don't understand how that could be fair or even possible," she says.
When talking history, Thais can only restrain themselves for so long before they trot out a much-cherished fact: Their homeland is the sole country in Southeast Asia never to have been colonized. And so it is no surprise that more nationalistic citizens find Hollywood incursions -- upon both domestic box-office receipts and the telling of Thai history -- quite unwelcome, particularly if those Tinseltown visions are perceived as defaming the royal family. In Thai custom, just as one should not touch another's head, the highest part of the body, one must steer especially clear of casting aspersions on the symbolic head of another country.