The Sopranos

Woke up this morning (The Sopranos theme song performed by Alabama 3)

The Sopranos is an American crime drama television series created by David Chase. The story revolves around Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini), a New Jersey-based Italian-American mobster, portraying the difficulties that he faces as he tries to balance his family life with his role as the leader of a criminal organization. The Sopranos was first broadcast on HBO from 1999 to 2007 ushering in a new age of serial TV drama that stands to this day.

One key element of The Sopranos is the fact that main character Tony is undergoing psycho-therapy to treat his panic-attacks. These sessions with his therapist Dr. Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco) weave seamlessly with his aberrant violent behaviour as he justifies his actions through a variety of psychological traumas – a significant issue with his mother often given the blame. 

The series does a good job over six seasons of fleshing out Tony’s character but what is clear by the end is that he is an incorrigible thug who – while capable of acts of kindness and compassion – is at his core, a vile hedonistic and sadistic murderer. The ability of the series to building engage and empathy in the viewer for Tony is testament to the creative folks behind the series. 

The supporting characters suffer from stereotypical casting – the equally bad tempered homicidal cohorts – from second in command Silvo (Steve Van Zandt) to brother-in-law Bobby (Steve Schirripa), from protege/distant cousin Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli) to hard man Paulie Gualtieri (Tony Sirico). Every single one a gangster to the core. 

Then there is Tony’s family – his long-suffering wife Carmela (the brilliant Edie Falco), daughter Meadow (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) and son AJ (Robert Iler), his sister Janice (Aida Tuturro), mother Livia (Nancy Marchand) and Uncle ‘Junior’ (Dominic Chianese), every single one as dysfunctional as expected considering the criminal dynamic. 

The influence of The Sopranos on modern-day serial dramas is simply incalculable. Even as cable TV has given way to streaming platforms the lessons taught by the incredible writing on this series have been absorbed by much of what is seen on Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu. Amongst which is that there are consequences to character actions, and that character-driven plots are the most engaging, with consistent characterisation winning the day always. 

Suffice to say that The Sopranos deserves it’s place at the pinnacle of the best serial drama, it ain’t perfect by any means but it gets very very close. Highly recommended. 

still there’s more …