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The Soprano-ization of TV: Risque becomes routine
(CNN) -- Aside from the fact that he's a mafia crime boss who cheats on his wife and kills for business purposes, Tony Soprano, the central character of HBO's "The Sopranos," is a regular sort of guy -- house in the suburbs, drives the kids to school.
"We're making a show about a particular group of people," says David Chase, the creator and executive producer of the show. "We don't try to maintain an outlaw status, but they are outlaws."
The show draws millions of viewers each week, and has garnered 18 Emmy nominations. That recognition has once again sparked conversation about the influence of edgier TV programs on mainstream television.
"'The Sopranos' and shows like 'Sex and the City' absolutely have had an effect on the rest of the television landscape," says Mark Schwed of TV Guide. "People are watching them and talking about them. Anytime a television show comes along that pushes the envelope, other people are paying very close attention."
And "Sex and the City," also on HBO, definitely pushes TV's conservative envelope. The show follows the love and sex adventures of four women, and features clever, frank -- and to some, shocking -- talk about the birds and the bees.
"The dialogue is obviously provocative ... and titillating, but I think it's also maybe a fresh voice," says Sarah Jessica Parker, the show's star.
Fresh is rewarding, in the Emmy sense. The second season of "Sex and the City" is honored this year with nine Emmy nominations, including best comedy series.
"I personally don't think we push it too far," says "Sex in the City" co-star Cynthia Nixon. "I think sex is something we should talk about and I think one of the things that our show does is, it touches on a lot of real thorny issues."
The success of these shows has spawned similar edgy fare, including "Strip Poker" from the USA Network and "The Street" from the creator of "Sex and the City."
"There seem to be more things on TV that didn't use to be on TV," Schwed says, "whether we've changed and those things are more acceptable, we're more tolerant, or just TV keeps pushing and pushing and pushing, in order to stand out from the rest. You've got to be different."
"Different" seems to find an accommodating home on cable.
"What we have on HBO, which I find absolutely phenomenal, is creative freedom," says Lorraine Bracco, the "Sopranos" star that is nominated for an Emmy for outstanding actress in a drama series.
And network TV is taking notes.
"The nudity and language allow those shows to be more expressive. And so we are, by definition, at a disadvantage to cable TV," says Dean Valentine, president and CEO of UPN."HBO
Academy of Television of Arts & Sciences
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