The Sopranos


The Sopranos
The Sopranos
Sopranos titlescreen.png
Genre Drama
Created by David Chase
Written by David Chase (30 episodes)
Terence Winter (25 episodes)
Robin Green (22 episodes)
Mitchell Burgess (22 episodes)
Matthew Weiner (12 episodes)
Frank Renzulli (9 episodes)
and others
Directed by Tim Van Patten (20 episodes)
John Patterson (13 episodes)
Allen Coulter (12 episodes)
Alan Taylor (9 episodes)
and others
Starring see Cast and characters section
Opening theme "Woke Up This Morning" (Chosen One Mix) by
Alabama 3
Ending theme Various
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 6
No. of episodes 86 (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) David Chase
Brad Grey
Robin Green (Seasons 2–5)
Mitchell Burgess (Seasons 2–5)
Ilene S. Landress (Seasons 4–6)
Terence Winter (Seasons 5–6)
Matthew Weiner (Season 6, Part 2)
Editor(s) Sidney Wolinsky (32 episodes)
William B. Stich (25 episodes)
Conrad M. Gonzalez (22 episodes)
Michael Ruscio (3 episodes)
Lynne Whitlock (3 episodes)
Tammis Chandler (2 episodes)
Joanna Cappuccilli (1 episode)
Location(s) New Jersey (primarily in Essex, Bergen, and Hudson counties)
Silvercup Studios
Cinematography Phil Abraham (47 episodes)
Alik Sakharov (38 episodes)
William Coleman (1 episode)
Camera setup Single camera
Running time 50–55 minutes
Broadcast
Original channel HBO
Picture format Film shown as NTSC or PAL (depending of the country)
480i/576i (SDTV)
720p/1080i (HDTV)
Audio format Stereo
Dolby Digital 5.1
Original run January 10, 1999 (1999-01-10) – June 10, 2007 (2007-06-10)
External links
Website

The Sopranos is an American television drama series created by David Chase that revolves around the New Jersey-based Italian-American mobster Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) and the difficulties he faces as he tries to balance the often conflicting requirements of his home life and the criminal organization he heads. The series also features Tony's family members and Mafia associates in prominent roles and storylines, most notably his wife Carmela (Edie Falco) and cousin and protégé Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli). The many conflicts in his life lead to an on-off professional relationship with psychiatrist Dr. Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco).

The series premiered on the premium cable network HBO in the United States on January 10, 1999 and ended its original run of six seasons and 86 episodes on June 10, 2007. The show has also been broadcast on A&E in the United States and internationally. The Sopranos was produced by HBO, Chase Films and Brad Grey Television. It was primarily filmed at Silvercup Studios, New York City and on location in New Jersey. The executive producers throughout the show's run were Chase, Brad Grey, Robin Green, Mitchell Burgess, Ilene S. Landress, Terence Winter, and Matthew Weiner. Chase also served as showrunner and head writer.

A major commercial and critical success, The Sopranos is the most financially successful series in the history of cable television and is acknowledged as one of the greatest television series of all time. The series is noted for its high level of quality in every aspect of production and is particularly recognized for its writing, its cinematic style, and the performances of its lead actors. The show is credited with bringing a greater level of artistry to the television medium and paving the way for many successful drama series that followed. It also won a multitude of awards, including twenty-one Emmys and five Golden Globes.

A staple of 2000s American popular culture, The Sopranos has been the subject of much parody, controversy, and analysis, and has spawned books,[1] a video game,[2] high-charting soundtrack albums, and a large amount of assorted merchandise.[3] Several members of the show's cast and crew that were previously largely unknown to the public have had successful careers after The Sopranos.[4][5][6][7]

Contents

Production

Conception

Before creating The Sopranos, David Chase had worked as a television producer for over 20 years.[8][9] He had been employed as a staff writer/producer for several television series (including Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Switch, The Rockford Files, I'll Fly Away, and Northern Exposure[10][11]) and had co-created one short-lived original series, Almost Grown, in 1988.[12][13] He made his television directorial debut in 1986 with the "Enough Rope for Two" episode of The New Alfred Hitchcock Presents. He also directed episodes of Almost Grown and I'll Fly Away in 1988 and 1992, respectively. In 1996, he wrote and directed the television movie The Rockford Files: Punishment and Crime.[11] He served as showrunner for I'll Fly Away and Northern Exposure in the 1990s. Chase won his first Emmy Award in 1978 for his work on The Rockford Files (shared with fellow producers) and his second for writing the 1980 television movie Off the Minnesota Strip.[14][15] By 1996, he was a coveted showrunner.[16]

I want to tell a story about this particular man. I want to tell the story about the reality of being a mobster—or what I perceive to be the reality of life in organized crime. They aren't shooting each other every day. They sit around eating baked ziti and betting and figuring out who owes who money. Occasionally, violence breaks out—more often than it does in the banking world, perhaps.

David Chase, creator and showrunner of the The Sopranos.[17]

The story of The Sopranos was initially conceived as a feature film about "a mobster in therapy having problems with his mother."[12] After some input from his manager, Lloyd Braun, Chase decided to adapt it into a television series.[12] In 1995, Chase signed a development deal with production company Brillstein-Grey and wrote the original pilot script.[9][14][18] Drawing heavily from his personal life and his experiences growing up in New Jersey, Chase has stated that he tried to "apply [his own] family dynamic to mobsters."[17] For instance, the tumultuous relationship between series protagonist Tony Soprano and his mother, Livia, is partially based on Chase's relationship with his own mother.[17] Chase was also in therapy at the time and modeled the character of Dr. Jennifer Melfi after his own psychiatrist.[19] Chase had been fascinated by organized crime and the Mafia from an early age, having been raised on classic gangster films like The Public Enemy and the crime series The Untouchables as well as witnessing such people growing up. The series is partly inspired by the real life DeCavalcante Family, who rose to prominence as the main New Jersey organized crime family while Chase was growing up. Chase has mentioned American playwrights Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams as influences on his and the show's writing and Italian director Federico Fellini as an important influence on the show's cinematic style.[16][20][21] The series was named after high school friends of his.[8][19] Like the majority of the characters on the show, Chase is Italian-American. His original family name is DeCesare.[22]

I said to myself, this show is about a guy who's turning 40. He's inherited a business from his dad. He's trying to bring it into the modern age. He's got all the responsibilities that go along with that. He's got an overbearing mom that he's still trying to get out from under. Although he loves his wife, he's had an affair. He's got two teenage kids, and he's dealing with the realities of what that is. He's anxious; he's depressed; he starts to see a therapist because he's searching for the meaning of his own life. I thought: the only difference between him and everybody I know is he's the Don of New Jersey.

Chris Albrecht, president of HBO Original Programming, 1995–2002.[9][23]

Chase and producer Brad Grey, then of Brillstein-Grey, pitched The Sopranos to several networks; Fox showed interest but passed on it after Chase presented them the pilot script.[18] Chase and Grey eventually pitched the show to Chris Albrecht, at the time president of HBO Original Programming, who recognized the originality and potential of the show, and decided to finance the shooting of a pilot episode.[9][14]

The pilot episode—originally referred to as "Pilot" but renamed to "The Sopranos" on the DVD release—was shot in 1997;[24] Chase directed it himself.[11] After the pilot was finished and shown to the HBO executives, the show was put on hold for several months. During this time, Chase considered asking HBO for additional funding to shoot 45 more minutes of footage and release The Sopranos as a feature film. In December 1997, HBO decided to produce the series and ordered 12 more episodes for a 13-episode season.[9][14][25] The show premiered on HBO on January 10, 1999 with the pilot episode. The Sopranos was the second hour-long television drama series produced by HBO, the first being the prison drama Oz.

Casting

Like the characters they portray on the show, many of the actors on The Sopranos are Italian-American. Many cast members had appeared together in films and television series before joining the cast of The Sopranos. The series shares a total of 27 actors with the 1990 Martin Scorsese gangster film, Goodfellas, including main cast members Lorraine Bracco, Michael Imperioli, and Tony Sirico. Eight Sopranos actors also appeared in the 1999 comedy Mickey Blue Eyes.

Cast members James Gandolfini (right) and Tony Sirico (left) visit with a member of the U.S. Air Force during a USO visit to Southwest Asia.

The main cast was put together through a process of auditions and readings. Actors often didn't know whether Chase liked their performances or not.[9] Michael Imperioli, who beat out several actors for the part of Christopher Moltisanti, recalls "He's got a poker face, so I thought he wasn't into me, and he kept giving me notes and having me try it again, which often is a sign that you're not doing it right. I thought, I'm not getting this. So he said, 'Thank you,' and I left. I didn't expect to hear back. And then they called." Chase also said he wanted Imperioli because he had been in Goodfellas.[9] James Gandolfini was invited to audition for the part of Tony Soprano after casting director Susan Fitzgerald saw a short clip of his performance in the 1993 film True Romance.[9] Lorraine Bracco, who had played the role of mob wife Karen Hill in Goodfellas, was originally asked to play the role of Carmela Soprano. She took the role of Dr. Jennifer Melfi instead because she wanted to try something different and felt the part of the highly educated Dr. Melfi would be more of a challenge for her.[26] Tony Sirico, who has a criminal background,[27] signed on to play Paulie Walnuts as long as his character was not to be a "rat".[28] Chase invited musician "Little Steven" Van Zandt (known as the guitarist of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band) to audition for a part in his series after seeing him live at the 1997 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ceremony and being impressed with his appearance and presence. Van Zandt, who had never acted before, eventually agreed to star on the show as mob consigliere Silvio Dante and his real-life spouse Maureen was cast as his on-screen wife, Gabriella.[29][30][31]

With the exception of Oscar nominee Bracco (Goodfellas), Dominic Chianese (The Godfather Part II, along with stage work) and Emmy-winner Nancy Marchand (Lou Grant), the cast of the debut season of the series consisted of largely unknown actors. After the breakthrough success of the show, many cast members were noted for their acting ability and received mainstream attention for their performances.[9][32] Subsequent seasons saw some well-known actors (Joe Pantoliano, Robert Loggia, Steve Buscemi, Frank Vincent[33]) join the starring cast along with well-known actors in recurring roles such as Peter Bogdanovich, John Heard,[34] Robert Patrick,[35] Peter Riegert,[36] Annabella Sciorra,[33] and David Strathairn.[37] Several well-known actors appeared in just one or two episodes, such as Charles S. Dutton,[38] Ken Leung,[39] Ben Kingsley, Lauren Bacall, Daniel Baldwin, Tim Kang, Elias Koteas, Annette Bening, Sydney Pollack and Burt Young.[40]

Crew

Series creator and executive producer David Chase served as showrunner and head writer for the production of all six seasons of the show. He was deeply involved with the general production of every episode and is noted for being a very controlling, demanding and specific producer.[8][15] In addition to writing or co-writing 2–7 episodes per season, Chase would oversee all the editing, consult with episode directors, give actors character motivation, approve casting choices and set designs and do extensive but uncredited re-writes of episodes written by other writers.[32][41][42] Brad Grey served as executive producer alongside Chase, but had no creative input on the show.[43] Many members of the creative team behind The Sopranos were handpicked by Chase, some being old friends and colleagues of his; others were selected after interviews conducted by producers of the show.[9][33]

Many of the show's writers worked in television prior to joining the writing staff of The Sopranos. Writing team and married couple Robin Green and Mitchell Burgess, who worked on the series as writers and producers from the first to the fifth season, had previously worked with Chase on Northern Exposure.[44] Terence Winter, who joined the writing staff during the production of the second season and served as executive producer from season five onwards, practiced law for two years before deciding to pursue a career as a screenwriter. He eventually caught the attention of Chase through writer Frank Renzulli.[16][45] Matthew Weiner, who served as staff writer and producer for the show's fifth and sixth seasons, wrote a spec script for the series Mad Men in 2000. The script was passed on to Chase who, after reading it, was so impressed that he immediately offered Weiner a job as a writer for The Sopranos.[46] Cast members Michael Imperioli and Toni Kalem, who portray Christopher Moltisanti and Angie Bonpensiero, respectively, also wrote episodes for the show. Imperioli wrote five episodes of seasons two through five and Kalem wrote one episode of season five.[47][48] Other writers the show employed throughout its run include Frank Renzulli, Todd A. Kessler (known as the co-creator of Damages), writing team Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider (creators of Easy Money) and Lawrence Konner, who co-created Almost Grown with Chase in 1988. In total, 20 writers or writing teams (22 persons) are credited with writing episodes of The Sopranos. Of these, two (Tim Van Patten and Maria Laurino) receive a single story credit and eight are credited with writing a sole episode. The most prolific writers of series were Chase (30 credited episodes, including story credits), Winter (25 episodes), Green and Burgess (22 episodes), Weiner (12 episodes) and Renzulli (9 episodes).

Before directing The Sopranos, many of the directors had worked on other television series and in independent films.[33] The most frequent directors of the series were Tim Van Patten (20 episodes), John Patterson (13 episodes), Allen Coulter (12 episodes), and Alan Taylor (9 episodes), all of whom have a background in television.[33] Recurring cast members Steve Buscemi and Peter Bogdanovich also directed episodes of the series intermittently.[49][50] Chase directed two episodes himself, the pilot episode and the series finale.[51] Both episodes were photographed by the show's original director of photography Alik Sakharov; he later alternated episodes with Phil Abraham.[52] The show's photography and directing is noted for its feature film-quality.[53][54] This look was achieved by Chase collaborating with Sakharov: "David wanted a look that would have its own two feet. [...] From the pilot, we would sit down with the whole script and break the scenes down into shots. That's what you do with feature films."[52]

Music

The Sopranos is noted for its eclectic music selections and has received considerable critical attention for its effective use of previously recorded songs.[55][56][57][58] Chase personally selected all of the show's music with producer Martin Bruestle and music editor Kathryn Dayak, sometimes also consulting Steven Van Zandt.[55] The music was usually selected once the production and editing of an episode was completed, but on occasion sequences were filmed to match preselected pieces of music.[41]

The show's opening theme is "Woke Up This Morning" (Chosen One Mix), written by, remixed and performed by British band Alabama 3.[59] With few exceptions, a different song]] plays over the closing credits of each episode.[57] Many songs are repeated multiple times through an episode, such as "Living on a Thin Line" by The Kinks in the season three episode "University" and "Glad Tidings" by Van Morrison in the season five finale "All Due Respect".[57] Other songs are heard several times throughout the series. A notable example is "Con te partirò", performed by Italian singer Andrea Bocelli,[60] which plays several times in relation to the character of Carmela Soprano.[61] While the show utilizes a wealth of previously recorded music, it is also notable for its lack of originally composed incidental music, compared to other television programs.[62]

Two soundtrack albums containing music from the series have been released. The first, titled The Sopranos: Music from the HBO Original Series, was released in 1999. It contains selections from the show's first two seasons and reached #54 on the U.S. Billboard 200.[63][64] A second soundtrack compilation, titled The Sopranos: Peppers & Eggs: Music from the HBO Original Series, was released in 2001. This double-disc album contains songs and selected dialogue from the show's first three seasons.[65] It reached #38 on the U.S. Billboard 200.[66]

Sets and locations

On the set of The Sopranos in Kearny, New Jersey during the filming of the series finale, "Made in America". The scene being filmed is set outside the fictional meat market Satriale's, a frequent hangout for the mobsters of the DiMeo crime family within the context of the series. The building posing as Satriale's was rented by HBO for the purpose of filming The Sopranos; exterior and interior scenes were filmed on location. Visible in the picture are actors Tony Sirico (sitting by the table) and James Gandolfini (sixth from right) and series creator and showrunner David Chase (fifth from right). Chase also wrote and directed the episode.

The majority of the exterior scenes taking place in New Jersey were filmed on location, with the majority of the interior shots—including most indoor shots of the Soprano residence, the back room of the strip club Bada Bing!, and Dr. Melfi's psychiatrist's office—filmed at Silvercup Studios in New York City.[32]

The pork store, a frequent hangout for the mobsters on the show, was in the pilot episode known as Centanni's Meat Market, an actual butchery in Elizabeth, New Jersey.[67] After the series was picked up by HBO, the producers leased a building with a store front in Kearny, New Jersey.[67] For the remainder of the production period, this building served as the shooting location for scenes outside and inside the pork store, now renamed Satriale's.[67] After the series ended, the building was demolished.[68]

Bada Bing!, a strip club owned and operated by the character Silvio Dante on the show, is an actual strip club on Route 17 in Lodi, New Jersey.[67] Exteriors and interiors (except for the back room) were shot on location.[67] The club is called Satin Dolls and was an existing business before the show started.[69] The club continued to operate during the eight years the show was filmed there. As such, a business arrangement was worked out with the owner.[69] Locations manager Mark Kamine recalls that the owner was "very gracious" as long as the shooting did not "conflict with his business time."[69] Scenes set at the restaurant Vesuvio, owned and operated in the series by character Artie Bucco, were in the first episode filmed at a restaurant called Manolo's located in Elizabeth. After the destruction of Vesuvio within the context of the series, Artie opened a new restaurant called Nuovo Vesuvio; exterior scenes set there were filmed at an Italian restaurant called Punta Dura located in Long Island City.[67] All the exterior and some interior shots of the Soprano residence were filmed on location at a private residence in North Caldwell, New Jersey.[67]

Title sequence

The Sopranos title screen

A recognizable part of The Sopranos is the program's opening title sequence. Tony Soprano is seen emerging from the Lincoln Tunnel and entering the New Jersey Turnpike. Numerous landmarks in and around Newark and Elizabeth, New Jersey are shown.[70] The sequence ends with Tony pulling into the driveway of his suburban home. Chase has said that the goal of the title sequence was to show that this particular Mafia show was about New Jersey, as opposed to New York, where most such dramas have been set.[71]

In the first three seasons, between Tony leaving the tunnel and entering the Turnpike, an image of the World Trade Center towers can be seen in his side rear-view mirror. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, this shot was removed, beginning with the show's fourth season.[72]

In a 2010 issue of TV Guide, the show’s opening title sequence ranked #10 on a list of TV's top 10 credits sequences, as selected by readers.[73]

Cast and characters

The Sopranos features a large cast of characters throughout its six-season run. Some only appear in certain seasons, while others appear for the entire series. All characters were created by David Chase, unless otherwise noted.

Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) is the protagonist of the series. Tony is a capo of the New Jersey-based DiMeo crime family at the beginning of the series and the acting boss as of season two. He is also the patriarch of the Soprano household. Throughout the series, Tony struggles to balance his family life and his career in the Mafia.[74] Because of his proneness to depression, Tony seeks treatment from psychiatrist Dr. Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco) in the show's first episode. Jennifer is a divorced Italian-American woman with a son in college. She treats Tony to the best of her ability despite the fact that they frequently clash over various issues. Jennifer is usually thoughtful, rational and humane, which contrasts with Tony's personality. Tony and Jennifer also harbor sexual feelings for each other, although Jennifer never openly shows or tries to act on it.[75]

Adding to Tony's complicated life is his strained relationship with his wife Carmela Soprano (Edie Falco)[76] and their two children, Meadow (Jamie-Lynn Sigler)[77] and Anthony Junior (Robert Iler).[78]

The starring cast includes members of Tony's extended family including his mother Livia (Nancy Marchand),[79] sister Janice (Aida Turturro),[80] uncle Corrado "Junior" Soprano (Dominic Chianese), nominal boss of the crime family following the death of then acting boss Jackie Aprile, Sr, later depicted as semi-retired, and later still, as completely out of the business due to health issues,[81] cousin Tony Blundetto (Steve Buscemi)[82] and Christopher Moltisanti, often referred to as Tony's nephew but actually a cousin by marriage (Michael Imperioli).[83] Both Livia and Janice are shrewd manipulators with emotional problems of their own. Tony's Uncle Junior is involved in his criminal organization and their family bond ties with their criminal ambitions. Both his cousin Tony and nephew Christopher are also involved with his "other" family and their actions are a further source of conflict. Christopher struggles with drug addiction and alcoholism, and a desire to gain respect, while Tony Blundetto hopes to "go straight" but has a violent streak.

Tony's close circle within the DiMeo crime family includes Silvio Dante (Steven Van Zandt),[84] Paul "Paulie Walnuts" Gualtieri (Tony Sirico)[85] and Salvatore "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero (Vincent Pastore).[86] Silvio is Tony's consigliere and best friend. Paulie and Big Pussy are longtime soldiers and close allies who have worked with Tony and his father; Paulie soon becomes capo and eventually is further promoted to underboss. Also in Tony's criminal organization are Patsy Parisi (Dan Grimaldi)[87] and Furio Giunta (Federico Castelluccio).[88] Patsy is a quiet soldier with a head for figures. Furio is imported muscle from Italy who acts as Tony's feared enforcer.

Other significant characters in the DiMeo family include Bobby "Bacala" Baccalieri (Steven R. Schirripa),[89] Richie Aprile (David Proval),[90] Ralph Cifaretto (Joe Pantoliano),[91] Eugene Pontecorvo (Robert Funaro)[92] and Vito Spatafore (Joseph R. Gannascoli).[93] Bobby is a subordinate of Junior's whom Tony initially bullies but later accepts into his inner circle. Cifaretto is a clever, ambitious top-earner but his arrogance and tendency to be obnoxious, disrespectful and very violent make Tony resentful. Richie Aprile is released from prison in season two and quickly makes waves in the organization. Pontecorvo is a young soldier who becomes a made man alongside Christopher. Spatafore works his way up through the ranks to become top earner of the Aprile Crew but has a secret in his personal life.

Friends of the Soprano family include Herman "Hesh" Rabkin (Jerry Adler),[94] Adriana La Cerva (Drea de Matteo),[95] Rosalie Aprile (Sharon Angela),[96] Angie Bonpensiero (Toni Kalem), along with Artie (John Ventimiglia)[97] and Charmaine Bucco (Kathrine Narducci).[98] Hesh is an adviser and friend to Tony, and served in this role under Tony's father. Adriana is Christopher's longtime girlfriend; the two have a tempestuous relationship. Rosalie is the widow of the previous DiMeo boss and a close friend of Carmela. Angie is Salvatore Bonpensiero's wife who later goes into business for herself. Artie and Charmaine are school friends of the Sopranos and owners of the popular restaurant Vesuvio. Charmaine wishes to have no association with Tony and his crew due to his criminal activities, and often has to insist because Artie—a law-abiding and hard-working man—is drawn to Tony's way of life.

John "Johnny Sack" Sacramoni (Vince Curatola),[99] Phil Leotardo (Frank Vincent)[100] and "Little" Carmine Lupertazzi, Jr. (Ray Abruzzo)[101] are all significant characters from the New York-based Lupertazzi crime family, which shares a good amount of its business with the Soprano organization. Although the Lupertazzis' and DiMeos' interests are often at odds, Tony maintains a cordial, business-like relationship with Johnny Sack, preferring to make deals that benefit both families. His second-in-command and eventual successor, Phil Leotardo, is less friendly and is harder for Tony to do business with. Little Carmine is the son of the family's first boss and vies for power with the others.

Plot synopsis and episode list

Season 1

The series begins with Tony Soprano collapsing after suffering a panic attack. This prompts him to begin therapy with Dr. Jennifer Melfi. Gradually, the storyline reveals details of Tony's upbringing, with his father's influence looming large on his development as a gangster, but more so that Tony's mother, Livia, was vengeful and possibly personality-disordered. His complicated relationship with his wife Carmela is also explored, as well as her feelings regarding her husband's cosa nostra ties. Meadow and Anthony Jr., Tony's children gain increasing knowledge of their father's mob dealings. Later, federal indictments are brought as a result of someone in his organization talking to the FBI and his own Uncle plots Tony's death.

After ordering the execution of Brendan Filone and the mock execution of Chris Moltisanti, Tony's Uncle Junior is installed as boss of the family (following the death of previous boss Jackie Aprile, Sr. from cancer), even though Tony actually controls most things from behind the scenes. Furious at Junior's plan to have him killed, Tony responds to the attempt on his life with a violent reprisal and confronts his mother for her role in plotting his downfall. She has a psychologically triggered pseudo-stroke and Junior is arrested by the FBI on non-related charges.

Season 2

At the beginning of the second season, Jackie's brother Richie Aprile is released from prison and proves to be uncontrollable in the business arena; he also starts a relationship with Tony's sister Janice, who has arrived from Seattle. Tony's friend "Big Pussy" returns to New Jersey after a conspicuous absence.

Christopher Moltisanti becomes engaged to his longtime girlfriend Adriana La Cerva. Matthew Bevilaqua and Sean Gismonte, two low-level associates dissatisfied with their perceived lack of success in the Soprano crew, try to make a name for themselves by attempting to kill Christopher. Their plan backfires; Christopher survives the attack (though he is critically wounded), and kills Sean in self-defense. Tony and Big Pussy locate Matthew and assassinate him. However a witness goes to the FBI and identifies Tony.

Junior is placed under house arrest as he awaits trial. Richie, frustrated with Tony's authority over him, entreats Junior to have Tony killed. Junior feigns interest, then informs Tony of Richie's intentions, leaving Tony with another problem to address. However, the situation is defused unexpectedly when Janice kills Richie in a violent argument; Tony and his men conceal all evidence of the murder, and Janice returns to Seattle.

Tony, realizing Big Pussy is an FBI informant, murders him on-board a boat (with assistance from Silvio Dante and Paulie Gualtieri), then wraps his corpse in chains and throws it overboard.

Season 3

The third season marks the return of the ambitious Ralph Cifaretto following the "disappearance" of Aprile Crew capo Richie Aprile after spending an extended period of leisure time in Miami, Florida. He pursues a relationship with Rosalie Aprile, the widow of the deceased mobster Jackie Aprile, Sr., former capo of the Aprile Crew which bears his name. With Richie assumed to have joined the Witness Protection Program, Ralph unofficially usurps control over the Aprile Crew, proving to be an exceptionally dexterous earner for the crew. While Ralph's competitive merit would seemingly have him next in line to ascend to capo, his insubordination inclines Tony not to promote him and instead gives the promotion to the less qualified – however docile – Gigi Cestone, causing much resentment and tension between him and Ralph.

Livia dies of a stroke.

Jackie Aprile, Jr. becomes involved with Meadow and then descends into an increasingly reckless life of drugs and crime. Tony initially attempts to act as a mentor to Jackie but becomes increasingly impatient with his escalating misbehavior, particularly as Jackie's relationship with Meadow begins to become serious. Inspired by a story from Ralph about how Tony, Jackie's father, and Silvio Dante got made, Jackie and his friends Dino Zerilli and Carlo Renzi make a similar move and attempt to rob Eugene Pontecorvo's Saturday night card game, so they can gain recognition from the family, possibly getting them respected and made as well. The plan takes a turn for the worse when Jackie panics due to the heckling of the card dealer "Sunshine" and shoots him to death. Dino and Carlo are killed during the robbery, but Jackie manages to escape. Tony decides to give Ralph the decision regarding Jackie Jr.'s punishment. Despite his role as a surrogate father, Ralph ultimately decides to have Jackie Jr. killed.

Ralph ultimately crosses the line when, in a cocaine-induced rage, he gets into a confrontation with one of his girlfriends, Tracee, and beats her to death. She was a 'hooer', and may have been pregnant with his child at the time. This infuriates Tony to the point where he violates traditional Mafia code by striking him repeatedly in front of the entire family. Bad blood temporarily surfaces between the two but is shortly resolved after Gigi Cestone dies of an aneurysm on the toilet, thereby forcing Tony to reluctantly promote Ralph to capo.

Tony begins an affair with Gloria Trillo, who is also a patient of Dr. Melfi. Their relationship is brief and tumultuous. Meanwhile, Dr. Melfi is raped. Junior is diagnosed with stomach cancer; following chemotherapy, it goes into remission. A.J. continues to get in trouble at school, despite success on the football team. This culminates in his expulsion.

Season 4

In the fourth season, Tony and Christopher stake out the retirement party of Detective Lieutenant Barry Haydu, the man who murdered Christopher's father. Tony gives Christopher Haydu's address. When Christopher asks why he had been allowed to live all these years, Tony says that he had been valuable, but that he has lived out his worth. Christopher waits inside Haydu's home and ambushes him as he returns from his party. Haydu vehemently denies murdering Christopher's father, but struggles to get away, yelling "I'm sorry!" when Christopher goes to shoot him.

New York underboss Johnny Sack becomes enraged after learning Ralph Cifaretto made an inappropriate joke about his wife's weight. He seeks permission from boss Carmine Lupertazzi to have Ralph clipped, but is denied. Johnny orders the hit anyway. Tony receives the okay from Carmine to hit Johnny Sack for insubordination. Junior Soprano tips Tony to use an old outfit in Providence for the work. After catching his wife eating sweets secretly, instead of following the diet plan, Johnny Sack gives in, and bloodshed is averted.

Tony and Ralph invest in a race horse named Pie-O-My, who wins several races and makes them both a great deal of money. However, when Ralph's 12-year old son Justin is severely injured when an arrow plunges into his chest, Tony comes to believe Ralph burned Pie-O-My in a stable fire to collect $200,000 in insurance money. Tony confronts Ralph the following morning and Ralph denies setting the fire. The two engage in a violent brawl, culminating in Tony strangling Ralph to death. Tony and Christopher dispose of the body; they bury his head and hands at Mikey Palmice's father's farm and throw his body into a quarry.

While he is leaving court, Uncle Junior is hit in the head with a boom mic and falls down several steps. Tony advises him to take advantage of the opportunity, act mentally incompetent, and employ it as a ruse for not continuing the trial. Later, Eugene Pontecorvo intimidates a juror, resulting in a deadlocked jury, forcing the judge to declare a mistrial.

Following the death of Bobby Baccalieri's wife, Janice pursues a romantic relationship with him. Christopher's addiction to heroin deepens, prompting his associates and family to organize an intervention, after which he enters a drug rehabilitation center. Adriana befriends a woman who is an undercover FBI agent. When the friendship ends, the woman reveals herself as an FBI agent and tells Adriana the only way to stay out of prison is to become a informant. Adriana agrees and starts sharing information with the FBI.

Carmela, whose relationship with Tony is tense due to financial worries and Tony's infidelities, develops a mutual infatuation with Furio Giunta. Furio, incapable of breaking his own moral codes and that of the Sicilian mafia, clandestinely returns home to Italy. After Tony's former mistress calls their home, Carmela throws Tony out. Tony is approached by Johnny Sack with a proposal to murder Carmine, which Tony turns down.

Season 5

In the fifth season, a string of brand new characters are introduced to the show, including Tony's cousin Tony Blundetto, who along with other mafiosos are released from prison simultaneously. Among the others released are former DiMeo Crime Family capo Michele "Feech" La Manna, Lupertazzi family capo Phil Leotardo, and semi-retired Lupertazzi consigliere Angelo Garepe. Tony offers Tony B. a job, but he respectfully declines, as he is determined to lead a straight life. He initially begins to take courses to earn a degree in massage therapy and aspires to open up his own massage parlor. After Carmine Lupertazzi dies of a stroke, his death leaves a vacancy for boss of the Lupertazzi Family, which will soon be fought over by underboss Johnny Sack and Carmine's son Carmine Lupertazzi, Jr.. After Feech proves to be an insubordinate presence, Tony arranges for him to be sent back to prison by setting him up with stolen property, violating his parole.

The war between Johnny Sack and Carmine, Jr. begins when Johnny has Phil kill lady shylock Lorraine Calluzzo. Tony B.'s attempt to stay straight comes to a head when he gets into a brawl with his employer Sungyon Kim. Tony informs Tony B. that "it's hard working with strangers." Angelo, who was a good friend to Tony B. in prison, and Lupertazzi capo Rusty Millio offer Tony B. the job of taking out Joey Peeps in retaliation for Lorraine's death. Tony B. initially declines but, desperate to earn, accepts the job. He catches Joey outside a bordello, shoots him, and quickly flees the scene. Johnny believes Tony B. is involved, and retaliates by having Phil and his brother Billy Leotardo kill Angelo. Tony B. finds the Leotardo brothers and opens fire, killing Billy and wounding Phil.

Still separated from Carmela, Tony is living at his parents' house. Carmela, now the sole authority figure in the home, becomes frustrated as her rules lead A.J. to resent her; eventually she allows him to live with his father. She has a brief relationship with Robert Wegler, A.J.'s guidance counselor; he breaks it off abruptly when he suspects that she is manipulating him to improve A.J.'s grades. Tony and Carmela reconcile; Tony promises to be more loyal and agrees to pay for a piece of real estate Carmela wishes to develop.

Tony gets Meadow's boyfriend Finn De Trolio a summer job at a construction site, which is run by Aprile Crew capo Vito Spatafore. Finn comes in early one morning and catches Vito performing oral sex on a security guard. Vito tries to buddy up to Finn so that he does not say anything to anybody else. He even asks Finn to a Yankees game, which Finn does not attend. Finn soon quits the job out of fear.

After covering up a murder that occurred at The Crazy Horse, Adriana is arrested and pressured by the F.B.I. to wear a wire to avoid being charged as an accomplice. She refuses to wear a wire and informs the F.B.I. that she may be able to persuade her fiancé Christopher to co-operate and become an informant against Tony. She confesses to Christopher that she has been informing and that the F.B.I. would give them new identities if they would testify. Christopher is grief-stricken and nearly kills her. He leaves the apartment, saying he needs time to think. Tony has Silvio pick up Adriana under the pretense of taking her to see Christopher, but instead drives her out to the woods and executes her. Adriana’s betrayal and subsequent execution is too much for Christopher to handle and he briefly returns to drug abuse to deal with the pain.

Phil Leotardo and his henchmen beat Benny Fazio while trying to acquire the whereabouts of Tony B.; Phil also threatens to have Christopher taken out if Tony B.'s whereabouts are not disclosed soon. To avoid any more of his guys getting hurt and to pacify New York, Tony tracks Tony B. to their Uncle Pat's farm and shoots him. Phil, however, is furious that he did not get the opportunity to do it himself. Tony and Johnny meet at Johnny's house in a reconciliatory manner, but Johnny is arrested by Federal agents, while Tony escapes.

Season 6

At the beginning of the sixth season, Tony is shot by the now senile and confused Uncle Junior. Rendered comatose, Tony dreams he is a salesman on a business trip, where he mistakenly exchanges his briefcase and identification with a man named Kevin Finnerty. Tony's recovery from the shooting changes his outlook, and he tries to mend his ways. However, he is faced with more problems in his business life.

Once out of the hospital, Johnny Sack's daughter gets married and the Soprano family attends. Once there Tony is shown very exhausted and through security must take off his shoes. In the process he collapses to the ground, but is not hurt. Before the wedding Johnny Sack is approved to leave prison for six hours to see his daughter get married and that he has to pay for the metal detectors and the presence of the U.S. marshals at the event. As his daughter is about to drive away the SUV that was escorting Johnny to the wedding blocks the car from leaving and an altercation begins in the driveway. In a moment of weakness and despair Johnny Sack cries as he is put back into handcuffs and driven back to prison, greatly diminishing the respect his crew and Tony's crew have for him.

Vito Spatafore is outed as a homosexual after running into a friend at a New York night club. The rumor spreads quickly, and once word gets to Meadow that everyone else knows, she tells Tony and Carmela about the incident between Finn and Vito with the security guard. Finn then has to sit in front of Tony's entire crew and tell them what happened with the guard, solidifying their thoughts on Vito's sexuality. Tony is urged to deal with the problem by Phil Leotardo, now acting boss of New York with Johnny Sack in prison. Once Vito is outed, he runs away from the city and hides out in a New Hampshire town where he claims to be writing a book and meets with the locals. Vito also starts a romantic relationship with a male cook at a local diner. Eventually, Vito returns to New Jersey and asks Tony to allow him to return to work, albeit in Atlantic City. He continues to maintain that he is not a homosexual. Tony mulls over the decision to let him work, as well as whether to let him live. When Tony fails to act, Phil intervenes and kills Spatafore. When one of the members of the New York family, Fat Dom Gamiello, pays a visit to the Jersey office and won't stop making jokes about Vito and his death, the two members of Tony's crime family who are present kill Fat Dom out of anger at the disrespect he has shown. Once more, it appears that the families are on the verge of all-out war.

During the first half of the season Chris and Carmine head to Los Angeles to try to sign Ben Kingsley for a movie they are trying to make called Cleaver, which is basically a mix of The Godfather and Saw. But Kingsley passes on the picture. While in Los Angeles Chris goes back to using cocaine for a short period of time.

Tony considers killing several of his associates for relatively minor infractions. Christopher is unable to leave the mob, deflecting his problems by relapsing into drug addiction and kills his friend from Narcotics Anonymous, J. T. Dolan. He is then seriously injured in a car accident while driving under the influence of narcotics. Tony, the sole passenger, is not badly hurt, and suffocates Christopher to death. A.J. is dumped by his fiancée and slips into depression, culminating in a failed suicide attempt in the backyard pool. Dr. Melfi is convinced by friends that Tony is making no progress and may even be using talking therapy for his own sociopathic benefit. She drops him as a patient.

Johnny Sack dies from lung cancer while imprisoned, and Leotardo then consolidates his position in the Lupertazzi family by having his rivals for the leadership killed. Phil then officially takes over, igniting a resumption of the past feud with Tony and refusing to compromise with Tony on a garbage deal. When Tony assaults a Lupertazzi soldier for harassing Meadow while she is on a date, Phil decides it's time to decapitate the Soprano crew. He orders the executions of Bobby Baccalieri, who is shot to death; Silvio, who ends up comatose; and Tony, who goes into hiding. A deal is brokered whereby the rest of the Lupertazzi family agrees to ignore the order to kill Tony, giving Tony an opportunity to go after Phil. An FBI agent informs Tony of Phil's location, allowing Tony to have him killed. Tony suspects that Carlo, a capo from New Jersey, has become an informant in an attempt to help out his son, who has recently been caught for dealing ecstasy. Tony meets with his lawyer, who informs him that subpoenas are being given to New Jersey and New York crews alike. Sometime after Phil's death and a meeting with everyone, Tony, Carmela, and AJ meet for dinner, while the Journey song "Don't Stop Believin'" plays in the background. At this time, several individuals become apparent that seem out of place for the venue. Three individuals enter and are specifically focused upon during entry. Meadow is shown coming to the dinner late and crossing the street as the rest of the family starts to eat an appetizer. An individual that had been previously shown at the counter specifically taking notice of Tony, is shown entering the restroom, the door of which is directly facing, (and approximately 90 degrees to), the table at which Tony and his family are sitting. As Meadow walks up to the door, the screen goes to Tony. The diner door opens with a bell ringing, Tony looks up and the show smash cuts to black and after a few seconds the credits roll in silence, leaving him and his family's fate a mystery.

Reception and impact

Ratings

The Sopranos was a major ratings success and is the most commercially successful cable series in the history of television.[9][102] Despite being aired on premium cable network HBO, which is available in significantly fewer American homes than regular networks, the show frequently attracted equal or more audiences than most popular network shows of the time.[102] Nielsen ratings for the show's first four seasons are not entirely accurate, however, as prior to January 2004 Nielsen reported aggregate numbers for cable networks, meaning people watching other HBO channels than the main one, on which The Sopranos aired, would be included in the ratings estimates.[103]

Season Originally aired Nielsen ratings (in millions) Time
Season premiere Season finale Season average
1 January 10, 1999 – April 4, 1999 3.45[104] 5.22[104] 3.46[105] 9:00 PM
2 January 16, 2000 – April 9, 2000 7.64[104] 8.97[104] 6.62[105] 9:00 PM
3 March 4, 2001 – May 20, 2001 11.26[104] 9.46[104] 8.87[105] 9:00 PM
4 September 15, 2002 – December 8, 2002 13.43[104] 12.48[104] 10.99[105] 9:00 PM
5 March 7, 2004 – June 6, 2004 12.14[104] 10.98[104] 9.80[105] 9:00 PM
6 (Part 1) March 12, 2006 – June 4, 2006 9.47[104] 8.90[106] 8.60[106] 9:00 PM
6 (Part 2) April 8, 2007 – June 10, 2007 7.66[107] 11.90[108] 8.23[105] 9:00 PM

Critical response

The Sopranos has been acknowledged by critics as one of the greatest and most groundbreaking television series of all time.[24][109][110][111] The writing, acting, and directing have often been singled out for praise. The show has also received considerable attention from critics and journalists for its mature and artistic content, technical merit, music selections, cinematography, and willingness to deal with difficult and controversial subjects.[54][110][111]

The Sopranos has been called "perhaps the greatest pop-culture masterpiece of its day" by Vanity Fair contributor Peter Biskind.[9] The New Yorker editor David Remnick called the show "the richest achievement in the history of television."[112] TV Guide ranked The Sopranos fifth on their list of the "Top 50 TV Shows of All Time."[113] In 2007, Channel 4 (UK) named The Sopranos the greatest television series of all time.[114]

The first season of the series received overwhelmingly positive reviews.[115] Following its initial airing in 1999, The New York Times stated, "[The Sopranos] just may be the greatest work of American popular culture of the last quarter century."[14] In 2007, Roger Holland of PopMatters wrote, "the debut season of The Sopranos remains the crowning achievement of American television."[116]

In November and December 2009, a large number of television critics named The Sopranos the best series of the decade and all time in articles summarizing the decade in television. In numbered lists over the best television programs, The Sopranos frequently ranked first or second, competing with The Wire almost always.[111]

Certain episodes have frequently been singled out by critics as the show's best. These include "College" and "I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano" of the first season; "The Knight in White Satin Armor" and "Funhouse" of the second; "Employee of the Month", "Pine Barrens" and "Amour Fou" of the third; "Whoever Did This" and "Whitecaps" of the fourth; "Irregular Around the Margins" and "Long Term Parking" of the fifth and "Members Only", "Join the Club", "Kennedy and Heidi", "The Second Coming" and "The Blue Comet" of the sixth season.[117][118][119][120][121][122][123]

Awards

The Sopranos won and was nominated for a large number of awards over the course of its original broadcast. It was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series in every year it was eligible; after being nominated for and losing the award in 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2003 (losing the first time to The Practice, then the latter three to The West Wing), The Sopranos won the award in 2004, and again in 2007. Its 2004 win made The Sopranos the first series on a cable network to win the award,[124] while its 2007 win made the show the first drama series since Upstairs, Downstairs in 1977 to win the award after it had finished airing.[125] The show earned 21 nominations for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series and won the award six times, with creator David Chase receiving three awards.[126]

The Sopranos won at least one Emmy Award for acting in every eligible year except 2006 and 2007. James Gandolfini and Edie Falco were each nominated six times for Outstanding Lead Actor and Actress, respectively, both winning a total of three awards. Joe Pantoliano won an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in 2003, and Michael Imperioli and Drea de Matteo also won Emmys in 2004 for their supporting roles on the show. Other actors who have received Emmy nominations for the series include Lorraine Bracco (in the Lead Actress and Supporting Actress categories), Dominic Chianese, Nancy Marchand, Aida Turturro, Steve Buscemi (who was also nominated for directing the episode "Pine Barrens"), Tim Daly, John Heard and Annabella Sciorra.[126]

In 2000 and 2001, The Sopranos earned two consecutive George Foster Peabody Awards. Only two other series have won the award in consecutive years: Northern Exposure and The West Wing.[127][128] The show also received numerous nominations at the Golden Globe Awards (winning the award for Best Drama Series in 2000)[129] and the major guild awards (Directors,[130] Producers,[131] Writers,[132] and Actors[133]).

Influence on television industry

The Sopranos had a significant impact on the shape of the American television industry. It has been characterized by critics as one of the most influential artistic works of the 2000s and is credited with allowing other drama series with similarly mature content to achieve mainstream recognition. It has also often been cited as one of the television series that helped turn serial television into a legitimate art form on the same level as feature films, literature and theater.[53][110][134] TIME editor James Poniewozik wrote in 2007, "This mafia saga showed just how complex and involving TV storytelling could be, inspiring an explosion of ambitious dramas on cable and off."[110] Also in 2007, Maureen Ryan of PopMatters described The Sopranos as "the most influential television drama ever" and wrote "No one-hour drama series has had a bigger impact on how stories are told on the small screen, or more influence on what kind of fare we’ve been offered by an ever-growing array of television networks."[53] Hal Boedeker, also writing for PopMatters in 2007, stated that the series was "widely influential for revealing that cable would accommodate complex series about dark characters. The Sopranos ushered in Six Feet Under, The Shield, Rescue Me and Big Love."[134]

The series helped establish HBO as producers of critically acclaimed and commercially successful original television series. Michael Flaherty of The Hollywood Reporter has stated that The Sopranos "helped launch [HBO's] reputation as a destination for talent looking for cutting-edge original series work."[24]

Controversy

The show has been frequently criticized for allegedly perpetuating negative stereotypes about Italian Americans. In 2000, Essex County officials denied producers permission to film on county-owned property, arguing that the show depicts Italian Americans in a "less than favorable light."[135] Despite the controversy, Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind found, in an August 2001 national survey, that 65% of Americans disagreed with the notion that the show was "portraying Italian Americans in a negative way."[136] The PublicMind's "New Jersey and The Sopranos: Perfect Together?" survey was referenced in a 2002 episode entitled "Christopher" that addressed the topic of Italian American identity in the context of Newark's annual Columbus Day parade.[137] Later that year, Sopranos cast members were barred by parade organizers from participating in the real-life event.[138] At the end of the series the PublicMind again asked the American public about their opinions on the series. Similar to the 2001 results, 61% of Americans disagreed with the idea that The Sopranos portrayed Italian Americans in a negative light.[139] The PublicMind also found, in their 2001 poll, that viewers of The Sopranos were more likely to see New Jersey in a more negative light than people who did not watch the show.[140]

Chase has defended his show, saying that it is not meant to stereotype all Italian Americans, only to depict a small criminal subculture.[141]

Chase's decision to end the last episode abruptly with just a black screen was also controversial. While Chase has insisted that it wasn't his intention to stir controversy, the ambiguity over the ending and question whether Tony was murdered in the final scene has continued for years after the finale's original broadcast and has spawned numerous websites devoted to finding out his true intention.[142][143][144]

DVD releases

Season Release dates Episodes Special features Discs
Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
1 December 12, 2000
November 24, 2009 (Blu-ray)[145]
November 24, 2003 November 24, 2003 13
  • A 77-minute interview with series creator David Chase, conducted by film historian and director Peter Bogdanovich.
  • "Family Life" featurette.
  • "Meet Tony Soprano" featurette.
  • One audio commentary by David Chase and Peter Bogdanovich for the pilot episode, "The Sopranos".[146]
4
2 November 6, 2001 November 24, 2003 November 24, 2003 13
3 August 27, 2002 November 24, 2003 November 24, 2003 13
4 October 28, 2003 November 3, 2003 November 3, 2003 13
  • Easter Eggs.
  • Episodic previews and recaps.
  • Cast and crew biographies.
  • Four audio commentaries by crew members for the episodes "The Weight", "Everybody Hurts", "Whoever Did This", and "Whitecaps".[149]
5 June 7, 2005 June 20, 2005 August 17, 2005 13
6
(Part 1)
November 7, 2006 November 27, 2006 March 7, 2007 12
6
(Part 2)
October 23, 2007 November 19, 2007 January 31, 2008 9
  • "Making Cleaver: Behind the scenes of Christopher's horror film" featurette.
  • "The Music of The Sopranos" – Creator David Chase, cast, and crew discuss the songs from the show.
  • Four audio commentaries by cast members for the episodes "Soprano Home Movies", "Remember When", "The Second Coming", and "The Blue Comet".[152]
Complete HBO
Seasons 1–6
Box set
N/A November 19, 2007 86
  • Collects the previously released box-sets.
28
Complete series –
Deluxe Edition
November 11, 2008 November 24, 2008 86
  • Includes all special features from the previously released box-sets.
  • Never before seen scenes from all six seasons.
  • Exclusive interviews with David Chase conducted by actor Alec Baldwin.
  • Supper with The Sopranos: Two sit-down dinners with the cast and crew of the show as they discuss the series finale.
  • Lost scenes from all six seasons of The Sopranos.
  • Panel Center Seminar: Discussions featuring "whacked" characters.
  • Extra Gravy: Spoofs and Parodies including The Simpsons and Saturday Night Live.
30

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Sources

  • Martin, Brett (2007-10-30). The Sopranos: The Complete Book. New York: Time. ISBN 978-1-933821-18-4. 

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