''Sopranos'' fans are used to long waits between seasons, but this time, the wait could stretch to two years or longer. Talking to the TV critics' summer conclave in Los Angeles, HBO chief Chris Albrecht said that the sixth -- and reportedly last -- season won't air until sometime in 2006. He would not specify when during 2006 the show would premiere or why the lag time would be so long. The good news, though, was that it's likely to be a full 13-episode season, not the abbreviated final season that series creator David Chase initially envisioned.
Albrecht says he may have talked Chase out of making just 10 episodes for Season 6. ''I have said to David, 'Especially if you're making the audience wait a while, it would be great to do as many as you thought you could do with the same quality that everyone has come to expect of you,''' Albrecht said. ''He hasn't said no. And with David, that's always a very good sign.'' As for how fans will cope with the long wait, Albrecht compared Chase to another meticulous, tortoise-paced auteur, J.K. Rowling. ''It's like the Harry Potter book,'' Albrecht said. ''You'll wait for the sequel and be very happy to get it.''