The Sopranos (page 1)

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The Sopranos

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The Sopranos
Sopranos titlescreen.png
Genre Drama
Created by David Chase
Written by David Chase (30 episodes)
Terence Winter (25 episodes)
Robin Green (22 episodes)
Matthew Weiner (12 episodes)
and others
Directed by Tim Van Patten (20 episodes)
John Patterson (13 episodes)
Allen Coulter (12 episodes)
Alan Taylor (9 episodes)
and others
Starring James Gandolfini
Edie Falco
Michael Imperioli
Lorraine Bracco
Steven Van Zandt
and others
Opening theme "Woke Up This Morning" (Chosen One Mix) by
Alabama 3
Ending theme Various
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 6
No. of episodes 86 (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s) David Chase
Brad Grey
Robin Green (Seasons 2–5)
Mitchell Burgess (Seasons 2–5)
Terence Winter (Season 5–6, Part 2)
Matthew Weiner (Season 6, Part 2)
Editor(s) Sidney Wolinsky (32 episodes)
William B. Stich (25 episodes)
Conrad M. Gonzalez (22 episodes)
Location(s) New Jersey (primarily in Essex, Bergen, and Hudson counties)
Silvercup Studios
Cinematography Phil Abraham (47 episodes)
Alik Sakharov (38 episodes)
Camera setup Single camera
Running time 45–60 minutes
Original channel HBO
Picture format Film shown as NTSC or PAL (depending of the country)
480i/576i (SDTV)
720p/1080i (HDTV)
Audio format Stereo
Dolby Digital 5.1
Original run January 10, 1999 – June 10, 2007
External links

The Sopranos is an American television drama created by David Chase. The series revolves around the New Jersey-based Italian-American mobster Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) and the difficulties he faces as he tries to balance the conflicting requirements of his home life and the criminal organization he heads. Those difficulties are often highlighted through his ongoing professional relationship with psychiatrist Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco). The show features Tony's family members and Mafia associates in prominent roles and story arcs, most notably his wife Carmela (Edie Falco) and his cousin and protégé Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli).

After a pilot of the series was ordered in April 1998, the series premiered on the premium cable network HBO in the United States on January 10, 1999, and ended its original run of six seasons and 86 episodes on June 10, 2007. The series then went through syndication and has been broadcast on A&E in the United States and internationally.[1] The Sopranos was produced by HBO, Chase Films, and Brad Grey Television. It was primarily filmed at Silvercup Studios, New York City, and on location in New Jersey. The executive producers throughout the show's run were Chase, Brad Grey, Robin Green, Mitchell Burgess, Ilene S. Landress, Terence Winter, and Matthew Weiner.

The Sopranos has been regarded by many as the greatest television series of all time.[2][3][4] The series also won a multitude of awards, including Peabody Awards for its first two seasons, twenty-one Emmy Awards and five Golden Globe Awards. A staple of 2000s American popular culture, the series has been the subject of critical analysis, controversy, and parody, and has spawned books,[5] a video game,[6] high-charting soundtrack albums, and a large amount of assorted merchandise.[7] Several members of the show's cast and crew who were previously largely unknown to the public have had successful careers after The Sopranos.[8][9][10][11] In 2013, the Writers Guild of America named it the best-written TV series of all time.[12]



Before creating The Sopranos, David Chase had worked as a television producer for more than 20 years.[13][14] He had been employed as a staff writer/producer for several television series (including Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Switch, The Rockford Files, I'll Fly Away, and Northern Exposure[15][16]) and had co-created one short-lived original series, Almost Grown, in 1988.[17][18] He made his television directorial debut in 1986 with the "Enough Rope for Two" episode of The New Alfred Hitchcock Presents. He also directed episodes of Almost Grown and I'll Fly Away in 1988 and 1992, respectively. In 1996, he wrote and directed the television film The Rockford Files: Punishment and Crime.[16] He served as showrunner for I'll Fly Away and Northern Exposure in the 1990s. Chase won his first Emmy Award in 1978 for his work on The Rockford Files (shared with fellow producers) and his second for writing the 1980 television film Off the Minnesota Strip.[19][20] By 1996, he was a coveted showrunner.[21]

"I want to tell a story about this particular man. I want to tell the story about the reality of being a mobster—or what I perceive to be the reality of life in organized crime. They aren't shooting each other every day. They sit around eating baked ziti and betting and figuring out who owes who money. Occasionally, violence breaks out—more often than it does in the banking world, perhaps."

David Chase, creator and showrunner of The Sopranos[22]

The story of The Sopranos was initially conceived as a feature film about "a mobster in therapy having problems with his mother."[17] After some input from his manager, Lloyd Braun, Chase decided to adapt it into a television series.[17] In 1995, Chase signed a development deal with production company Brillstein-Grey and wrote the original pilot script.[14][19][23]

Drawing heavily from his personal life and his experiences growing up in New Jersey, Chase has stated that he tried to "apply [his own] family dynamic to mobsters."[22] For instance, the tumultuous relationship between series protagonist Tony Soprano and his mother, Livia, is partially based on Chase's relationship with his own mother.[22] Chase was also in therapy at the time and modeled the character of Dr. Jennifer Melfi after his own psychiatrist.[24] Chase had been fascinated by organized crime and the Mafia from an early age, witnessing such people growing up, and having been raised on classic gangster films like The Public Enemy and the crime series The Untouchables. The series is partly inspired by the Boiardo family, a prominent New Jersey organized crime family when Chase was growing up, and partly on New Jersey's DeCavalcante Family.[25] Chase has mentioned American playwrights Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams as influences on his and the show's writing and Italian director Federico Fellini as an important influence on the show's cinematic style.[21][26][27] The series was named after high school friends of his.[13][24] Like the majority of the characters on the show, Chase is Italian-American. His original family name is DeCesare.[28]

"I said to myself, this show is about a guy who's turning 40. He's inherited a business from his dad. He's trying to bring it into the modern age. He's got all the responsibilities that go along with that. He's got an overbearing mom that he's still trying to get out from under. Although he loves his wife, he's had an affair. He's got two teenage kids, and he's dealing with the realities of what that is. He's anxious; he's depressed; he starts to see a therapist because he's searching for the meaning of his own life. I thought: the only difference between him and everybody I know is he's the Don of New Jersey."

Chris Albrecht, president of HBO Original Programming, 1995–2002.[14][29]

Chase and producer Brad Grey, then of Brillstein-Grey, pitched The Sopranos to several networks; Fox showed interest but passed on it after Chase presented them the pilot script.[23] Chase and Grey eventually pitched the show to Chris Albrecht, at the time president of HBO Original Programming, who decided to finance the shooting of a pilot episode.[14][19]

The pilot episode—originally referred to as "Pilot" but renamed to "The Sopranos" on the DVD release—was shot in 1997;[30] Chase directed it himself.[16] After the pilot was finished and shown to the HBO executives, the show was put on hold for several months. During this time, Chase considered asking HBO for additional funding to shoot 45 more minutes of footage and release The Sopranos as a feature film. In December 1997, HBO decided to produce the series and ordered 12 more episodes for a 13-episode season.[14][19][31] The show premiered on HBO on January 10, 1999 with the pilot episode. The Sopranos was the second hour-long television drama series produced by HBO, the first being the prison drama Oz.


Like the characters they portray on the show, many of the actors on The Sopranos are Italian-American. Many cast members had appeared together in films and television series before joining the cast of The Sopranos. The series shares a total of 27 actors with the 1990 Martin Scorsese gangster film, Goodfellas, including main cast members Lorraine Bracco, Michael Imperioli, and Tony Sirico. Eight Sopranos actors also appeared in the 1999 comedy Mickey Blue Eyes. Several Sopranos actors have also appeared on Law & Order.[32]

Cast members James Gandolfini (right) and Tony Sirico (left) visit with a member of the U.S. Air Force during a USO visit to Southwest Asia.

The main cast was put together through a process of auditions and readings. Actors often did not know whether Chase liked their performances or not.[14] Michael Imperioli, who beat out several actors for the part of Christopher Moltisanti, recalls "He's got a poker face, so I thought he wasn't into me, and he kept giving me notes and having me try it again, which often is a sign that you're not doing it right. I thought, I'm not getting this. So he said, 'Thank you,' and I left. I didn't expect to hear back. And then they called." Chase also said he wanted Imperioli because he had been in Goodfellas.[14] James Gandolfini was invited to audition for the part of Tony Soprano after casting director Susan Fitzgerald saw a short clip of his performance in the 1993 film True Romance.[14] Lorraine Bracco, who had played the role of mob wife Karen Hill in Goodfellas, was originally asked to play the role of Carmela Soprano. She took the role of Dr. Jennifer Melfi instead because she wanted to try something different and felt the part of the highly educated Dr. Melfi would be more of a challenge for her.[33] Tony Sirico, who has a criminal background,[34] signed on to play Paulie Walnuts as long as his character was not to be a "rat".[35] Chase invited musician "Little Steven" Van Zandt (known as the guitarist of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band) to audition for a part in his series after seeing him live at the 1997 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ceremony and being impressed with his appearance and presence. Van Zandt, who had never acted before, originally auditioned for the role of Tony Soprano but felt the role should go to an experienced actor.[36] Van Zandt eventually agreed to star on the show as mob consigliere Silvio Dante and his real-life spouse Maureen was cast as his on-screen wife, Gabriella.[37][38][39]

With the exception of Oscar nominee Bracco (Goodfellas), Dominic Chianese (The Godfather Part II, along with stage work) and Emmy-winner Nancy Marchand (Lou Grant), the cast of the debut season of the series consisted of largely unknown actors. After the breakthrough success of the show, many cast members were noted for their acting ability and received mainstream attention for their performances.[14][40] Subsequent seasons saw some well-known actors (Joe Pantoliano, Robert Loggia, Steve Buscemi, Frank Vincent[41]) join the starring cast along with well-known actors in recurring roles such as Peter Bogdanovich, John Heard,[42] Robert Patrick,[43] Peter Riegert,[44] Annabella Sciorra,[41] and David Strathairn.[45] Several well-known actors appeared in just one or two episodes, such as Charles S. Dutton,[46] Ken Leung,[47] Ben Kingsley, Lauren Bacall, Daniel Baldwin, Tim Kang, Elias Koteas, Annette Bening, Sydney Pollack and Burt Young.[48]


Series creator and executive producer David Chase served as showrunner and head writer for the production of all six seasons of the show. He was deeply involved with the general production of every episode and is noted for being a very controlling, demanding and specific producer.[13][20] In addition to writing or co-writing 2–7 episodes per season, Chase would oversee all the editing, consult with episode directors, give actors character motivation, approve casting choices and set designs and do extensive but uncredited re-writes of episodes written by other writers.[40][49][50] Brad Grey served as executive producer alongside Chase, but had no creative input on the show.[51] Many members of the creative team behind The Sopranos were handpicked by Chase, some being old friends and colleagues of his; others were selected after interviews conducted by producers of the show.[14][41]

Many of the show's writers worked in television prior to joining the writing staff of The Sopranos. Writing team and married couple Robin Green and Mitchell Burgess, who worked on the series as writers and producers from the first to the fifth season, had previously worked with Chase on Northern Exposure.[52] Terence Winter, who joined the writing staff during the production of the second season and served as executive producer from season five onwards, practiced law for two years before deciding to pursue a career as a screenwriter. He eventually caught the attention of Chase through writer Frank Renzulli.[21][53] Matthew Weiner, who served as staff writer and producer for the show's fifth and sixth seasons, wrote a spec script for the series Mad Men in 2000. The script was passed on to Chase who, after reading it, was so impressed that he immediately offered Weiner a job as a writer for The Sopranos.[54] Cast members Michael Imperioli and Toni Kalem, who portray Christopher Moltisanti and Angie Bonpensiero, respectively, also wrote episodes for the show. Imperioli wrote five episodes of seasons two through five and Kalem wrote one episode of season five.[55][56] Other writers the show employed throughout its run include Frank Renzulli, Todd A. Kessler (known as the co-creator of Damages), writing team Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider (creators of Easy Money) and Lawrence Konner, who co-created Almost Grown with Chase in 1988. In total, 20 writers or writing teams (22 persons) are credited with writing episodes of The Sopranos. Of these, two (Tim Van Patten and Maria Laurino) receive a single story credit and eight are credited with writing a sole episode. The most prolific writers of the series were Chase (30 credited episodes, including story credits), Winter (25 episodes), Green and Burgess (22 episodes), Weiner (12 episodes) and Renzulli (9 episodes).

Before directing The Sopranos, many of the directors had worked on other television series and in independent films.[41] The most frequent directors of the series were Tim Van Patten (20 episodes), John Patterson (13 episodes), Allen Coulter (12 episodes), and Alan Taylor (9 episodes), all of whom have a background in television.[41] Recurring cast members Steve Buscemi and Peter Bogdanovich also directed episodes of the series intermittently.[57][58] Chase directed two episodes himself, the pilot episode and the series finale.[59] Both episodes were photographed by the show's original director of photography Alik Sakharov; he later alternated episodes with Phil Abraham.[60] The show's photography and directing is noted for its feature film-quality.[61][62] This look was achieved by Chase collaborating with Sakharov: "David wanted a look that would have its own two feet. [...] From the pilot, we would sit down with the whole script and break the scenes down into shots. That's what you do with feature films."[60]


The Sopranos is noted for its eclectic music selections and has received considerable critical attention for its effective use of previously recorded songs.[63][64][65][66] Chase personally selected all of the show's music with producer Martin Bruestle and music editor Kathryn Dayak, sometimes also consulting Steven Van Zandt.[63] The music was usually selected once the production and editing of an episode was completed, but on occasion sequences were filmed to match preselected pieces of music.[49]

The show's opening theme is "Woke Up This Morning" (Chosen One Mix), written by, remixed and performed by British band Alabama 3.[67] With few exceptions, a different song plays over the closing credits of each episode.[65] Many songs are repeated multiple times through an episode, such as "Living on a Thin Line" by The Kinks in the season three episode "University" and "Glad Tidings" by Van Morrison in the season five finale "All Due Respect".[65] Other songs are heard several times throughout the series. A notable example is "Con te partirò", performed by Italian singer Andrea Bocelli,[68] which plays several times in relation to the character of Carmela Soprano. While the show utilizes a wealth of previously recorded music, it is also notable for its lack of originally composed incidental music, compared to other television programs.[69]

Two soundtrack albums containing music from the series have been released. The first, titled The Sopranos: Music from the HBO Original Series, was released in 1999. It contains selections from the show's first two seasons and reached #54 on the U.S. Billboard 200.[70][71] A second soundtrack compilation, titled The Sopranos: Peppers & Eggs: Music from the HBO Original Series, was released in 2001. This double-disc album contains songs and selected dialogue from the show's first three seasons.[72] It reached #38 on the U.S. Billboard 200.[73]

Sets and locations

On the set of The Sopranos in Kearny, New Jersey during the filming of the series finale, "Made in America". The scene being filmed is set outside the fictional meat market Satriale's, a frequent hangout for the mobsters of the DiMeo crime family within the context of the series. The building posing as Satriale's was rented by HBO for the purpose of filming The Sopranos; exterior and interior scenes were filmed on location. Visible in the picture are actors Tony Sirico (sitting by the table) and James Gandolfini (sixth from right) and series creator and showrunner David Chase (fifth from right). Chase also wrote and directed the episode.

The majority of the exterior scenes taking place in New Jersey were filmed on location, with the majority of the interior shots—including most indoor shots of the Soprano residence, the back room of the strip club Bada Bing!, and Dr. Melfi's psychiatrist's office—filmed at Silvercup Studios in New York City.[40]

The pork store, a frequent hangout for the mobsters on the show, was in the pilot episode known as Centanni's Meat Market, an actual butchery in Elizabeth, New Jersey.[74] After the series was picked up by HBO, the producers leased a building with a store front in Kearny, New Jersey.[74] For the remainder of the production period, this building served as the shooting location for scenes outside and inside the pork store, now renamed Satriale's.[74] After the series ended, the building was demolished.[75]

Bada Bing!, a strip club owned and operated by the character Silvio Dante on the show, is an actual strip club on Route 17 in Lodi, New Jersey.[74] Exteriors and interiors (except for the back room) were shot on location.[74] The club is called Satin Dolls and was an existing business before the show started.[76] The club continued to operate during the eight years the show was filmed there. As such, a business arrangement was worked out with the owner.[76] Locations manager Mark Kamine recalls that the owner was "very gracious" as long as the shooting did not "conflict with his business time."[76] Scenes set at the restaurant Vesuvio, owned and operated in the series by character Artie Bucco, were in the first episode filmed at a restaurant called Manolo's located in Elizabeth. After the destruction of Vesuvio within the context of the series, Artie opened a new restaurant called Nuovo Vesuvio; exterior scenes set there were filmed at an Italian restaurant called Punta Dura located in Long Island City.[74] All the exterior and some interior shots of the Soprano residence were filmed on location at a private residence in North Caldwell, New Jersey.[74]

Title sequence

In the title squence, Tony Soprano is seen emerging from the Lincoln Tunnel and entering the New Jersey Turnpike. Numerous landmarks in and around Newark and Elizabeth, New Jersey, are shown.[77] The sequence ends with Tony pulling into the driveway of his suburban home. Chase has said that the goal of the title sequence was to show that this particular Mafia show was about New Jersey, as opposed to New York, where most similar dramas have been set.[78]

In the first three seasons, between Tony leaving the tunnel and entering the Turnpike, an image of the World Trade Center towers can be seen in his side rear-view mirror as Tony leaves Lincoln Tunnel to enter the Turnpike. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, this shot was removed, beginning with the show's fourth season.[79]

In a 2010 issue of TV Guide, the show’s opening title sequence ranked #10 on a list of TV's top 10 credits sequences, as selected by readers.[80]

Cast and characters

The Sopranos features a large cast of characters throughout its six-season run. Some only appear in certain seasons, while others appear for the entire series. All characters were created by David Chase, unless otherwise noted.

Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) was the protagonist of the series. Tony was a capo of the New Jersey-based DiMeo crime family at the beginning of the series and the acting boss starting in season two. He was also the patriarch of the Soprano household. Throughout the series, Tony struggles to balance his family life and his career in the Mafia.[81] Because he is prone to depression, Tony seeks treatment from psychiatrist Dr. Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco) in the show's first episode. Jennifer is a divorced Italian-American woman with a son in college. She treats Tony to the best of her ability despite the fact that they frequently clash over various issues. Jennifer is usually thoughtful, rational and humane, which contrasts with Tony's personality. Tony and Jennifer also harbor sexual feelings for each other, although Jennifer never openly shows or tries to act on it.[82]

Adding to Tony's complicated life is his relationship with his wife Carmela (Edie Falco),[83] which is strained by his constant infidelity and her struggle to reconcile the reality of Tony's business with the material rewards it brings her. Both have a stressful relationship with their two children, the intelligent but rebellious Meadow (Jamie-Lynn Sigler)[84] and troubled underachiever Anthony Junior (Robert Iler),[85] whose everyday teenage issues are further complicated by their knowledge of their father's criminal activities.

The starring cast includes members of Tony's extended family, including his mother, Livia (Nancy Marchand);[86] sister, Janice (Aida Turturro);[87] uncle Corrado "Junior" Soprano (Dominic Chianese), nominal boss of the crime family following the death of then-acting boss Jackie Aprile, Sr;[88] cousin Tony Blundetto (Steve Buscemi);[89] and Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli),[90] often referred to as Tony's nephew but actually a cousin by marriage. Both Livia and Janice are shrewd manipulators with emotional problems of their own. Tony's Uncle Junior is involved in his criminal organization and their family bond ties with their criminal ambitions. Both his cousin Tony and nephew Christopher are also involved with his "other" family and their actions are a further source of conflict. Christopher struggles with drug addiction and alcoholism, and a desire to gain respect, while Tony Blundetto hopes to "go straight" but has a violent streak.

Tony's close circle within the DiMeo crime family includes Silvio Dante (Steven Van Zandt),[91] Paulie Gualtieri (Tony Sirico)[92] and Salvatore "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero (Vincent Pastore).[93] Silvio is Tony's consigliere and best friend. Paulie and Big Pussy are longtime soldiers and close allies who have worked with Tony and his father; Paulie soon becomes capo and eventually is further promoted to underboss. Also in Tony's criminal organization are Patsy Parisi (Dan Grimaldi)[94] and Furio Giunta (Federico Castelluccio).[95] Patsy is a quiet soldier with a head for figures. Furio, imported muscle from Italy, is Tony's bodyguard and enforcer.

Other significant characters in the DiMeo family include Bobby "Bacala" Baccalieri (Steven R. Schirripa),[96] Richie Aprile (David Proval),[97] Ralph Cifaretto (Joe Pantoliano),[98] Eugene Pontecorvo (Robert Funaro)[99] and Vito Spatafore (Joseph R. Gannascoli).[100] Bobby is a subordinate of Junior's whom Tony initially bullies but later accepts into his inner circle. Ralph is a clever, ambitious top-earner but his arrogance and tendency to be obnoxious, disrespectful and very violent make Tony resentful. Richie Aprile is released from prison in season two and quickly makes waves in the organization. Pontecorvo is a young soldier who becomes a made man alongside Christopher. Spatafore works his way up through the ranks to become top earner of the Aprile Crew but is secretly homosexual.

Friends of the Soprano family include Herman "Hesh" Rabkin (Jerry Adler),[101] Adriana La Cerva (Drea de Matteo),[102] Rosalie Aprile (Sharon Angela),[103] Angie Bonpensiero (Toni Kalem), along with Artie (John Ventimiglia)[104] and Charmaine Bucco (Kathrine Narducci).[105] Hesh is an adviser and friend to Tony, and served in this role under Tony's father. Adriana is Christopher's longtime girlfriend; the two have a tempestuous relationship. Rosalie is the widow of the previous DiMeo boss and a close friend of Carmela. Angie is Salvatore Bonpensiero's wife who later goes into business for herself. Artie and Charmaine are school friends of the Sopranos and owners of the popular restaurant Vesuvio. Charmaine wishes to have no association with Tony and his crew due to his criminal activities, and often has to insist because Artie—a law-abiding and hard-working man—is drawn to Tony's way of life.

John "Johnny Sack" Sacramoni (Vince Curatola),[106] Phil Leotardo (Frank Vincent)[107] and "Little" Carmine Lupertazzi, Jr. (Ray Abruzzo)[108] are all significant characters from the New York-based Lupertazzi crime family, which shares a good amount of its business with the Soprano organization. Although the Lupertazzis' and DiMeos' interests are often at odds, Tony maintains a cordial, business-like relationship with Johnny Sack, preferring to make deals that benefit both families. His second-in-command and eventual successor, Phil Leotardo, is less friendly and is harder for Tony to do business with. Little Carmine is the son of the family's first boss and vies for power with the others.


Continued on page 2

Author:Bling King
Published:Aug 13th 2013
Modified:Aug 13th 2013
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