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Cuban TV to air 'The Sopranos'

Communist nation easing restrictions on foreign programs.

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COMING TO CUBA: A New York mob boss (played by Vincent Curatola, at left) talks to Tony Soprano (played by James Gandolfini) in the season finale of the HBO TV series.

Abbot Genser/HBO/AP/FILE

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Cuba will air the award winning US television drama "The Sopranos" and ongoing series "Grey's Anatomy" beginning this week, the Communist youth newspaper, Juventud Rebelde, said Sunday.

HBO's "The Sopranos" depicts the life of a New Jersey Mafia boss and his family and will be broadcast by state-run television Tuesday evenings, while ABC's "Grey's Anatomy," which follows the lives of doctors working in a hospital, will be broadcast Thursdays.

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Juventud Rebelde said the new offer demonstrated the state television's "proven rigor in the selection of dramas of high ethical quality and powerful presentation."

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During its six seasons, "The Sopranos" won 21 Emmys and five Golden Globes.

Despite Communist Cuba's 50-year ideological confrontation with the United States, its nemesis's movies, music, and television programs remain wildly popular and US movies dominate the television and theater offerings.

Two weeks ago, Cuba's state-run television broadcaster announced plans to launch a 24-hour channel with mostly foreign content in a move to provide Cuban audiences with more variety.

Cuba's new president, Raúl Castro, has been lifting what he has called "excessive prohibitions" in the country. In recent weeks, for example, the government announced that Cubans will be allowed to buy cellular phones, DVD players, and computers, and to stay at tourist hotels previously reserved for foreigners.

'The Sopranos,' which concluded in 2007, and "Grey's Anatomy" are not the first US television series to be broadcast in Cuba.

Already "House," "Friends," and "Everybody Loves Raymond" have entered Cuban living rooms. The forensic series "CSI" is a huge hit on the Caribbean island where programming is weighted heavily toward educational, variety, and propaganda.

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Cuba has four national television channels and various provincial stations, all government operated. Satellite television is prohibited and a cable system provides some international channels, such as CNN, to hotels and to foreign diplomats.