Title: The Sopranos- season 1
Genre: Comedy / Drama
Stars: James Gandolfini (Actor), Lorraine Bracco (Actor), Alan Taylor (Director), Allen Coulter (Director)
Watched: First season: April 20-28, 2011
Status: Six seasons, series finished
Summary: The HBO missing link
For whatever reason The Sopranos remained the only real HBO drama that I hadn’t seen. I’ve been a huge HBO original programming fan as far back as Dream On, but I just never got around to Tony and crew.
It’s interesting to see it after the fact, after having watched Rome, Deadwood, Six Feet Under, Carnivale, True Blood, The Wire, Big Love, Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, etc. This is an intermediate stage in the development of today’s long form visual medium. The Sopranos, like all HBO dramas, is very well written. Where it shines is in character building. Not development per se, but in the creation of unique and interesting personalities. The casting is spot on and nearly every member shines as distinctive and amusing individuals. But inherently, this is a recipe HBO has really mastered, blending casting, writing, and acting to make seamless characters.
It isn’t (in this first season) as well plotted as some of its sucessor shows. Less happens, and the events are a bit less dramatic. This isn’t to say that nothing’s going on, but we don’t have the momentous and shocking events every fifteen minutes that are the hallmark of the mid 2000s shows. I suspect later seasons may grow into this. The net net of this was that I wasn’t quite as riveted by the events, and certain subplots dragged, but the characters certainly kept me watching.
There is something to note here, which is the odd dichotomy of the like-ability of most of the cast and their “trade” as cold and murderous mobsters. The show strikes a slightly comic and not entirely realistic tone with regard to this, making it easier to disregard the violence and keep on liking them. And like them I certainly did, particularly Tony. James Gandolfini shines in this role, nailing his particular brand of goomba charisma. His mother is perfect too (although fun to hate) as the manipulative bitch that she is.
I was also a bit ambivalent about the central premise of the mafia boss in psychotherapy. Although I did like the shrink, and I liked the amusing way in which Tony would sometimes describe a happening in mild mannered terms while the visuals showed it “the way it really was.” I often enjoy this this sort of humor. At times the overall conceit felt a little forced, but it basically works.
So I’ll start in on season 2, particularly as I’ve heard the series only gets better.
For my review of season 2, see here.