Last week, in the first edition of this series I took a look at Breaking Bad, an original show with an anti-hero in Walter White as the lead character. This week, I will be diving into the Sopranos whose lead character, Tony Soprano, is the original anti-hero when discussing a television series.
The premise of this show is to follow North Jersey crime boss Tony Soprano, his family, and fellow mob members through everyday life, and their illegal endeavors. Although there were plenty of mafia-related films that had been made prior to the debut of this show in 1997, there had never been a television series about mafiosos.
Tony Soprano is portrayed by James Gandolfini, an Emmy, Screen Actors Guild, and Golden Globe award winner. The late Gandolfini was the unquestioned leader of the cast and was highly respected by everyone that had worked with him.
His portrayal of Tony Soprano was some of the best acting in television history, in my opinion, and in the opinion of many critics and that was a huge factor as to why the show was so successful.
Now, the show wasn’t all about the mafia parts of Soprano’s life, you were introduced to his family, a wife, and two kids, his mother that drove him crazy, his uncle Junior who alongside Tony ran the Jersey family, and his associates.
An interesting twist in this show is the anxiety that Tony develops as he gets more power and responsibility as the boss, who also has to avoid the FBI, and people looking to take him out. This anxiety causes him to faint in the very first episode and leads to him seeing Dr. Jennifer Melfi, portrayed by Lorraine Bracco, who you may recognize as Karen from the classic mob movie, Goodfellas.
Now, it is severely frowned upon for someone in the mafia to discuss anything at all with someone outside the life, so Tony has to keep this as a secret from everyone, besides his wife Carmella.
In nearly every episode we see Tony in Dr. Melfi’s office, discussing things that cause his anxiety, including situations he is dealing with in his world of crime.
Earlier, I eluded to the fact that Tony Soprano was the original anti-hero protagonist in a series and that is not just because he lives the life of a criminal. Tony constantly cheats on his wife, this is accepted in the mafia world. Everyone in the life that has a wife and kids has a “gooma” which is essentially just a girlfriend on the side.
These actions take a toll on Tony’s wife and eventually come to a head.
The great thing about this series is that you truly don’t know what is going to happen next because Tony doesn’t always do the “right thing” or the “wrong thing”, he does what is best for him. We see the relationships he has with his family go up and down, the people in his inner circle move in and out, the struggle for power with his Uncle Junior and the New York Families, etc.
This is, without a doubt, one of the best shows I have ever seen. There are no bad seasons, no bad stretches of episodes, not even bad scenes. There is always something going on in one facet of Tony’s life and he has to find a way to make it work best for him.
The show has six seasons and 86 episodes, each episode is about 50 minutes in length, so if you plan on binge watching this, buckle up. It is a long ride but one that is definitely worth it. This show is old enough that many college kids have never seen it, but will still understand the pop culture references as it ran from 1999-2007.
This show is different than most but is must-see television. To stream it you can find it on Amazon Video, but unfortunately not on Netflix. Also, a prequel movie is currently being developed and will likely be released next winter or spring, so this is a perfect time to dive into the Sopranos.
Overall, I grade the show at an A+, there just never seemed to be a dull moment. There was a great mixture of action, drama, comedy, and revolving storylines each season that leaves you craving more. The final scene in the show is one of the more controversial endings in the history of TV and will leave you with your jaw dropped.
If you are interested in mafia stories, drama, and or action this show will not disappoint.