Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Bada-Boardwalk!

Sunday’s episode of The Sopranos raised a few important questions. First, have any fictional characters ever completed a game of Monopoly? You knew there was going to be trouble even before Carmela caught Tony “kiting” a $500 bill from the bank. Then there was the inevitable argument over whether fines levied by Chance and Community Chest cards should go into a pot to be won by whichever player lands on Free Parking. When I was seven or eight, I shared Bobby Bacala’s view that “the Parker Brothers” forbid this practice in the rulebook, and that it added too much of an element of luck to what was supposed to be a game of skill. Maybe we’re meant to think that Bobby has the mind of a 7-year-old who puts a little too much stock in the rules. I eventually figured out that the Free Parking “kitty” served a vital purpose: It gave losing players hope (almost always false) that they could turn their fortunes around with one roll of the dice, and it (sometimes) kept them from quitting the game before it formally ended. (By “them,” I mean my sister.) There were few things more frustrating to a little kid than running up a huge lead in Monopoly only to have the remaining opponent “forfeit” instead of doing the honorable thing — wasting an hour or so on a Saturday afternoon slowly going broke and listening to you gloat. Another Sopranos question: Is the show going to imitate the “Eunice” sketches of The Carol Burnett Show and put its characters through such classic party games as Charades, Yahtzee, and Sorry!? Will we find out that Livia cooked Tony’s pet rabbit when he was a little boy, the same way that Mama made a “chicken” dinner out of Eunice’s beloved Fluffy?

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