'Sopranos' Shocker: Tony Kisses?

I could tell you who Tony Soprano kisses on Sunday night during the show's season premiere, but the folks over at HBO would kill me. Literally.

Needless to say, the moment is a dizzy-doozy, and something fans have guessed might happen for a long time.

The new season of "The Sopranos" got a preview last night as HBO showed the first two episodes of the new season to 3,000 people at Radio City Music Hall.

Afterwards, almost every one of them headed over to the restaurant space around the skating rink in Rockefeller Plaza for a buffet feast of antipasti and cannoli. Was it good? Fuhgeddaboutit!

Most of the cast was present for this blow-out shindig, as well as creator David Chase and all the producers and the writers who work on the show.

Lorraine Bracco's dad, Sal, put it best when he looked around the room and said: "I can't believe a TV caused all this excitement." Well, his daughter causes some too, appearing in a semi-nude scene that had the party buzzing. Most of the shots did not employ a body double.

"Not bad for almost 50," boasted the dazzling beauty to me after the show. Nope. Pretty hot, in fact.

This much I can tell you: The first two episodes introduce a lot of new characters, but also flesh out the favorites. Besides James Gandolfini and Edie Falco (Tony and Carmela Soprano) there's a lot from Bracco's Dr. Melfi, Vince Curatola's Johnny Sack, and Michael Imperioli's Christopher Moltisanti.

The acting, of course, is superb. But the writing! It's dead-on, to say the least.

Even though these episodes seemed tighter and funnier than last season's, don't worry. Chase does not let us forget that the Sopranos and their ilk are violent and often sociopathic. There's one accidental whacking in episode 1 which underscores that idea beautifully.

There are also some great lines and some great, classic moments. For example, Carmela's ladies' group is trying to brush up on its movie viewing. One week they watch "Citizen Kane," a film that has many parallels, of course, to Tony's life. On their list for future viewing: "The Godfather."

There are other movie references as well. Tony catches "The Prince of Tides" with Nick Nolte and Barbra Streisand on television. Their film relationship inspires him to do something unexpected. (I don't know if Chase discovered the movie's similarities to his plotlines prior to, or after, creating the show. Either way, it's a great touch.)

Meanwhile, as old gangsters are returning to the neighborhood after 20 years in prison, Carmela has a problem: There's a black bear in her backyard. Since only she and A.J. are living in the house — Tony has moved back into his mother's house — she has to call the local game warden for assistance.

The bear quickly becomes a metaphor for many things in the Sopranos' life and marriage. It also furthers a comic idea, with Tony's boys waiting to kill it with an automatic rifle.

A lot of new actors join the show for limited runs, and all the additions are good news, too. Patti D'Arbanville starts a run as one of Tony's rivals.

"She's so good she's going to get an Emmy for Best Supporting Actress," Bracco told me last night.

D'Arbanville is also on NBC's "Third Watch," and has made quite a name for herself as a top character actress after an early career as an ingenue. Cat Stevens even wrote a song for her on his first album some 30 years ago!

Also new to the show are Steve Buscemi as Tony's cousin, Robert Loggia as a tough old gangster and Frank Vincent as another mobster — all of whom presumably will cause trouble for Tony. Max Casella, who once played Doogie Howser's sidekick, is also in as one of Tony's likeable new henchmen.

In real life, though, some other changes have happened to the "Sopranos" cast.

It looks like the romance between Edie Falco and actor Stanley Tucci is over. There was a sly reference to this in Joyce Wadler's column in Tuesday's New York Times.

But I can confirm that the pairing — which occurred when Tucci and Falco appeared together on Broadway, mostly naked, in "Frankie and Johnnie at the Clair de Lune" — is kaput.

Tucci had left his wife and three small children for Falco, who is perhaps one of the nicest people in the world. There's no word yet on whether Tucci has returned to his family, although there's a lot of speculation that he has done exactly that.

It's a tough deal for all parties, with no winners or losers, just a lot of heartbreak, I'm sure.

As for Gandolfini, I did get to ask him about the movie he made one year ago with Ben Affleck called "Surviving Christmas." It's supposedly so bad it couldn't have been released this past Christmas, and will most likely go straight to video.

When I said to Gandolfini that it might not come out at all, he replied, "I hope it doesn't!"

Meanwhile, the actor who will now forever be linked to the Tony Soprano character has three small movie parts coming up, but basically is having trouble making the crossover to films.

"My agent can't find me any work," he said sarcastically.

Since Gandolfini likes to talk in riddles, I will interpret: The agent is fielding lots of offers and they're all bad.

"The Sopranos" begins its new season on HBO this Sunday night at 9 p.m. It will undoubtedly break a lot of records for viewing, and rightly so.

You may be interested to know that in episode 2, writer Matt Weiner inadvertently addresses some of the issues surrounding "The Passion of the Christ" when something called an Opus Dei is added to the rosary held by a dead person in a coffin.

Weiner told me last night that he wrote the episode in January 2003, long before anyone knew what Gibson was up to vis-a-vis Vatican II. It was just prescient luck.

A couple of irreverent lines: "Judas didn't go into an apostle witness program." Another: "What did Jesus say to Peter on the cross? I can see my house from here."

But that's what makes the show so good. If only the rest of TV were more like it.

Just going through some Oscar notes, and I see a wire story that Bill Murray threw some kind of tantrum about losing after the show. Ridiculous. When Murray and his wife emerged from the auditorium into the bar area of the Kodak, a huge crowd gathered and gave him an ovation. Murray waved, said something cryptic about his age, and then went to the Governor's Ball. I went up on the elevator with him; he was in good humor. ...

Someone had better tell the Academy, though, that their security force at the Kodak was overzealous and too aggressive. Where do they find these human mountains who lack basic common sense? My advice: hire a New York firm, like Zimet or GSS, with experience in this area. Lots of griping on Sunday night as a result of mishandled situations. ...

Nominee Naomi Watts flew back to New York last night with her mom and brother Ben, a well-known photographer. No handlers, no assistants, and no Heath Ledger, Watts' nominal boyfriend. ...

Saturday night: Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz dined with their manager, Rick Yorn, and his fiancée at Matsuhisa, aka Nobu. ...

Finally: Lots of buzz out of the after-after-party thrown by Yorn, agent Patrick Whitesell and unemployed movie exec Mike DeLuca at Whitesell's house. My spies say there were lots of girls, many of whom looked to be on the clock, in bikinis or less. "Leonardo DiCaprio was pushing them in the pool, having a great time," my source says. Both Charlize Theron and Naomi Watts, among others, stopped by, surveyed the scene, split fast. Rocker Sting was supposed to go, but lost the address, I am told. Perhaps just as well. ...