The Many Saints of Newark (2021, Review)

Directed by:
Alan Taylor

Written by:
David Chase
Lawrence Konner

Cast:
Alessandro Nivola (Dickie Moltisanti), Leslie Odom Jr. (Harold McBrayer), Jon Bernthal (Johnny Soprano), Vera Farmiga (Livia Soprano), Corey Stoll (Junior Soprano), Ray Liotta (‘Hollywood Dick’ Moltisanti), Michela De Rossi (Giuseppina Moltisanti), Michael Gandolfini (Teenage Tony Soprano), Billy Magnussen (Paulie Walnuts), John Magaro (Silvio Dante)

“My uncle Tony…” It is certainly great to hear Christopher’s voice again. He narrates the story in this long awaited Sopranos prequel from the grave. Chrissy forms the link between the spirit world – where the beloved show now resides – and the world of The Many Saints of Newark, which is now coming to life on cinema screens worldwide and on streaming service HBO Max.

This world, which is set in the 1960’s in New Jersey, is inhabited by many familiar characters in their younger years: Tony Soprano, ages 9 and 17, his parents Johnny Boy and Livia, his uncle Junior, Silvio Dante, Paulie Walnuts, Big Pussy Bonpensiero, and a couple of others. The main character is Christopher’s father Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola), who was referred to as a legend in the series, but never seen. Logical, since he was already dead when the show started.

We meet Dickie at the Jersey station, where his father Hollywood Dick, played by Ray Liotta, brings home a new Italian wife from the home country. She is into the handsome and charming Dickie immediately, which complicates the already difficult relationship between him and his mobbed-up father. And soon it leads to a dramatic moment early in the film, which is also none of the highlights of the movie. Both Nivola and Liotta are terrific in their roles. For Liotta, a double role that is; he also plays Dick’s twin brother Sally who’s in jail for life for whacking a made member.

Dickie is a troubled man obviously. He resembles his future son Christopher in many ways: he’s a compulsive law breaker, has an explosive temper and is a murderer. He is also searching. Dickie has the deep desire to do something good, something special to elevate his existence out of the mundane. But he doesn’t know how. Dickie is involved in the numbers rackets in Jersey together with a bunch of black criminals. In the first part of the movie, the 1967 Newark riots take place in which the black riotters, who are structurally discriminated against, face off against the police. In the second part of the film, Dickie’s black business partners get ambitions of their own which leads to a violent conflict in the Jersey underworld.

Besides having his own activities, Moltisanti is also deeply involved with the DiMeo crime family in Jersey whose members love him. But as we know from the show, in this volatile milieu inhabited by envious sociopaths, danger is always lurking. It is this world that young Tony Soprano (Michael Gandolfini) is inevitably drawn to. Dickie becomes his mentor, but on advice of Sally, whom he goes to visit in jail, he turns his back on him. Although the film was marketed as the story of how Tony becomes a gangster, there is not one defining moment through which this happens. This is really at the early beginning of his transformation. Dickie is certainly an inspiration for him with all his influence, his money and his women. But above all, Tony is just talented, and the invitation for him to join the Family is there.

The casting of Michael Gandolfini – son of the deceased James Gandolfini who became a legend by portraying Tony Soprano – works wonderfully well. He is obviously a gifted actor like his father, but the way he resembles his dad as Tony is uncanny at times. Especially during the scene in which he and his friends hijack an icecream truck and start handing out free ice creams. Another standout performance is given by Vera Farmiga as Tony’s batshit crazy mother Livia. The dynamic between her and Gandolfini is great, and the scene between her and Tony’s school counselor is genuinely touching.

Other positive points of Many Saints are the terrific sixties soundtrack, the dark humour and the many clever references to the show that fans will love. A point of critique is that although it feels cinematic, which The Sopranos also did by the way, the screenplay is written more like a long television episode. Storywise, a few cogs are missing and the ending comes too suddenly.

David Chase has expressed interest in doing another period piece about young Tony Soprano together with Terence Winter, who wrote some of the best Sopranos-episodes. Winter responded positively, so there might be another return to this universe Chase has created. But if it doesn’t, that’s okay by me. The Many Saints is a very enjoyable return to the show that still ranks as one of the best ever. The Many Saints can now be added as a great cinematic companion piece.

The Sopranos – 100 Greatest Moments: 40-31

40. Seven Souls

Episode: Members Only (SE6, EP1)
Characters: Agent Harris, Agent Goddard, Vito, Janice, Domenica, Bobby, Gene & Deane Pontecorvo, Finn, Meadow, Raymond Curto, A.J., Adriana, Carmela, Tony and Junior

“The ancient Egyptians postulated Seven Souls. Top soul, and the first to leave at the moment of death, is Ren, the Secret Name.” The sixth season kicks off in a brilliant way. Nearly a year has passed since the final episode and we get a snapshot of the characters’ lives at this point. During the sequence, a two-minute narration by William S. Burroughs is heard from the album ‘Seven Souls’ by ‘Material’. It’s the perfect mood setter for the beginning of the end.

39. The Strong Silent Type

Episode: Pilot (SE1, EP1)
Characters: Tony and Dr. Melfi

In one of the first therapy sessions Tony has with Dr. Melfi, the subject of depression comes up for the very first time. Tony obviously has feelings of depression, but he has another problem. In his culture, this therapy shit doesn’t go down. “Whatever happened to Gary Cooper, the strong silent type?”, Tony asks Melfi. “That was an American! He wasn’t in touch with his feelings; he just did what he had to do.”
But Tony doesn’t have much of a choice. Since the ducks left, he does feel depressed. A combination of therapy and Prozac will now have to help him be a happier gangster. “The ducks that preceded your passing out”, Melfi tries. “Let’s talk about them”. Tony walks away. Yet this is definitely the moment when a new door – the door of psychiatry – is opened for Tony.

38. Confession

Episode: College (SE1, EP5)
Characters: Carmela and Father Phil Intintola

The episode ‘College’ teaches us a lot about the main characters. While Tony is killing rats in Maine, Carmela has therapy of her own. She confesses to Father Phil that she has allowed evil in her house. She is not at peace with herself. How can she be when she is living with a monster? In this early stage of The Sopranos it is still a possibility that Carmela would take action and leave Tony, the only right thing she can do. But the church is giving her an alibi not to. Divorce is deemed wrong, so she chooses the easy life of sin. This dilemma makes Carmela’s struggle all the more interesting.

37. The Sign

Episode: Fortunate Son (SE3, EP3)
Characters: Tony, Paulie, Silvio, Christopher, Bobby, Furio, Patsy Parisi, Raymond Curto and Eugene Pontecorvo

Christopher was warned before when he briefly visited hell; stay out of the Mafia. He chose to stick with Tony anyway leading to this moment. At his making ceremony he sees a raven sitting on the windowpane outside. This is definitely a bad omen. When you see the picture of St. Peter burn in his hand you know for sure; this is gonna end badly. Great use of symbolism! Another interesting aspect of this scene is that Eugene Pontecorvo is getting made as well and Tony says; “once you enter this family, there’s no getting out.” This will come back in Season 6 when Eugene finds out the hard way Tony wasn’t joking.

36. The Dream is Gone

Episode: Kennedy and Heidi (SE6, EP18)
Characters: Christopher, Tony, Kennedy and Heidi

David Chase likes to mess with his audience’s expectations. He kills off Christopher, probably the second most important character of the series, in an entirely unexpected moment. Everybody knew that sooner or later he would have to go, but surely this would happen at the end of a long dramatic episode and in a very dramatic way. Now, he goes in the beginning of an episode and in a very silent way. Still, it is a pretty harrowing scene. Chance provides Tony with the opportunity to rid himself of a ‘weakling’ who had become a liability, and – predatory as he is – he takes it. The dream really is gone now. What did you expect? Christopher was listening to the soundtrack of ‘The Departed’.

35. The Involuntary Cliff Dive

Episode: Pax Soprana (SE1, EP6)
Characters: Mikey Palmice, Joseph ‘Joey Eggs’ Marino and Rusty Irish

This is a brutal moment in the series to once again remind the audience that they are watching sociopaths at work. Junior has just been made Caesar, and he is immediately (mis)using his power. In this scene, Junior’s soldiers kill dope peddler Rusty Irish, because he sold designed drugs to Junior’s tailor’s grandson, who consequently killed himself by jumping off Patterson Falls. The killers are visibly having a blast when they throw the terrified dealer off the bridge.

34. Cultural Warfare

Episode: Whitecaps (SE4, EP13)
Characters: Alan Sapinsly an Trish Reinhold-Sapinsly

In ‘Whitecaps’, Tony bought a house called Whitecaps, but changed his mind due to his marital problems. The owner won’t pay him back his deposit, so what does he do? He sends two underlings to the guy’s house in his boat with the biggest speakers ever and they start playing Dean Martin all night. David Chase described this method of intimidation ‘cultural warfare’, because Martin is Italian. It is also the final scene of the fourth season. The overall message; Tony is still powerful, but his private life is all messed-up.

33. Being Boss? Don’t Think So

Episode: Stage 5 (SE6, EP14)
Characters: Tony and Little Carmine

This is a crucial scene in the final season. Tony is trying to persuade Little Carmine to take the top spot, because he hates the current New York boss Doc Santoro. But Carmine, who was always mocked for his lack of brains, is the only one of these characters who made the right choice in life. He turns down Tony’s offer, because he is enjoying life with his wife and kids. This contrasts beautifully with Johnny Sack, who is in prison and can’t even touch his family members. Or with Tony, who is always stressed out like hell. Little Carmine really is smelling the roses.

32. The Real Soprano

Episode: Army of One (SE3, EP13)
Characters: Tony, Carmela, Meadow, A.J., Junior, Silvio, Gabriella Dante, Bobby, Johnny, Ginny Sacrimoni, Christopher, Adriana, Patsy, Furio, Artie, Charmaine Bucco and Janice

Shitfaced or not, who ever knew Junior could sing like that? With the beautiful ‘Ungrateful Heart’, he provides a very fitting closing to the excellent third season. Look out for that moment where the drunken Meadow crosses the street, it seems visually related to the parallel parking scene in the final episode.

31. Square One

Episode: Cold Cuts (SE5, EP10)
Characters: Tony, Bobby, Janice, Sophia and Bobby Jr.

This is a real low for Tony. Janice has, for the first time in the series, done something brave to improve herself. She went to anger management class and is now successfully dealing with minor irritations. Tony can’t stand the new and improved Janice, so he starts to provoke her in the cruellest way he can find. “What’s French-Canadian for ‘I grew up without a mother?’ Sacrebleu! Where is mi mama?” Janice explodes and threatens Tony with a fork. He leaves satisfied. The Kinks ‘I’m not like Everybody Else’ plays over the end credits.

My Sopranos Obsession: Final Analysis

By Jeppe Kleyngeld

In 1999, a mobster walked into a psychiatrist’s office and changed television history forever. The Sopranos was a revolution because it taught us that television can be just as good as cinema. Many of the 86 episodes that would eventually be produced are as brilliant as the best five star movies.

The show’s creator, David Chase (an Italian-American originally named DeCesare), wanted to achieve a number of things with the show. It had to be entertaining; he and his friends would have to enjoy it. It had to be set and filmed in the state he grew up in: New Jersey. And it would have to feature local Italian-American actors to make the portrayals as real as possible. Thematically, the show was mostly about realising the American dream and achieving happiness in the modern era. A time in which many Americans feel that the best is over.

At the centre of the Sopranos-universe Chase placed a character that might never be surpassed in how three-dimensional, how larger-than-life and how monumental he would be written and performed. The late James Gandolfini made Tony Soprano the anti-hero of all anti-heroes, and the most memorable lead for any tv-show before or since. James Gandolfini really delivers a Marlon Brando/Vito Corleone kind of performance. The beauty is: this is 86 episodes, so the depth he is able to create for this character is nothing less than astonishing.

Chase had always been a big fan of gangster movies like The Godfather, GoodFellas and the old James Cagney classics, and decided it would be interesting if the main character – originally named Tommy Soprano – would be a New Jersey wiseguy. This had never been done before. Gangster films are mostly set in New York, L.A., or Chicago, so this would be a big differentiator of the show. The Jersey suburbs and wastelands would form a very interesting canvas against which the characters would perform their outrageous, damning and often hideous acts. Beyond every envelope Tony receives from one of his underlings, there is a story of pain and suffering. Like the time when mobster Paulie suffocates an old lady with a pillow to get his hands on some cash.

Not only would the main character be a mobster, he would be a mobster in therapy. Tony starts going there from the pilot onwards to deal with panic attacks, a condition that resulted from growing up with a wiseguy father and batshit crazy mother. Chase’s own mother, a terribly negative and dysfunctional woman, formed the inspiration for Tony’s mother Livia. Fantastically portrayed by Nancy Marchand, Livia would become the most famous villainous mother character in television history. She would also be key to one of most incredible storylines of the show, the one in which Livia – together with Tony’s uncle Junior – tries to have her own son whacked for putting her in a nursing home. This is a comedy. But a very intelligent one.

It is no surprise that The Sopranos instantly became my favorite tv-show ever, if you know that GoodFellas is ever since its release my all-time favorite movie. The Sopranos is – in a way – 86 episodes of GoodFellas-style quality viewing. But it is by no means a rip-off. What the two productions have in common is that they portray the lifestyle of the street level wiseguy. And in both cases it becomes quickly apparent that there is nothing remotely glamourous about these lifestyles. The Soprano family in New Jersey make their money by offering ‘protection’ to businesses (mostly the garbage industry) against other gangsters looking to rip them off. They also lend money to gambling addicts at ridiculous interest rates. And they always make their money through (the threat of) violence.

Mobsters are capable of this vicious behaviour because they lack empathy. They don’t mind ruining a guy’s life or murdering him if that can make them a quick buck and they can get away with it. It is this psychological aspect of the gangster’s life that gets a lot of attention in The Sopranos and it’s fascinatingly done. As an audience, you’re spending a lot of time in the company of killers. The thing is, these guys are really funny and it’s extremely entertaining to see how they go about their daily business and what their private lives look like. Therefore as a viewer, you often forget what they are really about. And then, time and again, you’re confronted with savage behaviour and brutal violence often aimed at the unlucky and innocent.

The main characters of this show are thus all sociopaths capable of terrible deeds. Even their wives lack empathy. How else can they stand being around these guys for so long? The very first episode already shows us who these people really are. The young mob wannabe Christopher (Michael Imperioli), who wants to prove himself, murders a guy just to hang on to some stupid garbage scheme. And Tony purposefully hits a degenerate gambler with a Lexus and then savagely beats the crap out of him. The casual way this violence occurs should tell us: This is what these guys do, have been doing, and will forever be doing. It is really bad and will get worse. How can they cope with it and how should we as viewers? The show doesn’t judge, but just shows us these characters for what they are. We are the moral judges ourselves.

According to Michael Rispoli – who was in the running for playing Tony and ended up playing Jackie Aprile – the pilot script already had the brilliance built into it. He was therefore not surprised at all that it became a hit. There were so many ways you could go with this story. And he was right. Chase and his very talented writing and production team really went for the best cinematic quality they could accomplish.

After the pilot was shot in 1997, HBO ordered a full season which was shot in 1998 and premiered on the pay channel in 1999. It became a huge success. Audiences, in that first year 10 million viewers, loved it and became instantly hooked. The first season, which might very well be considered as a 13 episode mega movie, is an absolute masterpiece. In an early review in 1999, The New York Times wrote it may just be the greatest work of American popular culture of the last quarter century.

What was a very smart move by creator Chase – who had worked before as writer/producer on such shows as The Rockford Files and Northern Exposure – was to include elements that a wide audience would enjoy: Tony’s ‘normal’ family life with his wife Carmela (a fantastic Edie Falco), interactions with non-criminal locals in New Jersey, the modern Italian American lifestyle and the very realistic therapy scenes. But by making Tony a depressed arch criminal who enjoys beating and killing rivals, he added dimensions that make the show much more layered than the sitcom audiences were used to: The Sopranos is so rich and accomplished in its writing that you can watch it five times and still find it immensely enjoyable and discover new details every time. Even in what is considered one of the worst episodes of the series – ‘Christopher’- there are classic moments. Like the mobsters sitting on their asses in front of the pork store complaining about Native Americans. “When did we ever get anything without having to work our asses off?” says Vito dead serious. “I would like to sit on my ass all day, smoking mushrooms and collecting government checks”, says Bobbie. And this happens after the episode ‘No Show’ in which the crew gets paid for doing absolutely nothing whatsoever. These characters…..

After the extremely positive reactions to the first season, Chase and his teams went for an even better second season. When I viewed the Season 2 finale – ‘Funhouse’ – for the first time, I knew right away: this is an entirely different league than anything that I have seen before on the small screen. It can comfortably compete with the best of Scorsese, Kubrick, Tarantino and Coppola. Yes.

Rather than copying the proven formula of the previous season or successful episodes, they took the show in a new direction every time. The first season centered mostly around the power struggle between Tony and his uncertain uncle Junior (a brilliant turn by Dominic Chianese). It famously ended with Tony surviving an assasination attempt orchestrated by his mother and uncle, and then becoming the new boss of New Jersey. A major plotline in the second season is Tony’s friend and associatte Pussy’s betrayal to the feds. When his own best friends are forced to murder him in the final episode, it becomes ever more clear that they will have to make very costly sacrifices to maintain their lifestyles.

Season 3 starts with Livia’s death (due to the death of the actress who portrayed her) and the feds increasing their efforts to bring down Tony. Had Livia been around she would have played a major role in season 3. Instead, three new volatile characters are introduced: Jackie Jr., the dumb son of the deceased old boss of the Family Jackie Aprile, Ralphie (Joe Pantaliano), the craziest mobster ever, and Gloria (Annabelle Scoria), the new borderline love interest of Tony who can be considered as a temporary replacement for Livia (along with Tony’s crazy sister Janice who was introduduced in season 2).

Halfway through the season, the makers confront us with two shocking episodes. In ‘Employee of the Month’ – Tony’s psychiatrist Dr. Melfi, the only moral character apart from Charmaine Bucco, is brutally raped and due to mishandling of the evidence, the rapist is released. Rather than putting Tony on the rapist, Melfi stays true to her personal values. Not since The Godfather has the delivery of a simple “no” made such an impact. In ‘University’, like in ‘College’ in season 1, it is the audience that is getting schooled. In this incredibly hard to watch episode, we witness Ralphie beat a young prostitute – and mother to a young boy – to death because she insulted his ego. As disturbing as the act itself are the crew’s reactions to the violation (‘she was just a whore’ and ‘he disrespected the Bing’). These are the guys we enjoy so much watching. It’s like the relentless psychiatrist Dr. Kwakower tells Carmela halfway through the season: ‘You can never say you haven’t been told’.

The season ends with the hilarious ‘Pine Barrens’ in which Paulie and Christopher – the Maffia’s own Cheech and Chong – get lost in the woods. Two characters get a resolution this season. Tony uses mobster Patsy to end the affair with Gloria (“my face will be the last you’ll see, not Tony’s. We understand each other? It won’t be cinematic”) and Jackie Jr. gets killed after pulling an incredibly stupid robbery on a made guy’s card game. Villain Ralphie surprisingly survives the season, only to get killed off in the ninth episode of season 4 right after the makers manage to evoke sympathy for the character. That season’s final shock is the disintegration of the Soprano marriage. The final episode ‘Whitecaps’ features some of the greatest acting ever in a television show between James Gandolfini and Edie Falco who both won an Emmy Award for Best Lead in a Drama Series.

In the fifth season, things are really turning dark and the show – inevitably – becomes harder to watch. The season showed us that no one can escape Tony Soprano. Both Carmela and Tony’s cousin Tony B. (Steve Buscemi) find this out the hard way. The only character to ever pull this off is Furio, who fled the country in season 4 after losing respect for his boss because of the way he treated Carmela, the woman he fell in love with.

After Pussy had to go in season 2, another major character is killed off in episode 12 ‘Long Term Parking’. Christopher’s fiancée Adriana La Cerva (Drea de Matteo) was talked into cooperating with the feds in season 3 and in this shattering episode, she meets her tragic demise. Imperioli’s and De Matteo’s stellar acting earned them both an Emmy for this season. At the end of season 5, a war with the much more powerful New York Family is averted and its new boss Johnny Sack is pinched by the feds. Tony buys his way back into Carmela’s life by giving her a spec house. And finally, he murders his own cousin to appease the New York mob.

The first part of the final season starts off with a shock. Tony is shot by his demented uncle Junior and nearly dies. During his coma, he travels to another domain of existence in which he leads an alternative life as heating system salesman Kevin Finnerty. After his awakening, he briefly has a more positive outlook on life. But in this depraved world, we learn once again that no one, not even Tony himself, can escape it.

And so, the bulldozer Tony continues on his destructive path through Jersey leaving loads of misery (and corpses) in its path. “You’ve caused quite some suffering yourself, haven’t you?” Dr. Melfi confronts Tony at one point. But there is really no point in trying to get through to this narcissistic sociopath. No point whatsoever. At the end, Melfi realises this too and kicks him out of therapy. But not before he causes even more misery. Like his mother before him.

In Season 6 B – the final 9 episodes – Tony alienates even his closest friends and associates. Even more disturbingly, he becomes more and more like his evil mother. In the first episode ‘Sopranos Home Movies’, he enjoys telling his sister Janice a horrible story about a child drowning just to upset her (which succeeds perfectly). He also sends his brother-in-law Bobbie out to murder somebody just to get back at him for some petty beef. And he sinks even lower in episode 6 ‘Kennedy and Heidi’. In this very dark episode he suffocates his own nephew Christopher after a car crash. He may have had reasons to do so, it is still a definite damnation of his soul.

The final season doesn’t end with Tony searching for redemption like Michael Corleone in The Godfather: Part III. In fact, like Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller rightly observed in their terrific book ‘The Sopranos Sessions’, in the final scene it seems that everything that has transpired barely made a dent in this guy’s thick skull.

In the final season, everything is building towards that final moment in which Tony and his family are, like in the season 1 finale, in a restaurant (a final analysis of the ending can be found here). It is a quantum mechanical ending in the sense that it is all things at once. It is a death scene and not a death scene. There seems to be threats and everything seems to be cool. The family is together and not together (we never see Meadow enter). Tony got away with everything (Phil is dead), but is also in deep shit (Carlo is testifying). What will occur after the screen goes black? We can only ask ourselves. David Chase – the artist – said that he just wanted to show that life is precious and the ending can come for all of us at any time. Then he uses a quantum mechanical term: the probability that someone like Tony would get killed is of course much greater than the average person. What ending will be manifested? That is up to the viewer.

Life itself caught on to the ending in an ironic way when the ending for James Gandolfini indeed came out of nowhere. May he rest in peace. And so, the legendary show, that ended so legendary in 2007, gave us a real life shock six years later when Gandolfini departed.

It is now 2021 and the show is still ‘alive’ in every way. Two prominent actors of the series – Michael Imperioli and Steve Schirripa – started a podcast ‘Talking Sopranos’ which features many cast and crew members, including Lorraine Bracco, David Chase, Dominic Chianese, Steven van Zandt, Terence Winter and Vincent Pastore.

For those – like me – who still can’t get enough, this is a blessing. Even better, in October the long awaited prequel The Many Saints of Newark arrived in cinemas. Most television shows are quickly forgotten after release, but I am pretty confident that The Sopranos will be around for a very long time. Like the music of The Beatles or the plays of Shakespeare, it is a timeless piece of art.

In Talking Sopranos, Imperioli, Schirripa and many of their guests reflect on what a unique experience the making of this show has been for them. Never before or after, did they enjoy working on a production that much. What they describe is the magic that happened when this show got made. I immediately felt it when I started watching: this is something truly special. And now, 20 years later, I realise all the more that this was really a rare thing. That something comes together so well. Like with The Beatles, it was unbelievable that four musicians so talented found each other and were able to pull it off. In The Sopranos, the brilliant original vision of the creator found the perfect cast and collaborators to bring it to the screen, and – let’s not forget – the perfect platform in HBO to put it out there. I don’t expect to see anything like this anytime soon, but like The Beatles, I can always go back and revisit the series anytime and experience the magic once again.

 

The Sopranos Features: Introduction

By Jeppe Kleyngeld

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.