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The Sopranos

the-sopranos-logo.jpg “The Sopranos” is an American TV series that originally aired on HBO and was created by David Chase. The series tells the story of an Italian-American mobster named Tony Soprano living in New Jersey and working for the DiMeo crime family. The story follows the problems that he encounters while trying to juggle not only his criminal life but his family life as well. Most of these problems are brought to light when Tony meets with his psychiatrist Jennifer Melfi. The show was viewed as a huge success and ran for six seasons, featuring 86 episodes.

Realization

The concept for “The Sopranos” was originally conceived as a movie. Much like the show, the movie was going to center around a mobster who found himself in therapy for having issues with his mother. This idea was later scrapped by Chase after he received some input from Lloyd Braun, his manager. It was at this time that Chase decided to turn the idea into a television show. The show first ran on Jan. 10, 1999, and the final episode aired on June 10, 2007.

Inspiration

Chase admitted that he took much of his inspiration for “The Sopranos” from his own life while growing up in the New Jersey area. Chase's goal was to relate his family dynamics to the life of a mobster. For example, Chase said that the troubled relationship that Tony shares with his mother, Livia, is loosely based on the relationship that he shared with his own mother. Chase also went to therapy for a stint and decided to base the psychiatrist in his show off of the doctor he had. The idea to tie in the Mafia to all of this came from Chase's fascination with the mob from an early age. He did admit that “The Sopranos” takes some of its inspiration from the Boiardo family, a very prominent, organized crime family who lived in New Jersey around the time that Chase was a child.

HBO Exclusive

After finally deciding to turn “The Sopranos” into a TV show instead of a movie, Chase had to find a network that would run it. Chase pitched the show to many networks, but most of them passed on the idea. Fox showed a little interest but eventually passed after Chase showed them the script. It was not until Chase finally pitched the show to the HBO Original Programming President Chris Albecht that he hit gold. HBO was interested in the series and financed the shooting of the first pilot episode. Once the HBO executives watched the pilot, they put the project on hold for many months. Chase considered asking the network for money to shoot just 45 extra minutes of footage so that he could turn it into a film. Then, in December of 1997, HBO decided that it wanted to make the series. It funded 12 more episodes, making the first season 13 episodes long. “The Sopranos” was only the second hour-long TV drama that HBO had produced. The first was prison show “Oz.”

Casting Call

Due to the fact that “The Sopranos” is about Italian-Americans, and because there are only so many Italian-Americans working in Hollywood, many of the cast members worked together at one point or another on other TV shows or films prior to joining “The Sopranos” cast. In fact, the cast shared 27 of the same actors who appeared in the 1990 mobster film “Goodfellas.” This included Tony Sirico, Michael Imperioli and Lorraine Bracco. The actors all admitted that they could not tell if Chase liked them or not. He would give no indication of whether he liked a performance. He would simply say “Thank you,” and the actor would leave the room. Not all of the actors and actresses got the roles that they were originally brought on to play. For example, Bracco was supposed to play the wife of Tony. However, she was given the character of Dr. Jennifer Melfi because she sought to attempt something different. She also felt that playing the doctor would be more challenging for her and allow her to step outside of her comfort zone.

Characters

During its six-season run, “The Sopranos” featured a huge cast of characters. Many of these characters, however, only appeared during one season or during a few episodes. Here is a list of some of the actors who played a huge role in the series:

  • James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano
  • Lorraine Bracco as Dr. Jennifer Melfi
  • Edie Falco as Carmela Soprano
  • Jamie-Lynn Sigler as Meadow Soprano
  • Robert Iler as Anthony Soprano Jr.
  • Nancy Marchand as Livia Soprano
  • Aida Turturro as Janice Baccalieri
  • Dominic Chianese as Corrado “Junior” Soprano
  • Steve Buscemi as Tony Blundetto
  • Michael Imperioli as Christopher Moltisanti
  • Steven Van Zandt as Silvio Dante
  • Vincent Pastore as Salvatore Bonpensiero
  • Steven R. Schirripa as Bobby Baccalieri

Crew Members

Chase was lucky enough to be the head writer and executive producer for every season of “The Sopranos.” He was involved in every episode that aired. He was also known for being very controlling and demanding on the set. All of the editing and approved casting choices went through Chase as well. Most of the other writers who helped Chase on the show had worked in TV before. This included Mitchell Burgess and Robin Green, who had worked alongside Chase on the hit show “Northern Exposure.” The show had many directors over the course of its six seasons. Most of the directors previously worked on independent films and other TV shows before signing up to direct “The Sopranos.” Some of them included Alan Taylor, John Patterson and Allen Coulter.

Music

The music in “The Sopranos” was all personally selected by Chase. He worked closely with the music producer, Martin Bruestle, to select songs for the show. Oddly enough, the music for the show was usually selected only after the production and editing were done for each episode. The familiar opening theme to is called “Woke Up This Morning.” This was remixed and written by Alabama 3, a British band. Most of the time, the song that played over the credits changed from episode to episode. There were a few, however, that were played multiple times over the course of the show’s life. This included “Living on a Thin Line,” which The Kinks performed.

Location

Keeping with the theme of the show, most of the outdoor scenes in “The Sopranos” were filmed on location in New Jersey. Most of the indoor shots for the series were captured at Silvercup Studios, located in New York City. Chase felt that limiting most of the shooting to the New Jersey area helped keep the show more authentic.

Ratings

Despite the fact that “The Sopranos” was only on HBO, which generally has fewer viewers than basic TV because of the added costs to order a subscription, the show received huge ratings. In fact, most of the aired shows received just as high and sometimes higher ratings than popular shows on non-premium networks.

Awards

“The Sopranos” won multiple awards for not only its story but also for its actors. It was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series as well. It was the first cable TV series that was ever nominated for such an award. The show was nominated for this award in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2003; it lost every year. Finally, in 2004, it won the award, which made it the first cable network series to do so. “The Sopranos” went on to have 21 nominations for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series and was able to win six times. Chase received three awards for this series. Joe Pantoliano won an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in 2003 for the show. “The Sopranos” also won two George Foster Peabody Awards in 2000 and 2001.

Negative Stereotypes

Despite all of the praise that the show has received over the years, it has also been criticized a lot for painting a negative stereotype of Italian-Americans. This was seen in 2000 when Essex County authorities denied Chase the right to film in the county. The officials said that the show depicted Italian-American in a not-so-favorable light. Chase went on recorded defending his show, saying that it was not trying to stereotype anyone. He said that all it was trying to do was depict a very small criminal subculture, and in no way was his show supposed to represent all Italian-Americans.

Season Synopsis

Season One

The whole series beings with Tony Soprano collapsing after he suffers a panic attack. This is what first prompts him to start therapy with Dr. Jennifer Melfi. The story starts to reveal more details about Tony's childhood and how his father's influence played a huge role in him turning to a life of crime. It also reveals that Tony's mother, Livia, is extremely vengeful and possibly has a personality disorder. Tony gets into his very complicated relationship with his family, including his wife, Carmela, his daughter, Meadow, and his son, Anthony Jr. Later in the season, Tony's uncle, Corrado “Junior” Soprano, is made the boss of the family. This happens despite the fact that Tony controls most of the family from behind the scenes. After Junior makes an attempt to kill Tony, he responds with violent actions of his own.

Season Two

In this season, Richie Aprile, a capo in the crime family, is released from prison. He soon proves to be difficult to control and starts a relationship with Tony's sister, Janice. Meanwhile, Junior is put under house arrest while he awaits his trail. Richie becomes upset with Tony's growing authority over him and teams up with Junior to have Tony killed. The situation defuses itself after Janice ends up killing Richie during a violent argument. Tony helps cover up the murder, and Janice returns to Seattle.

Season Three

After hearing about the disappearance of Richie, Aprile Crew soldier Ralph Cifaretto returns to New Jersey after having spent a long period of time in Miami. Since it is believed that Richie joined the Witness Protection Program, Ralph gains control over the Aprile Crew. Tensions start to build between Tony and Ralph. Eventually, Ralph crosses the line with Tony when he is on a drug-filled rage and beats his possibly pregnant girlfriend to death. Livia soon dies from a stroke, Tony starts an affair with fellow patient Gloria Trillo and Dr. Melfi is raped.

Season Four

The season starts with Tony and cousin Christopher Moltisanti staking out the retirement party of a cop who murdered Christopher's father. Eventually, Tony gives Christopher the cop's address, and he shoots him when he returns from the retirement party. Johnny Sack, the New York underboss, becomes upset with Ralph after he makes an inappropriate joke about his wife's weight. He asks Carmine Lupertazzi, Jr. from the Lupertazzi crime family based in New York, to have Ralph killed but it is denied. Tony invests in a race horse named Pie-O-My who makes them a ton of money by winning races. Despite this, Carmela and Tony's relationship grows tense due to financial worries. Carmela eventually throws Tony out, and Tony is approached by Johnny Sack, from the Lupertazzi crime family, with a pitch to murder Carmine. This is an offer that Tony turns down.

Season Five

At the start of season five, a slew of new characters are introduced. This includes Tony's cousin Tony Blundetto, who was just released from prison. Tony offers him a job, but Blundetto declines because he wants to live a straight life. The war between Carmine and Johnny of the Lupertazzi crime family also starts during this season. Blundetto is not able to live the clean life for long after he gets into a fight with one of his employers. Tony and Carmela are still separated, and Tony's son eventually moves in with him. Some henchmen beat down Benny Fazio, a soldier in the DiMeo crime family, while trying to find Blundetto. To keep anyone else from getting hurt, Tony tracks down his cousin and shoots him.

Season Six

At the start of the season, Junior shoots Tony, which leaves him comatose. During this time, Tony dreams that he is a salesman. A soldier working under Tony, Vito Spatafore’s secret of being a homosexual gets out, and the rumor spreads quickly. Tony eventually assaults a Lupertazzi solider that was harassing Meadow. It was at this point that Phil Leotardo, now the boss of the Lupertazzi crime family, decides it’s time to break up the Soprano family. He starts having the crew members killed, but Tony goes into hiding, and they are unable to locate him. Phil eventually dies from lung cancer, and Tony, Anthony Jr. and Carmela meet for dinner. During this scene, three individuals enter the restaurant as Meadow turns up late for dinner. As the diner door opens, the bell rings and the camera snaps to Tony. Tony Looks up, and after a few seconds, the credits role.

Controversial Ending

Chase said that he never intended for the last episode to end so controversially. He had no idea that people would be so upset after the last episode ended. Needless to say, there are many discussions held to this day to debate what happened to Tony. Fans have been asking for a better ending for years so that they can learn whether Tony was murdered at the end.


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