Life after the Mafia?

I would reckon I’m not the only one who has found the surfing on the idiot box a bit flat and waveless ever since Tony and family made their infamous fade-to-black over a month ago.

Call it PSD (Post-Sopranos Depression), but I haven’t been sucked into any new show since Tony took his leave. Big Love? It’s OK, and I can dig the modern oddity of “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and Sheila and Darlene,” but, well, if I miss an episode, I find that I don’t really care. And I’ve missed the last six.

John from Cincinnati? Rough sledding so far. I sense there is some kind of pay-off on the way, something that might be surprisingly rich, but, great Caesar’s ghost, these people are so irretrievably fucked up! Again, I think PSD is playing a part here on my end. I bet if HBO could do it over, it wouldn’t have debuted John two minutes after Tony’s departure, but would’ve instead waited a month.

As for any offerings from the four so-called “major” networks, well, what can you say? More of the brain dead mush that inspires old folks in senior homes to quietly stockpile sleeping pills.

And then one Monday night, I got lucky and chanced upon a show on Channel 5 called Simon Schama’s Power of Art.

Schama is … well, I have no bloody idea who he is. But he obviously knows his stuff, and what he’s done with his series is put together eight different one-hour episodes, casting the spotlight on eight different artists, including Van Gogh, Bernini, Picasso and Rembrandt. In each program, Schama shows us not just the works that make these men genii for the ages, but also fills us in on the turmoil in their lives and how those turmoils led each master to create their masterpieces. In the episode about Caravaggio, for example, we saw that the man was a riotous, hell-raising rockstar of the 1590s, getting into sword fights and the like in between painting his trail-blazing religious scenes. In the Bernini segment, Schama gives us the utter scandal of a man who could order his servant to throw acid into the face of a cheating lover, and then, years later, sculpt “The Ecstasy of St. Theresa,” a statue so deft, so superb, and so expressive that you get choked up looking at it on a 2-D TV, fercrissake!

I wish I’d discovered Simon Schama’s Power of Art sooner. Its run is almost over. Only two portraits remain: J.M.W. Turner on Monday and Mark Rothko on July 30. Don’t know who these guys are? Me neither. But Schama is capable of introducing us to these artists in a relevant and, at times, riveting way that makes for great television. And at the end of the show, you actually feel enriched, which rarely happens when I watch, say, Baseball Tonight.