Binge Guide

Weekly Binge: The Sopranos

by | November 5, 2014 | Comments

With all six season available as a complete Blu-ray collection this week, you might finally have the incentive you need to binge The Sopranos. Here’s everything you need to know about how and why you should go into business with Tony Soprano.

The Sopranos

The Sopranos

What’s the premise? New Jersey crime boss Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) suffers from mob- and family-related anxieties.

What’s it like? Before there was Dexter Morgan and Walter White, audiences were rooting for the ultimate TV bad guy, Tony Soprano. With elements of GoodFellas and The Godfather saga, The Sopranos focuses on the day-to-day dealings of gangsters who run a mafia syndicate in northern New Jersey. In addition to portraying a mob family with such fan favorites as Christopher (Michael Imperioli) and Silvio (Steven Van Zandt), The Sopranos also depicts the drama of Tony’s own family — especially his tumultuous relationships with his mother, uncle, wife, sister, and two children. All of this is set against the template of Tony’s therapy with female psychologist Dr. Melfi (Lorraine Bracco), who can only do so much to help TV’s favorite sociopath.

Where can I see it? All six season are available on DVD and Blu-Ray, and HBO Go and Amazon Prime members can watch every episode for free with a subscription. You can also see all six seasons on Google Play, iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, and Vudu.

How long will it take? If there was one big gripe from Sopranos fans, it was the interminable wait in between seasons when the show originally aired. Fortunately for bingers, you can do all 86 episodes at once, which will take conservative viewers about five weeks at a rate of two hours a day. But let’s be honest — you’ll be done in two weeks.

What do the critics think? There’s no question that The Sopranos is considered one of the greatest TV shows of all time. Just about every major publication in the last decade has cited its brilliance and influence. From a Tomatometer standpoint, the lowest score across six seasons is an impressive 93 percent Certified Fresh. In his review of The Sopranos‘ final season, Tim Goodman wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle, “It’s the best series on television, end of story.” And Robert Bianco of USA Today wrote in his 2006 review, “The Sopranos isn’t just any series. It’s a diamond: rare, polished and beautiful, yet capable of cutting through to the bone.” Over the course of its eight-year, six-season run, The Sopranos was nominated for 111 Emmys and won 21 of them.

Why should I watch this? Ever since Quentin Tarantino asked, “Do you know what they call a Quarter Pounder in France?” audiences have been fascinated with the banalities of gangsterhood. Disturbingly violent, darkly comic, and surprisingly humanizing, The Sopranos is antihero television par excellence. James Gandolfini gives the performance of a lifetime as Tony Soprano, and Edie Falco delivers an acting masterclass as anguished mob wife Carmela Soprano. The supporting cast is vast and varied, but each member is unforgettable thanks to the subtle interplay between characters and consistent, realistic details layered on season after season (every Sopranos fan knows what color Paulie’s shoes are). Like any good binge, The Sopranos is a serialized story arc that propels you from one episode to the next and rewards the patient viewer with explosive climaxes. TV storytelling at its finest, The Sopranos is more than a series — it’s an experience that will stay with you for a long time thanks to the writing, acting, and directing.

What’s my next step? If you’re looking for your next TV binge after The Sopranos, consider Breaking Bad and The Wire — the former for its character study of a good man turned bad and the latter for its sprawling crime narrative. Mad Men is also a logical next step, since Matthew Weiner was a writer on The Sopranos, as was Terrence Winter, who just wrapped five seasons of Boardwalk Empire. For movies, of course revisit The Godfather saga, and also be sure to add GoodFellas, Casino, Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, True Romance, and The Departed to your queue. To see the softer side of James Gandolfini, try the romantic comedy Enough Said co-starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and for a comic take on mobster agita, watch Billy Crystal give Robert De Niro therapy in Analyze This. Also, if you’re into analyzing things yourself, you will never run out of blogs and podcasts about The Sopranos. Start with Master of Sopranos — but not until you’ve finished the show!


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