The bad news: Not only is next season of ''The Sopranos'' likely to be the last, but it probably won't be ready to air until February or March of 2004, at least 14 months after Season 4 ended. The good news: The season may be as overstuffed as Carmela's lasagna. Talking to the New York Daily News, series creator David Chase, currently in production on the upcoming season, says that Season 5 may be up to 50 percent larger, with as many as six extra episodes, for a total of as many as 19 shows.
''I'd planned out an arc for Season 5 that would have ended the show,'' Chase told the Daily News. ''But as we're getting into it, we're finding there's a lot more material. We could cram it into 13 episodes, but I don't know that it's the right thing to do. So there may be additional episodes.'' He said he's talking with HBO about coughing up the dough for the extra shows. ''I suspect they'll be OK with that,'' he said.
HBO would surely be happy to keep the show on the air as long as possible, though money has certainly been a touchy subject. Shortly before production began in March, a salary dispute between Gandolfini and HBO threatened to erupt into dueling lawsuits. Chase said there was a little tension when Gandolfini finally returned to the set of the show that he'd almost shut down. ''Our first episodes are always kind of troubled, for one reason or another, and let's just say that this one was, too,'' Chase said. ''But now it's going real well.''