I’ve previously talked about how much I loved another TV show: Frasier. This post will deal with another jewel of TV entertainment: The Sopranos. Perhaps I should turn the topic of my favourite TV shows into a series of its own, but for the moment we’ll keep this subject as standalone posts.
Welcome to the family
The Sopranos is a TV show that ran six seasons between 1999 and 2007. It follows Tony Soprano, an Italian-American mobster, as he leads the DiMeo crime family and deals with both family and personal issues. Unlike other media that portrays criminals, The Sopranos presents Tony’s mostly sanitized versions of his problems through therapy sessions with a psychiatrist, as well as the real situations and issues.
Throughout the show’s run we see Tony’s kids grow older, Tony’s problems remain unresolved and the conflicts between rival gangs, crime families and within those families. We also witness Tony and his crew getting fatter and fatter, which along the booze, tobacco, and drugs may be a very roundabout way of referencing the fast and short lives that they are living.
The show excels at being both explicit and subtle when necessary. Sometimes being explicit works very well in terms of the violence and conflicts between characters, but the same can be said about being subtle. Given the show’s subject and Tony and his crew being aware of law enforcement being on their tail, speaking in double-entendres and in non-direct ways plays well in narrative terms and may be an accurate reflection of how mobsters speak.
The family man vs crime lord dichotomy is presented and dealt with in a believable way. The arguments that Tony has with his wife, Carmela, about his infidelity carry the added weight of her being aware that such arrangement came with marrying a mafioso. Just as important, Tony’s kids are not blind to the way their father makes a living, and while they lack what it takes to survive in Tony’s world, they are part of it and can’t really distance themselves from it. A similar theme is drawn when Tony tries to make friends outside of the garbage business, and his newfound associates keep asking and joking about what being in the mafia must be like. After all, Tony is not really in the Cosa Nostra, wink wink.
There are small details here and there that sometimes break the show’s flow or take the viewer out the experience. An insignificant example is how some guns don’t look or operate as their real counterparts. More important examples are the inter and intra politics of the crime families. Perhaps it’s just me not being a criminal, but I think it can be questioned whether criminal organizations would be willing to put up with that much nonsense from their leaders. Those problems work very well in a narrative sense, but in a realistic way things tend to break.
The show does suffer from one giant issue in terms of its plot. As we learn towards the end, Dr. Melfi, Tony’s psychiatrist, is unable to treat Tony since he’s ben bred and raised to be a professional criminal. Now, I’m not a psychiatrist, but I doubt that after years of therapy and no real progress, any self-respecting therapist would not consult the most up to date literature to understand what the problem really is. The show does make the point that therapy is nothing more than another criminal operation to professional criminals, but Melfi being unaware of this fact for several years makes her come across as incompetent despite running an otherwise successful practice.
As was announced earlier this year, a film prequel is being made with the title The Many Saints of Newark. Despite my many nonexistent contacts in the film industry, I haven’t been able to find out anything else about the film in terms of plot or events. Considering the time period and the characters that have been mentioned, some guesswork might be done by fans with lots of free time in their hands. I just hope it’s good and brings new things to those of us who enjoyed the showed many years ago and possibly any new fans. For now, though, I have nothing else to say.
I hope you enjoyed this post. See you next week!