04/05/2007 04:52 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

T'Was the Night Before The Sopranos

The start of a new season of The Sopranos is a religious holiday in my neck of the woods in Northern New Jersey. The holy day this year is Sunday, April 8.

I am part of a cult which gets the new season episodes in advance, made available by HBO because of my clout as (once) one of the most powerful media critics in the nation.

To celebrate this event, members of our group, which we call "The Sopranos Asphalt Paving and Literary Society," gathered at my house for a rare advance showing of the much anticipated episodes #78 and #79, the first two of what is euphemistically called "the final season." You should know people in New Jersey will kill to get to see these shows.

Only made men and their molls are invited. By made men, in TV terms we mean people who can be trusted not to violate the Omerta, the TV code of silence regarding what they have seen.

With all the cars pulled up in front of our house Wednesday night to catch what Tony S., as we call him, and our own favorite TV dysfunctional family had been doing in the last 18 months, it may have seem to the FBI like a Little Appalachia.

On this night only, we have our own set of rules. The wearing of pinky rings is encouraged, if you got them. Participants are warned there will be a metal detector at the door. We greet each other with the classic Soprano hello and goodbye, the big hug, and slap on the back. This can be embarrassing to the occasional outside woman who think we are getting fresh. Actually, as the greeter at the door, I am also checking for wires. No recording devices are allowed.

We use the F- word more than usual.

And then we settle down to eat. My wife cooks up a f------storm.

We only eat before the show, during the show, and after the show. The thing about "The Sopranos" is what would they do without Tony eating at work or play? Social scientists always worry about the causal effect of violence in the media and its impact on the real world. What about the effect of seeing a leading TV hero like Tony eating all the time. I've gone from a 34 to 36 waist since The Sopranos began on HBO six years ago.

Then we settle in to watch the episodes.

As soon as the theme starts, our hearts start pumping. Some of us put our hands on our hearts. You should know this anthem "Woke Up This Morning" is the official New Jersey state song. Or it should be .

Then we start weighing in on serious issues.

Has Tone, , as we also call him, lost weight?

Who will get whacked?

Do they have any new plot ideas? There had been complaints in previous seasons, grumbling amongst our paisanos that the show was starting to repeat itself, like a good glass of beer. Some of us are so demanding. Whatsmattawidyou? Schiller said there are only seven basic plots

Anyways, The Sopranos doesn't have to be that entertaining and gripping anymore. They are family. When you spend time with cousin Florence or cousin Harriet you don't expect real entertainment. It's always the same old, same old. The Sopranos is universal in this way.

I don't know how I can sleep at night. Wild horses and torture wouldn't get any of producer David Chase and his creative team's plot turns on old themes out of me. I know who gets whacked and who doesn't. Suffice it to say, this is the best Sopranos since last year's. And the year before that.

An important cultural note. Of special interest to lovers of the modern dance: We don't get to see the Bada Bing pole dancers until half way through the second episode And there is the most hilarious Monoply game since "the Parker Fucking Brothers" invented it. I better stop this before I violate the code and wind up swimming with the fishes.

As the membership left, carrying food with them for the trip home, a motion was made by Bayone Eddie to celebrate the holy day next year by going to lunch at the Bada Bing.