Bleak house

How The Sopranos changed TV for ever

‘Too many characters, too many plot lines, characters who weren’t very good at their jobs, and their personal lives were a mess.’ Thus the memo to the creatives behind Hill Street Blues. ‘It was like a blueprint for what made every show successful since The Sopranos,’ Kevin Spacey giggles to Peter Biskind. ‘If the NBC executives had had their way, the road from then to now would never have been paved.’ As the quondamlead of one of that road’s biggest stones, House of Cards, Spacey can perhaps be excused his post hoc moment. Still, his big point stands. There was TV before The Sopranos and TV after The Sopranos, and

The year of living decisively: The Turning Point, by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, reviewed

We tend to think of turning points as single moments of change — Saul on the road to Damascus or Bob Dylan performing with an electric guitar. The change is identified as a discrete moment for which there is a distinct before and after. But this is not always the case and, as Robert Douglas-Fairhurst argues, a turning point can trace a wider arc and evolve over longer periods. These turning points are clear only in hindsight once the details have softened and the ripples outward have stilled. His latest book examines one such period in the career of Charles Dickens, surveying the artefacts of his life to track his