Is THE SOPRANOS the greatest television series of all time?

— January 10, 2019

By BILL HARRIS Special to BellMediaPR Vanity Fair calls it “one of the masterpieces of American popular culture” and it topped Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest TV Shows of All Time. Today marks the 20th anniversary of the premiere of HBO’s THE SOPRANOS.  The first episode of the series, appropriately titled “The Sopranos”, debuted on Jan. 10, 1999 and there’s no better way to re-live television magic than by binge-watching all six heart-stopping seasons of David Chase’s groundbreaking drama, streaming now on Crave. It has been just long enough that even if you were a devoted fan of THE SOPRANOS in its original run, you may not have seen it in quite a while and you’re ready to be enthralled by it again. As well, with the final episode having aired almost a dozen years ago, on June 10, 2007, there’s an entire generation of TV watchers who have come of age since then and should be primed to see what all the fuss is about. Younger viewers may find this hard to believe, but there was a time on TV when the notion of the “antihero” was not so common. These days it’s a television staple. But prior to THE SOPRANOS, most TV heroes were exactly that: Heroes. Nothing less, but nothing more. Then along came Tony. A complicated mafia boss with enough psychological baggage to fill multiple airplanes, we had never seen a character like Tony Soprano, played so brilliantly by the late great James Gandolfini, before. Sometimes you felt sorry for him; at other times he was so cold and cruel that it literally chilled your blood. But THE SOPRANOS wasn’t just a mob drama, it also was a workplace drama and a family drama, all rolled into one. Iconic characters such as Carmela (Edie Falco), Silvio (Steven Van Zandt), Paulie (Tony Sirico), Junior (Dominic Chianese), Christopher (Michael Imperioli) and Dr. Melfi (Lorraine Bracco) provided a texture to this fictional world that was unusually deep for its era and is still mesmerizing today. You’ve heard people use the term “the golden age of TV” to describe all the great shows that are available today? Well, this is where it started, folks. THE SOPRANOS changed the landscape, exponentially upping the ante on what quality television could be, and what audiences would expect. With THE SOPRANOS in the news this week because of the 20th anniversary, Chase has been providing some details about his upcoming prequel project, a feature film titled The Many Saints of Newark. Based on a script by Chase and led by longtime SOPRANOS director Alan Taylor, the story will be set in the world of Tony’s childhood in cutthroat New Jersey. So with that intriguing project taking shape on the horizon, it’s yet another reason to binge-watch THE SOPRANOS now. If you’ve seen it, see it again. If you haven’t, it’s time to start living dangerously. Bada Bing! @billharris_tv  
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