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The Sopranos: Complete HBO Season 1 [1999] - 22.47

Writer-producer-director David Chase's extraordinary television seriesThe Sopranos is nominally an urban gangster drama, but its true impact strikes closer to home. This ambitious TV series chronicles a dysfunctional, suburban American family in bold relief. And for protagonist Tony Soprano, there's the added complexity posed by heading twin families, his collegiate mob clan and his own nouveau-riche brood.

The brilliant first series is built around what Tony learns when, whipsawed between those two worlds, he finds himself plunged into depression and seeks psychotherapy--a gesture at odds with his midlevel capo's machismo, yet instantly recognisable as a modern emotional test. With analysis built into the very spine of the show's elaborate episodic structure, creator Chase and his formidable corps of directors, writers and actors weave an unpredictable series of parallel and intersecting plot arcs that twist from tragedy to farce to social realism. While creating for a smaller screen, they enjoy a far larger canvas than a single movie would afford and the results, like the very best episodic television, attain a richness and scope far closer to a novel than movies normally get.

Unlike Francis Coppola's operatic dramatisation of Mario Puzo's Godfather epic, The Sopranos sustains a poignant, even mundane intimacy in its focus on Tony, brought to vivid life by James Gandolfini's mercurial performance. Alternately seductive, exasperated, fearful and murderous, Gandolfini is utterly convincing even when executing brutal shifts between domestic comedy and dramatic violence. Both he and the superb team of Italian-American actors recruited as his loyal (and, sometimes, not-so-loyal) henchman and their various "associates" make this mob as credible as the evocative Bronx and New Jersey locations where the episodes were filmed.

The first year's other life force is Livia Soprano, Tony's monstrous, meddlesome mother. As Livia, the late Nancy Marchand eclipses her long career of patrician performances to create an indelibly earthy, calculating matriarch who shakes up both families; Livia also serves as foil and rival to Tony's loyal, usually level-headed wife, Carmela (Edie Falco). Lorraine Bracco makes Tony's therapist, Dr Melfi, a convincing confidante, by turns "professional", perceptive and sexy; the duo's therapeutic relationship is also depicted with uncommon accuracy. Such grace notes only enrich what's not merely an aesthetic high point for commercial television, but an absorbing film masterwork that deepens with subsequent screenings. --Sam Sutherland

Customer reviews (av rating: 5.0):

Rating: 5:
Meet Tony Soprano - If one family doessn't kill him ... the family will. : The sopranos is mind blowing. it has fantastic acting which makes you forget it even is acting, unbeleivable story line which will grip you from the first to the last minute, 3 dimensional characters who you understand and will grow to adore.Its about a man going threw a mid life crisesand has problems with his family - throw in he runs most of northern jersey you have the best show on TV. Style, Action, sex,Drama and humour it has it all and mixes it into a wonderful...
Just buy it okay?
if you regret it then **** you

Rating: 5:
STUNNING : The Sopranos is a show that i have long wished to watch,my time arrived when i finally gave in to reviews and friends advice and bought series one last week,now i know that the hype is more than justified and that this show is one of the greatest of its kinds.
The sopranos follows the soprano family from the granny of the family livia,to the uncle,junior,to the son,tony,to the wife,carmella,the daughter of tonys,meadow and her brother junior and their cousin christopher.The show deals with all of those but primarily on tony who is also a mobster,but the stress of that along with his family all lead to him seeking therapy with a shrink,and through tonys words in the first episode we get flashbacks deatiling this,from the second episode the here and now is the structure and we see that life for tony can be very claustrophobic with all that centres around him.
During the 13 episodes the story develops slowly and episodes dont end with smiles and hugs and winks at the camera,they just end,no dramatic scenes to have you on the edge of your seat,the story just evolves and continues.
The show is very strongly character based and fair time is spent with all the characters in truth,tonys uncle junior is one of the greatest characters of all,he is nasty and ruthless yet seeks advice from his sister in law and she isnt quite the sweet old lady that you may think,tonys mob friends are also key here,as each episode passes the next gets better and thats some going,series two awaits me now for i am hooked,damn you HBO.

Rating: 5:
Colossal in every way... : 'The Sopranos' is one of the shows that I've always known about but vowed I would not watch until I was able to sit down and watch from start to finish as opposed to dipping in and out of episodes on T.V. I finally did last month and have been hooked since.

The genius of the show lies in the simplicity of it's setup. It's a drama about a mob boss and his two familes. His blood family and his crime family, which are often the interlinked.

There are no gimmicks, no silly cliff-hanger endings to every episode. The show simply unfolds itself and the lives of it's characters in the most truthful, funny, disturbing and emotional way possible.

What is so fascinating to me about this show (and highlights the writers genius in pulling it off) is the car crash nature of the characters you're looking at. Tony is a murderer. He has killed many people, in cold blood and in horrible ways. Possibly only for minor infractions. He cheats on his wife constantly. He humiliates people who are weaker than him. He is totally sexist and casually racist. He takes what he wants and doesn't care who he hurts, but your rooting for him constantly. He's the anti-hero. The first time you see he him kill you may find yourself shocked. But then you may also find yourself saying 'well the guy he killed was a rat....' This it what the show does. It throws up questions about morality and guilt and violence in almost every episode and it does so in an often hilariously twisted way.
Look at Paulie Walnuts for example. Another vicious killer but to me one of the most brilliant comic creations (along with Uncle Junior) on T.V. And of course Paulie doesn't see himself in this way. As says to wannabe screenwriter Christopher - 'I ain't got no arc either kid. I was born, grew up, did a few years in the army, a few more in the can, and here I am, a half a wiseguy'.

Rating: 5:
Someone should say how funny this show is.... : I caught an episode of the Sopranos in a motel room when I was travelling across the States a few years back. I wasn't too impressed, but always intended giving it another go someday. Then, last year, I got hold of the first series and sat down to watch it. I'd say it took me around three or four episodes before I was truly hooked, but once it grabbed me it didn't let go.

Anyway, my point is this: The Sopranos is a complex, character-driven show that really needs to be seen in order to be fully appreciated. Watching the episodes out of sequence will definitely weaken the effect that the writers manage to achieve with their long and detailed character arcs.

Everyone below has already said what's great about this show, so I'll just point out a few more positives that might have been missed...

Firstly...this show is FUNNY!! I mean the humour in it is every bit as important as the drama, and I would say MUCH MORE important than the violence. There are some great comic lines, delivered to perfection by the cast.

Secondly...Uncle Junior is a wonderful creation, probably the strongest character in the series, and the role is played to perfection by Dominic Chianese. Every frame containing Uncle Junior is a joy to watch. It's true, the script writers give him most of the best comic lines, but the guy's timing is impeccable. In so many scenes the actor has to switch between humour, pathos and anger in just a second or two, but he nails it everytime.

Thirdly...Tony Soprano's mother (played by Nancy Marchand) is the most terrifying matriarch in the history of TV. By a stellar mile. The woman is a monster, and like Chianese, almost every scene she's in is a comedy classic.

Finally...Edie Falco, who plays Tony Soprano's wife, is great. Her New Jersey Italian-American accent has me cracking-up (the way she says 'Tow-neee' is worth the price of the DVD's alone), and along with James Gandolfini, it's one of the strongest performances by a lead character in a TV series that I've seen.

One last thing...there ARE a couple of weak episodes. The one about the Italian trip in the Second Season is probably about the worst, but how many shows running to six seasons can boast only a couple of dodgy moments? The fact is there are so many truly brilliant episodes...Season 4, Episode 9 would probably win it for me. (For people who've seen the show, this is the one in which Ralph Cifaretto's character is 'fully developed'...ahem. Actually, that's not entirely a euphemism, as the character really does travel through an amazing arc in the fifty-minute span of that episode.)

Anyway, enjoy! I envy anyone who has yet to watch this genuine TV classic...It IS worth all the hype, and a lot more besides.

Rating: 5:
Bada Bing : Without doubt alongside the Wire, X-Files and Band of Brothers this is the best thing ever made for television. James Gandolfini is mesmeric in his performances as Tony Soprano. Head of a New Jersey mob family he and his associates will stop at nothing to make more dollars. Brilliantly written we also get an insight into Soprano's other family. His wife, kids, Uncle (also a member of the mob) and an idotic nephew make Tony's life even more difficult than it already is. The balance between private life and work affects the gangsters too!! You discover how ruthless Tony can and will be but also how thoughtful he is. Its this that makes you like Tony. You like the bad guy. Which is a reflection of the scripts and the performances. A brilliant cast make this just breathtakingly good. Soprano is a decent guy at heart but work and family cause Tony to suffer some sort of blackout which eventually forces him to talk to a shrink in an effort to get to the bottom of this problem. All the talking in the World still won't make things easier sadly. He also has the feds looking into his business dealings and a mistress who wants to marry him. He also has a mother who is not as stupid as she likes to make people thing she is, which she uses to manipulate those around her that will let her. A wonderful journey from the first episode to the last this a must have in anyones DVD collection. I can't say enough about just how good this is. Once you start watching you won't stop!

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