Photo: Craig Blankenhorn | HBO
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The Sopranos

...because if it’s hard to imagine a time when television got no respect, you can thank Tony Soprano for that. More than any other series, “The Sopranos” demonstrated that television could be a serious artistic medium. Creator David Chase twisted the grandiose mafia saga of the Godfather films into a suburban family drama, taking advantage of the show’s serial format to add layers of complexity normally associated with great literature. The show’s popularity also proved that serious themes and conflicted, often unlikable characters could draw large audiences of loyal viewers.



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Interview with James Gandolfini

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A Sit Down with The Sopranos

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David Chase on The Sopranos, with Peter Bogdanovich

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Two seminal events in American pop culture and entertainment were the release of "The Godfather" (1972) and "The Sopranos" (1999). These two "gangster" pieces helped change the landscape of entertainment. Arguably no television show has been as instrumental as "The Sopranos" in legitimizing television as a serious artistic medium. "The Sopranos" showed that television intended to aim for high quality and deep audience loyalty could be broadly popular if it was done right.

The success of "The Sopranos" overturned the notion in Hollywood that TV was one step below film. The audience realized that Tony Soprano, other than the fact that he was a crime boss, had a lot of the same problems they did. They started tuning in and taking the television medium far more seriously. As HBO was a subscription-based channel, they had no need for commercials, and the fact that the show had no breaks made it feel much more like a movie, thus broadening the audience appeal.

The show's creator, David Chase, had little respect for television. His original idea for "The Sopranos" was to write it as a motion picture. Luckily, Fox passed on the pilot script and HBO picked it up. While the show is slow-moving, there is a sense of suspense and tension in every episode, breaking the built-in rhythms audiences had become accustomed to with regular television and their customary commercial breaks. For young writers, this is a great example of how their stories might work very well as a web series, a medium where commercial breaks are eliminated, allowing their visions to be fully realized.

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Book

Viewing America: Twenty-First-Century Television Drama

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The Sopranos: The Complete Book

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The Sopranos: A Family History

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The Sopranos and Philosophy: I Kill Therefore I Am (Popular Culture and Philosophy)

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The Sopranos, The Vanity Fair Oral History

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Article

How James Gandolfini and The Sopranos raised the bar for TV

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One Last Family Gathering

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How The Sopranos launched a TV Revolution

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An American Family

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Sopranos Autopsy

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