This Sunday night will be one of the most successful nights in history for the cable channel HBO. Not because of a world championship boxing match or the premiere of a Hollywood blockbuster, but because it is finally time, after numerous delays and rumors, for the fourth season of the critically acclaimed drama “The Sopranos” to commence.

Paul Wong
Courtesy of HBO
Everybody is back for the new season of “The Sopranos.” Well almost everybody.

Just in time for the debut of the new season, HBO home video has released the third season of their most popular program on DVD. As was the case with the release of the first two seasons, the box set includes four discs contained in elaborately detailed gatefold packaging.

Each of the 13 episodes is presented in the widescreen format, just as it was shown originally on television, with pristine picture and sound.

The most satisfying special features of the box set are the audio commentaries from some of the creative players of the show. Actor Steve Buscemi provides insightful commentary for the episode “Pine Barrons,” his “Sopranos” directorial debut. Series creator David Chase provides his thoughts for the episode “Amour Fou,” but it is Michael Imperioli’s commentary on “The Tell-Tale Moozadell” that is the most interesting to hear.

Also included is a behind the scenes featurette, lasting a whopping three and a half minutes, that is little more than a dispensible promotional piece. Considering the evolution of DVD extra features, one might think HBO would want to give their fans something more substantial.

Unfortunately the third season of “The Sopranos” is not as consistent as in previous years. For every brilliant episode, say the Charles S. Dutton-starring “Another Toothpick,” there is a dud, like the Dr. Melfi rape episode, “Employee of the Month.” Some of the best and worst work of the entire series can be found in this season.

James Gandolfini and the rest of the cast are just as impressive as when the show began in 1999. The difficulty in the third season emanates from the emergence of new characters and story arcs thrown into the central plotline without thorough explanation. Too much of what goes on in the 13 episodes of season three feels coincedental and unnatural.

“The Sopranos” has a lot to live up to in the upcoming fourth season. Since the first season, the show has failed to live up to its initial perfection, but despite its flaws, “The Sopranos” is without a doubt the best drama on television.

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