"Has Tony Soprano Whacked the American Novel?"

This piece on if:book really struck a nerve. It talks about how the hit HBO show has changed our perception of television, our relationship with a program, with new forms of media, how our understanding of narrative, and our experience of narrative through time, has been altered by a generation of US shows. These shows, and the great BBC adaptations before them, transformed TV from disposable mass culture into something altogether more sophisticated and essential. Ever since first watching The Sopranos as an English student it struck me that this was a cultural artifact of equal significance to those we were studying; for the first time, I thought, TV had found something that was equal to Tolstoy, Flaubert, Eliot or any of the other great nineteenth century novelists. Tony Soprano was a character of such depth and complexity that he compared to the immortals of world literature, a Jane Eyre or Leopold Bloom for the 21st century.  The Sopranos raised itself into a new canon, a canon that may come to rival those of art, music, literature and that other upstart, cinema (not to mention computer games, a discipline with its own emergent canon of classic games), a canon of TV shows that is growing in the wake of David Chase's pioneering use of novelistic technique, and already includes shows like Six Feet Under and the more adventure/mystery oriented Lost.  If:book quotes a host of luminaries musing on the title quote- how, after such a charged, encyclopedic and widely watched TV show, is the Great American Novel possible? Norman Mailer (RIP) concludes its not, but then he would.  TV has been around for a long time, but in the great histories of media it is still in an early phase, although admittedly TV histories exist in hyperspeed due to their inherently reactive and largely commerical/populist remit. 90% of TV is crap, but as Thomas Sturgeon points out, 90% of anything is crap and with The Sopranos we entered a world of world class mass entertainment.  Given those timescales we still have the Shakespeare of TV to look forward to.