Extra Sopranos Installments on Tap

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After tons of speculation about whether the upcoming season would be the last for The Sopranos, or if a seventh was in the works, Home Box Office said Thursday that the series is currently in production on what amounts to an elongated sixth campaign.

Currently filming, the sixth season of the acclaimed mob drama will feature 20 episodes, a dozen of which will premiere beginning next March. The eight other installments will begin rolling out in January 2007.

As such, The Sopranos will unfold in much way the final season of HBO comedy Sex and the City wound down. The Sarah Jessica Parker vehicle ran a dozen installments during the summer of 2003, before concluding with an eight-episode run in January-February 2004.

During its fifth season, spanning March 7 through June 14, The Sopranos averaged a 19.7/27 share within HBO’s universe, attracting 9.8 million viewers for the 13 premiere showings.

“We are obviously delighted that we will be able to extend The Sopranos’ series beyond its slated 12 episodes,” said Chris Albrecht, chairman and CEO of HBO, in a statement. “When something is as remarkable as The Sopranos, our audience would like to see it continue as long as possible, so we are thrilled that David Chase felt there are more stories to be told.”

Asked if the 20 episodes currently in production would mark the coda of the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning show, an HBO spokesman laughed, before noting that the schedule has changed before.