On Location

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am among the many viewers eagerly waiting for the new season of the hit HBO series "The Sopranos" to begin in early March.

The award-winning show that depicts a modern-day Italian-American mafia crew operating in North Jersey probably is most entertaining to people who live in Jersey, or who grew up in Jersey or who know something about Jersey.

Lots of folks say the show is not funny or entertaining; that its depiction of Italian-Americans strengthens a negative stereotype and that descendents of the sunny Mediteranean peninsula ought to be outraged. But I have a different view.

Essex and Hudson counties have been among the filming venues for the show.

Scenes were shot in Kearny, for example, a small, mostly industrial town sort of sandwiched between Newark Bay and the New Jersey Turnpike, and there were scenes set in Montclair, that bastion of cosmopolitan living 20 miles west of Manhattan.

The Meadowlands plays a starring role, too, of course.

Could it be that these places are letting a tourism opportunity pass them by?

In Great Britain, tourist officials go to great lengths to make attractions out of filming locations. The British Tourist Authority even publishes Movie Map, showing various locations where scenes of popular movies were filmed, such as the Notting Hill neighborhood in London, where the movie "Notting Hill" was filmed, and Howard Castle, where "Brideshead Revisited" was shot.

So here's Jersey with "The Sopranos" -- one of the most popular shows of all time -- and it shies away from milking its fame for all it's worth. The Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders even voted to prohibit filming of some scenes in South Mountain Reservation, a county park near where I live.

But just think of the attractions that Manhattan-bound tour buses could visit on their way through the Garden State... the Route 1 bridge that the crooked cop jumped from, the pork store where the crew hangs out, the shrink's office, the back room of the go-go joint where Tony Soprano counts the money, his palatial home in an upscale suburb ...the list goes on.

Or, there could be a Meadowlands tour led by a burly guy with a bullhorn -- "Step right up folks. Grab a shovel and find the dead guy. Win a Circle Line cruise ...."

OK, maybe that's a little over the top.

And maybe this would be a good time to say that even though my ancestors hail from the boot-shaped peninsula, I'm not a bit paranoid about "The Sopranos." But, that doesn't mean there's nobody out to get me.

Donna Tunney is executive editor of Travel Weekly, TWcrossroads and Travel Management Daily.

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