During its six-season run, The Sopranos transformed television as we know it, earning its title as one of the greatest shows of all time.
The HBO crime drama began in January 1999 with Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) reluctantly walking into the office of his new psychiatrist, Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco), after having a panic attack. The pilot set the stage for what was to come: countless clashes between Tony and Dr. Melfi, awe-inspiring patience from Tony’s wife, Carmela Soprano (Edie Falco), and children, Meadow (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) and A.J. (Robert Iler), and perhaps more mafia-related bullets and bloodshed than TV had ever seen before.
Viewers followed Tony as he tried to juggle everyday life at home in New Jersey with his role as the boss of a notorious crime family. At times, he struggled to do so. His serial womanizing tested his marriage to Carmela, and his short temper often made waves with his mother, Livia Soprano (Nancy Marchand), his nephew Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli) and other close relatives.
And yet, fans loved tuning in to Tony’s antics week after week, flaws and all. In fact, they grew so attached to his character over the years that some had trouble separating real life from fiction.
“I was living in the meat-market district on the far West Side [of New York City], below 14th Street,” Gandolfini recalled to Vanity Fair in April 2007, two months before the series finale aired. “I heard this banging on the outside door and screaming. It was late, like after midnight. So I opened the door, and the guy turns white. All of a sudden I realize, ‘Oh, f—k, he thinks I’m Tony.’”
Viewers were also entranced by Meadow and A.J., who quickly became aware of their father’s criminal activities as the show went on, as well as Christopher’s struggles with love, addiction and trying to live up to his uncle’s expectations.
In a testament to its success, the David Chase-created series took home 21 Primetime Emmys, five Golden Globes and two Peabody Awards, among other accolades. It also spawned a successful video game, merchandise and, most recently, podcasts hosted by cast members including Imperioli, Steve Schirripa and Drea de Matteo. A prequel movie titled The Many Saints of Newark is due in 2021, starring the late Gandolfini’s son, Michael Gandolfini, as a young Tony.
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