“The Sopranos” debuted on HBO on January 10, 1999, and concluded on June 10, 2007. It’s hard to believe it has been a full 20 years since we first met Tony Soprano and family. And it has now been a full 6 years since the June 19, 2013 death of James Gandolfini, who played the iconic main character. But like the fine red wine, Tony enjoyed at so many…shall we say…affairs…the memories and legacy of “the family” only grow richer over the years.
Who knew “The Sopranos” would become a pioneer in transforming so many landscapes…television shows in general, big screen vs. small screen vs. theater talent, and perhaps most impactful, cable and the eventual birth of streaming services with original programming. HBO was traditionally known as a movie channel–your own personal Home Box Office. But as the way people watched movies changed, HBO had the foresight to adapt and diversify, and started creating original television series programs. It was a huge gamble, but it proved to be a jackpot.
The first original television series HBO unveiled was the prison drama “Oz,” and it earned impressive credibility and success. It also built up trust with viewers and demonstrated that television didn’t have to be all about the big three: ABC, NBC, and CBS. And it laid the foundation for the next step…enter…”The Sopranos,” the second HBO original series. It was a hit from the beginning and carved out a new and lucrative niche. Cable television programs were now respected forms of art–an entire movement of which viewers, actors, and the entire entertainment industry wanted to be a part.
If you were one of the many who watched or who now binge (thanks to syndicated streaming) “The Sopranos,” you develop a relationship with the plotlines, the characters, the soundtrack. If you watched in real time during the original broadcasts, each week, you were left hanging from a cliff where you did not know how you could possibly survive (or if your favorite character would survive) until the next episode.
Obviously the show was centered around the mob lifestyle, but the storytelling was done in a transcendent way and about topics to which so many of us can relate, regardless of birthplace, occupation, ethnicity, financial status: family, infidelity, drug abuse, depression, mental health, greed, betrayal, crime, grief, weddings, relationships, love.
As the characters struggled and developed, we watched them grow up and grow old right before our eyes. On a recent episode of the “$100,000 Pyramid” game show, Jamie-Lynn Sigler (who played the role of Meadow Soprano) and Steve Schirripa (who played the role of Bobby Baccalieri) reminisced about their experiences on “The Sopranos.”
Steve Schirripa explained that for his character on the show, he originally wore a fat suit, but as the years went by, he no longer needed the extra padding–perhaps too much of that delicious Italian cuisine! Jamie-Lynn Sigler shared how, when she would be walking out in public, people would call out to “Meadow” begging her to take their advice about her college choice. The “College” episode was rated as the best of the series by TIME magazine, and was ranked second on TV Guide’s list of Top 100 Episodes of All Time.
Don’t Stop Believin’ in the longevity of “The Sopranos:” Quite literally carrying on the “family” tradition, Michael Gandolfini, son of the late James Gandolfini, has been cast as young Tony Soprano in prequel movie. “The Many Saints of Newark” is set to be released in September 2020. “The Sopranos” creator David Chase hand-selected Michael for the role and is co-writing the screenplay. And to that, the Grico’s family says, “Salute!”