By Jeppe Kleijngeld
For a period of eight blissful years, The Sopranos answered the TV-prayers of me and millions of other TV-maniacs. As a huge fan of GoodFellas, a quality series about a New Jersey mob family sounded like music to my ears. It delivered on its high expectations. No, it exceeded them by far.
Tony Soprano, family matriarch, mob boss and psychiatric patient. The perfect characteristics for a leading man of a drama show. This complex character is wonderfully portrayed by the now legendary James Gandolfini. He is a fat, bald ladykiller, A charismatic sociopath. And also a family man and murderer. You just couldn’t ask for a more captivating main character.
But it isn’t just Tony who delivers. The supporting cast is delicious as well. We all have our favourites (mine is consigliere Silvio Dante), but I give praise to all; the hilarious psycho Paulie Walnuts, self-absorbed Christopher, ethically conscious Dr. Melfi, money-grabbing Carmela, crazy uncle June. Too many to mention, but all marvellous indeed!
So, what gives this show its ridiculous appeal? The guns, the girls, the gabagool? I guess this is just one of those very rare productions in which everything fits in perfectly; the teleplays, the actors, the soundtrack, the look and feel…it is perfect. Brilliant even.
When talking about classic mob movies, The Godfather and GoodFellas always come up first. The Sopranos can now be added to the mix. Mind you, this isn’t some ordinary rip-off. Since the pilot episode it has stood on its own feet. It is a highly original and modern take on the ‘been there, done that’ gangster genre. It placed mobsters with old values in the 21th century with all of its problems: depression, terrorism, failing capitalism and addiction.
For 86 episodes you are watching killers, who lack any form of empathy for their victims. Still, you love to spend time with them because they are so entertaining and their behaviour is so funny (when it’s not off-putting and disgusting). Often, the writers remind the audience of who these people really are. So how does one cope with all these horrible crimes on his conscience? Being a sociopath helps, but otherwise there is therapy (Tony), the catholic church (Carmela) or drug abuse (Christopher). High concept TV at its best.
Creator David Chase, who in the past worked on shows such as Northern Exposure and The Rockford Files, has created a cultural phenomenon. The Sopranos must be viewed, loved and treasured. Seriously, you’d be a douchebag to miss it.