The Sopranos was a long-running and critically acclaimed series that ran on the HBO cable television network from 1999 to its series finale in 2007. The show made stars of several of its leading actors, including Edie Falco, Michael Imperioli, Steven Van Zandt and the late James Gandolfini. While the show has ceased production, it remains a top-rated audience favorite. Viewers continue to watch The Sopranos online with a devotion that shows no signs of abating.
The Impact of The Sopranos
The Sopranos was the brainchild of writer David Chase. During its original run, the show won numerous industry awards, including the Peabody, Emmy and Golden Globe awards on many occasions. The show also spawned a massive onslaught of merchandise, including soundtrack albums, a video game and “tell-all” biographies. TV Guide magazine named The Sopranos as the best television series of all time in 2013. The final episode of the series, aired in 2007, remains one of the most controversial finales of all time.
The main character is Tony Soprano, played by the late James Gandolfini. Tony is the boss of the DiMeo crime family. After having served for an unspecified number of years as capo to former boss Jackie Aprile, and then as underboss to his uncle, Corrado “Junior” Soprano, Tony has taken the reins of the family. The series revolves around his day-to-day issues as head of the crime family as well as his long-term hopes, wishes and fears. In the series’ infamous finale, the last view the audience gets comes through Tony’s eyes.
Silvio Dante, played by Steven Van Zandt, is Tony’s consigliere (main business adviser). As the owner of the Bada Bing strip club (one of the DiMeo family’s most conspicuous “hangouts”), Silvio is a top earner for the organization. While Silvio tends to live up to his reputation as a peacemaker and agent of compromise for the sake of smooth business, he is also capable of the odd bit of violence and even murder. In one of the series’ most shocking scenes, it is Silvio Dante who takes Adriana on her final ride.
Christopher Moltisanti, played by Michael Imperioli, is Tony’s cousin although the difference in their ages leads to him being considered more of a nephew (or even a surrogate son) to the elder boss. Christopher is smart, resourceful and even witty on occasion with a great deal of natural charm, but his impatience and impulsiveness combine to bring him to grief on more than one occasion. In the end, after a heroin habit causes him to crash his car with Tony in the passenger seat, he meets his untimely end in suitably dramatic fashion.
Paulie “Walnuts” Gaultieri, played by real-life former mob associate Tony Sirico, is one of the Soprano organization’s longest-serving members, having done time under the regime of Tony’s father before pledging loyalty to Tony himself. Paulie got his nickname “Walnuts” by accidentally hijacking a truck packed with walnuts that he had assumed was full of television sets. True to his nickname, Paulie is played for quite a lot of comic relief although his essentially psychopathic and murderous nature comes to the fore on more than one occasion.
Carmela Soprano, played by Edie Falco, is Tony’s long-suffering, but loyal, spouse. While Carmela can be seen as childish, nagging, manipulative and cold, she is also frequently shown to be a loving and understanding spouse to Tony. Carmela is also frequently shown as being ambivalent, much like Tony himself, about the lifestyle that being part of La Cosa Nostra affords her family. However, in the end, Carmela always manages to reconcile herself to the choices she makes, largely by deflecting personal responsibility for her actions onto her duties as the mother of Tony’s children, Meadow and Anthony, Jr. (“A.J.”).
Dr. Jennifer Melfi is Tony Soprano’s therapist. The initial premise of the show revolved around Tony taking the unprecedented step of seeking out professional help for his various issues, most of which stemmed from his somewhat unorthodox and violent childhood as the son of a notorious Mafia boss. While subsequent seasons saw a gradual reduction in the time that Tony spent at Dr. Melfi’s office, their relationship continued until the very end. Dr. Melfi was shown becoming increasingly infatuated with Tony, until she finally realized that she was being used by a “toxic” person as a convenient means of self-justification for his increasingly brutal deeds.
Season 1 of The Sopranos revolved around the introduction of Tony Soprano as well as all of the other major and minor characters. Most of the action concerned Tony dealing with the new experience of therapy as well as consolidating his power as de facto boss of the family while his Uncle Junior held the nominal top spot.
Season 2 concerned the introduction of several new characters, chiefly Richie Aprile, a mobster newly released from prison who soon took up with Tony’s sister, Janice. Meanwhile, Sal “Big Pussy” Bonponsiero has been arrested for pushing heroin and has begun to inform on the family’s doings. In one of the series’ most poignant scenes, “Big Pussy” is taken aboard a boat by Tony, Paulie and Silvio and executed.
Later seasons of The Sopranos revolved around the introduction of such notable temporary cast members as Tony Blundetto, Ralph Cifaretto, John Sacramoni (“Johnny Sack”) and Phil Leotardo. While each of these characters met a harsh end, they were instrumental in establishing The Sopranos as one of the best-written, richest and most complex television dramas of its age.
Watch The Sopranos Online
After the show ceased production in 2007, it continued to be shown in heavily edited reruns on A & E television. However, it is now possible to watch The Sopranos online in better quality with all of its scenes intact.