The deal that would have allowed a state-owned company from Dubai fell through. President Bush's approval ratings are sinking like the Titanic. Iraq is falling into civil war. And it appears that it's quite possible that Barry Bonds might have been dabbling in cow hormones to ensure that his head is sufficiently large enough to contain his ego.

But really, when the first episode of the final season of the "Sopranos" ends with Tony sprawled out on the floor bleeding from a gunshot wound courtesy of a delusional Uncle Junior, how can I possibly get bogged down with the intricacies of Sunnis and Shiites, or crazy people as Bill O'Reilly calls them? We'll save that important stuff for later. This is serious entertainment news. And, thankfully, it doesn't involve any combination of Brad, Jen, Angelina, Vince or "BranJenLince."

They make us wait a year and a half, and they gun down Tony in the first episode. Sure, the guy is pushing 300 pounds, so it's not like he wasn't already a heart attack waiting to happen, but that's hardly the same as having him get shot by his uncle, who mistook Tony cooking pasta and gravy for a dead guy come back to collect a debt.

The writers made sure the call connected to 911, so you know he'll live. After all, "the Sopranos" without Tony Soprano would be like "Joey" without Joey. OK. Bad example. "Joey" shouldn't exist with Joey. About the only good things about that show are Joey's agent, and Drea DeMateo, who plays Joey's slutty sister whose name I can't remember. Maybe her name is Adrianna, and she is there in the witness protection program.

Maybe Adrianna wasn't shot at the end of the last season. They never showed her body, just Silvio shooting. Maybe it was all a ruse, and Chris-ta-fuh used his entertainment industry connections to get his rat of a honey out of town and on to a show no one watches. The two characters aren't that different. Adrianna ran a nightclub, while Joey's sister frequents them.

Besides Tony getting shot, several other people were shot on the show, and one guy hung himself because he couldn't convince Tony and the gang to allow him to "retire" from the mob and move to Florida with his family. Poor guy just didn't understand that he only signed on for one episode of the HBO hit.

The other big surprise was the big fat guy who was last seen, um, getting comfortable with another guy. Now, though, instead of being a big fat guy, he's more of a big fat guy that lost a bunch of weight, but not enough to say he's no longer a big fat guy. He also seems content to irritate the other characters with nothing but talk of how much weight he lost. Put him high on your list of potential characters to be "whacked," as I don't see Paulie Walnuts as the type who will enjoy discussion of proper diet.

HBO, hoping to capitalize on the frenzy over the final season of the Sopranos, introduced a new show to follow the Sopranos at 10 PM. The show centers on a polygamist family. The dude has three wives. I really don't get the attraction to having multiple wives. It's enough work trying to keep one wife happy, let alone three.

It's not like the guy can be like Tony Soprano, and buy forgiveness with three brand new Porsches.

Bill Rudick, while not in the mob, wishes he had one of those cool nicknames like, Billy "the beer gut" Rudick. Rudick's e-mail is

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