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Wednesday, 29 August, 2001, 23:45 GMT 00:45 UK
Judge hears case against Sopranos
Cast of The Sopranos
The award-winning show has a huge following
Lawyers for a group claiming to represent Italian-Americans have urged a United States judge to issue a ruling condemning the popular television show The Sopranos as offensive.

But the series' makers, HBO - part of Time Warner AOL - called for the Chicago court to dismiss the lawsuit, saying it was not a court's place to judge on the content of a television programme.

Tony Soprano is not above the law - he's a fictional character

Thomas Yannucci, HBO lawyer
Judge Richard Siebel said he would decide next month whether the series was defamatory and offensive to Italian-Americans.

The American Italian Defense Association (Aida) asked Judge Siebel on Wednesday to let the case proceed, arguing the programme violated an Illinois state law guaranteeing individual dignity.

The group says the hit TV show, about ruthless Mafia mobsters in New Jersey, depicts a negative stereotype insulting to America's 20 million ethnic Italians.


A lawyer for Aida, Michael Polelle, told the court: "The paradox here is that you cannot defame an individual member of an ethnic group, but you can defame the entire group. (Fictional mob boss) Tony Soprano is not above the law in any courtroom".

The Sopranos
It is claimed the show depicts Italian-Americans in a negative way
But a lawyer for the entertainment company, Thomas Yannucci, refuted the group's claim that the award-winning show, negatively stereotyped Italian-Americans, adding "Tony Soprano is not above the law - he's a fictional character".

Mr Yannucci said condemning the show would have "a chilling effect... on artistic expression.

"What's next?" he asked, "Dukes of Hazzard, Gone With the Wind, Catcher in the Rye?"

Aida chairman Theodore Grippo said while a condemnation of the programme might not have much legal weight, "it might make the show's producers more sensitive".

The Sopranos, which is screened in the UK on Channel 4, has a huge cult following and is expected to sweep the board at this year's Primetime Emmys ceremony in September.

See also:

06 Apr 01 | TV and Radio
Sopranos sued by Italian group
29 Aug 01 | TV and Radio
Sopranos hit back at 'racist' claim
24 Jul 00 | Entertainment
Crowds mob Sopranos auditions
13 Sep 99 | Entertainment
Legal shows scoop top Emmys
03 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Sopranos in campus row
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