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    Your dooyooMiles Miles

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      09.02.2012 21:46
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      essential, at least give it a go, you wont regret it

      Wow. Just Wow. Having caught the odd episode on Sky i couldnt really understand this show, i mean how does an overweight, unpleasant and not very attractive guy like Tony get so much?? But having been persuaded into getting the full boxset by my brother i was absolutely hooked 10 minutes in. The sopranos basically combines the family drama elements that we all love to watch with the fascinating world of organised crime, dealing with issues such as family values, loyalty, friendship, loss, and stereotyping of the Italian American with perfectly balanced elements of drama suspense and a dash of humour. It is called by many the greatest tv show ever, and it definately is near the top of HBO's long list of brilliant drama series. I cant recall a series in which i was more immersed and cared so much about the characters. As someone who love getting their teeth into a good boxset this is definately one of my favourites, and i found myself stopping watching a Dexter season finale for a few weeks to keep watching this. Brilliant, and dont be put of with the mafia elements of this series, there is so much there for everyone, no matter what you previously thought made a good show

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        07.06.2010 21:59
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        If you liked the Godfather, you'll love the Sopranos!

        My husband and I borrowed the box set of the Sopranos off a friend, as everyone kept going on about how good it was. We watched all 86 episodes in as many days (pretty much!), and were absolutely drawn into the crazy yet compelling lifestyle of Tony and his gang. We basically suffered withdrawal symptoms when the final series was over.

        This is a great series to watch as a couple, as it has the macho guns/blood/death/grim element, as well as the family/home is where the heart is element. You watch Tony Soprano discuss his psychological problems with his therapist, Dr Melfi, while all around him lie the chaotic results of the horrendously bad decisions he's made in his life. His family and friends are all nutters in their own way, and he's too addicted to sex, drugs and violence for his own good.

        What I love about this series is the character development - there are some fantastic characters, such as Tony's uncle Junior and Paulie. There are some moments that are almost too grim to watch, and crazy episodes full of dream sequences that leave you thinking 'what the hell?'. The final episode ends in such a way that you're left begging for more.

        Basically, watching the series is like a huge head trip - you're left lost for words at the end of most episodes. I didn't think I was a mafia fan until I watched The Sopranos, but now I most certainly am!

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        13.03.2010 20:26
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        Tony Soprano would want you to watch it.

        The Sopranos. Along with The Wire it is regarded - rightly in my completely unimportant opinion - as the greatest television show ever made. Why? With epic scope it describes the story of Tony Soprano, boss of two families - his own, a normal wife and two kids affair; and his other, the New Jersey Mafia. The show focuses on his attempts at balancing his life between the two, and ensuring they don't come together at any cost.

        Tony Soprano is one of the most detailed and vivid characters ever recorded on any media. James Gandolfini creates a character so vile and aggressive we should detest him, yet we see his love for his family and his genuine warmth towards his friends. What sets The Sopranos apart from other highly rated TV series like Dexter is the sheer size and quality of the cast. Every character is three dimensional and life like, not lazy gangster "forgedaboudit" stereotypes we so often see. What other series can boast such wonderful peripheral characters as Paulie Gualtieri, Silvio Dante, Johnny Sack, Artie Bucco and Phil Leotardo. And that's only a few of the many characters.

        The Sopranos can go in an instant from a laugh a minute comedy with wise cracks from Tony and Paulie to an emotional roller coaster, all guided and produced with great skill and direction by David Chase. Music is also used to great effect, no more so than the hugely controversial talking point of an ending. Let's just say you'll never hear "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey the same again.

        If you're debating whether you want to put so many hours into this show, and believe me it is quite a commitment, just do it because you definitely won't be disappointed. You may end up regretting it in the morning after a monster Sopranos night; "just one more episode" might become your motto but ultimately it is the most rewarding televisual experience you will ever have.

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          09.03.2010 20:19
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          An amazing drama

          The Sopranos is, in my opinion the joint best ever television drama (with the equally brilliant the Wire) it is an American series which was created and produced by David Chase (what's he going to do next?!) the series was made for (perhaps by) HBO (like a lot of fantastic shows) in 1999 and ran to 2007 for 6 brilliant seasons featuring 86 episodes each lasting around 50 minutes or so.

          The programme stars James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano a complex man who is a mob boss and a loving husband (although he does cheat on Carmela every other week) who is also in therapy for his personality/ collapsing. The show features a lot of characters involved in his two 'families' in New Jersey, his wife and two kids; mob capo's and his soldiers, notably his wife's cousin Christopher, and old friends Silvio and Paulie. The show is focused mainly through Tony, showing situations concerning his work (at his strip club the Bada Bing) and family life and how the huge amount of stress affects his mental state and those around him.

          It's an amazing show which has an amazing ensemble that are all fantastic in their roles (27 are also in the film Goodfellas) most notably Gandolfini and Edie Falco (his wife Carmela) who are outstanding and often merely need to give a look which explains 10 things at once. The show is gritty and full of fantastic dialogue which gives every single character an interesting personality, which drives the show forward naturally.

          The show was a huge critical success and is now the most profitable cable show ever and won 5 Golden Globes and 21 Emmys.

          An amazing and gripping drama which feature great acting, writing and direction (and some awesome music too) but it's not for the easily offended as it features a lot of swearing, violence and nudity (yay)

          Tony

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            24.12.2009 14:12
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            Supremely well crafted TV show

            The Sopranos is, in my opinion, the best TV show ever made. It is the show that, along with HBO's Oz, really put HBO on the map, and is a testament to the quality that the TV medium can bring about despite having lower budgets than film. If you ever liked The Godfather or Goodfellas, then this is the show for you, because it's basically a TV version of that concept.

            The show is set in New Jersey, and revolves around mobster Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini), a man who desperately attempts to juggle his mob life with that of his family life. He has a wife, Carmella (Edie Falco), who is loyal despite half-knowing that he is involved in some dirty business, as well as a son, A.J., who is young, dumb, and angry like his father was at that age, and his beautiful daughter Meadow (Jamie Lynn Sigler), who he is very protective of.

            While the show is often about assassinations and the usual schtick associated with the gangster lifestyle, it is uniformly intelligent in its characterisation, and depicts the characters as 3-dimensional rather than stereotypical. The writing of the protagonist, Soprano, in particular is very layered, depicting a powerful but psychologically frail man who may be the only mobster in the world to visit a therapist, in Dr. Jennifer Melfi (Goodfellas star Lorraine Bracco).

            The show was consistently great, although some will argue that the start of its sixth season, which relied on dream sequences, was not so great. However, it's virtually unanimous that the show went out with a bang, for its penultimate episode, The Blue Comet, was a masterclass in episodic writing, and the finale ended in a hugely divisive way that fans have been debating ever since it aired.

            This is a show that has it all: clever, funny writing, superbly crafted characters, amazing acting, excellent direction, and great music. Easily one of the best, and quite possibly THE best show that TV has ever seen.

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            09.07.2009 19:51
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            The best TV show ever made

            Why did it have to end ? This has got to be the best drama ever on TV. Following the day to day lives of Tony soprano and his family and friends / associates. It is based on an Italian American crew of the New Jersey Mafia and their business ? activities. Tony is the main character played brilliantly by James Gandolfini who is a respected and feared man who has followed his farther and uncle into the mafia.
            The show has some incredible acting in it and some of the best storey lines ever written in my opinion. There is a great flow to the show from family life watching the characters developed to the harsher side of crime drugs and sex this show has it all. We watched it all as it came out on TV then we bought the DVD of each season and can honestly say my wife and I have now seen them all about four times and could start again it is that good.
            we have lent the DVDs to friend and they all became addicted to this incredible TV show, I will say that at first it takes a while to get to know what is going on as there are so many characters and story lines but that is what makes it so special.
            Watch it you will love it (not for youngsters)
            Hope this is helpful

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              24.03.2009 17:10
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              It's a CRIME not to watch it!

              The Sopranos is a U.S. made television drama series about the criminal and day to day lives of modern day mostly Italian American Mafia members. It is a work of fiction but said to be broadly based on reality. It is set in Nuu Joyzee (That's New Jersey to you and me).

              The programme ran for 6 series and 86 episodes all of which I have seen. It finished broadcasting in 2007.

              The story is built around the character of Tony Soprano (played superbly by James Gandolfini) who in series 1 and parts of series 2 is second in command of the Soprano crime family. He ultimately becomes the head of the family.

              What I like about this programme is that in the first two series as well as the usual violent stuff you associate with Mafia genre dramas there is the extra dynamic of Tony Soprano's internal mental battle with himself to try to understand whether he is a bad person or not and what he can do about it, if anything.

              This internal mental battle is explored in regular scenes when he visits his psychiatrist and in certain episodes where against all of his natural instincts he manages to show an element of compassion for others or a degree of control over his usual fierce temper and extreme violent tendencies.

              A constant in the first 3 series is his very strained and resentful relationship with his mother Livia (played by Nancy Marchand) who in my opinion steals the show in acting terms. Her character in the story is fundamental to why The Sopranos is very different to any other mobster genre piece ever made.

              Regardless of all of the above, business is always business to Tony and his crew and when push comes to shove, murder, violence, dishonesty, intimidation, blackmail, loan sharking and general racketing are carried out routinely. Love and protection of their wives, children and immediate family and loyalty to their own crew are also always high on the agenda, but so too is cheating on their wives and plotting and scheming within their own organisation for financial gain or a promotion in status.

              Each programme starts off with the brilliant "Woke Up This Morning" theme music, by Alabama 3, which instantly gets the viewer in the mood to expect murder, mayhem and intense drama.

              I feel that the first 2 or 3 series of the show were pure television gold but as it went into series 4, 5 & 6 it was still good and very watchable but nowhere near at the same level of genius writing and storylines as it had been earlier on.

              Some great characters and actors arrived in the latter series such as Frank Loggia, Steve Buscemi and Joe Pantoliano but I think that the show declined because the character of Tony Soprano's mother died and because the writers simply ran out of great storylines as they had used up most of them in the first three series.

              The programme also started to suffer from a loss of continuity of storyline which left me very disappointed when tuning into new episodes only to find that an unfinished crucial part of the plot from the previous episode was not being revisited or concluded in any way.

              One big weakness in terms of overall believability of the story is that by the time you were watching series 4 there had been so many characters that had either been killed or who had mysteriously disappeared (been killed in other words) that it is inconceivable in real life that some of the remaining characters would not question such a blatant pattern and frequency of this happening to people in their inner circle as being something very strange that needed questioning and discussing.

              None of this questioning happened and the remaining characters appeared to carry on not wondering at all why a third of the people they knew 2 years earlier were now dead.

              I am relating this comment mainly to the women and especially to the children in the story who to a great extent had the criminal and murderous goings on of the male characters hidden from them.

              Overall, watching the Sopranos was a tremendously enjoyable experience which maintained unbelievably high standards of writing, production and acting for most of the first 3 series and was still very good in series 4, 5 & 6.

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                17.03.2009 18:55
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                best TV show ever

                It's awful. I can't eat, can't sleep. I find myself unable to hold meaningful conversations with any of my friends or family (except for my mate Voylie when we slip into our faux-mafia routine. You! Paisan! Whadya talking about! Am I here to amuse you? etc.).
                I've got Sopranos on the brain. When I close my eyes all I can see is Satriali's pork store, Artie Bucco's restaurant, Vesuvio's and the Bada Bing club. I'm going out of my mind, doc! Here we go, here comes the Prozac!

                The show's creators have a lot to answer for. Whoever's idea it was to mix 'Goodfella's', psychiatry and 'married with children' is an absolute genius.
                The concept is simple : Tony Soprano, a capo in the New Jersey mafia is having panic attacks. He goes to a therapist to try and find the underlying reasons for them. The stresses in his life are caused by his work (mainly his Uncle Junior, who is making moves against him), his dysfunctional family (His wife, son and daughter who each find new ways to get under his skin) and his domineering mother who seems to have made it her personal mission in life to make Tony suffer. And on top of all this, the FBI have him under heavy surveillance and some of his friends have been wearing a wire under their shirts.

                It's a mix of family drama, sudden outbursts of violence and occasional touches of comedy all roled into one. It has a terrific cast who all act superbly (Especially James Gandolfini who plays Tony)with wonderful scripts. It's won almost every award that America has to offer.
                Now, you'll have to excuse me as I'm going to watch my first series boxset again. I get nervous if I go without it for too long.

                Everyone singalong :- 'Woke up this morning, got yourself a gun.....'

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                  08.01.2009 17:53
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                  Tony Soprano's mob boss with issues is one of the best charaterisations on tv!

                  The Sopranos is one of my all-time favourite tv shows. I was aware of it for many years before deciding to invest in the series one dvd box-set. I wasn't that impressed by the first few episodes but I'm glad I stuck with it because I then became so engrossed with the characters and storylines that I've watched all seven series within a few months.

                  The main focus of the show is Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini), a New Jersey mob boss who is having trouble with all aspects of his life; his family, friends and work colleagues all provide Tony with so much stress that he seeks professional help from therapy. It all sounds so dark and depressing but there are so many light hearted and outright funny moments in this show that you often forget the nature of it. The majority of the humour is quite black so if you like that type of comedy, you should love this.

                  Tony is the typical anti-hero; mobster and murderer but you are always in his corner. You get to see his vulnerable side when he is with is wife and you get the feeling that he is just a big softie at heart.

                  There is always the sense that something terrible could happen to Tony or to one his friends and family that you are constantly at the edge of your seat. I see this as a good thing and something that many tv shows fail to do.

                  There are enough plot twists to fill seven series and I was absolutely gutted when it finished.

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                    23.07.2008 18:19
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                    Don't miss the next re-run if you haven't seen this...or even if you have!

                    I suspect The Sopranos is my all time favourite TV series. Dark and deeply disturbing at times, hilarious at others, starkly violent, but sometimes gentle it had so many facets. I've watched the entire series twice now and there are always bits you missed the first time around and I doubt I'd be able to resist a third showing!

                    The character Tony Soprano seems perfectly acted, exactly as you would expect a mafia boss to be. His wife Carmella changes dramatically through the series as she resigns herself to his behaviour and matures. The children, Meadow and Anthony Junior, grow up on screen and it's brilliant they gave Tony Soprano such a whining, pathetic son! The extended "family" all bring their own quirks, banter and problems into the mix providing a fast-paced show where you never can quite tell which of them will get bumped off next! It's shocking in the beginning to see Tony order hits on his own people but it just fits, it's what you expect him to do and at times his predicament even elicits some sympathy from the viewers.

                    His love of animals gives him another dimension and the scenes with his psychiatrist reveal the extent of his self-love.

                    Absolutely brilliantly written, very very tight scripts that leave no room for boredom, perfectly cast actors and the fascination of the mafia to boot!

                    The one problem? It's finished. I could have watched this forever, I'm still living in hope they may make more or a movie. The best way to watch it is back to back episodes so keep your eyes peeled for it returning for another re-run.

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                      23.07.2008 17:57
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                      .

                      Sopranos was one of those shows where I knew it was around but didn't really think about watching it until it had ended and there was a lot of hype surrounding it. This was a good thing in my eyes though as I had the entire six series that I could sit there and work through. I will review the series separately but this is a general review on why I think the TV programme is so great.


                      What is the Show About?

                      The actual show is about the Sopranos family. Now by family here I mean it in two ways. The first is about Tony (the Dad), Carmela (the Mom), Meadow (the daughter) and A.J (the son). The show follows each of them around as you get to know a lot about each character and the troubles and highs and lows that every single family do have. This also includes a crazy Nan and a completely mad Sister.

                      The second family is the Soprano mob family as Tony is actually a big mob boss. This family consists of Tony, Paulie, Silvio, Christopher, Pussy and a load of other interesting characters as we follow them around on their daily activities and find out what it is like to be ahead in the mafia.

                      The show is about these two families and they way that they interact with each other and what happens. Each member of each is developed well and the stories do always intermingle so it is great seeing the main guy Tony's life from these two very different perspectives.

                      If I were to put a type on this TV series I would say it is a violent drama. What it actually is though is a lot of comedy and a lot of fun and a lot of romance and action but all done in a very mafia sort of way. Some scenes will have you laughing out loud and wanting more but some will have you turning away because you can't bear to see what happens next and the link between the two is fantastic.

                      The types of stories that the characters face on the show are all to do with money and family so it does tend to flick between the two in each episode. For instance one episode can see Tony having to sort out his family and being bossed about by Carmela and then the next can see him having to make massive decisions on if somebody lives or dies. It is fantastic that the show handles each of these with ease and you can really identify with how people do act in the show.

                      One of the things that do remain constant within the shows story lines is that Tony does see his psychiatrist Dr Melfi and it is great as it gives you a clear indication of how Tony changes.


                      Cast and Characters

                      The cast and characters are all amazing and I cannot fault any one of them as they all seem perfectly chosen for the roles they play so let's start with the main man.

                      James Gandolfini - Tony Soprano
                      Tony is such a fantastic character and after watching James play him I do not think anybody could have done a better job as he is perfect. Tony is one of those people that can be so soft one minute and you love him and then the next he can turn into the nastiest piece of work. This is what makes his character seem so interesting as he is unpredictable and has to do what he thinks best. James plays him with ease and looks like a mob boss so is great.

                      Edie Falco - Carmela Soprano
                      Carmela is a nice character who knows exactly what Tony does for a living and puts up with him a lot for the sake of her family. She is a dedicated mother who always looks out for the kids. Edie is fabulous as she is immediately somebody you can take a liking to and plays the role of caring wife and mother but also shrewd business woman at times very well. Absolutely fantastic.

                      Jamie-Lynn Sigler - Meadow Soprano
                      Meadow is a fun character who sort of knows what is going on with her Dads job and has fun playing both of her parents up. She is also smart and switched on. Sigler is great as her and is immediately likeable.

                      Robert Iller - A.J Soprano
                      Out of Meadow and A.J I like A.J the best as I think he is funny and a little pain. Such a good character and Iller plays him so well as you like A.J but you could also kill him sometimes.

                      Michael Imperiioli - Christopher Moltisanti
                      Chris is a good character as he is perhaps one of the nastiest in the show in my opinion. He is funny but also so scary and out of the mob people he is the one to look out for. Imperioli plays him so well it is unreal and he is perfect for this role and suits him so well.

                      Lorraine Braco - Dr Melfi
                      A nice character who has a lot of depth to her and we see her change over the course of the show. Braco is perfect in this role.

                      Steve Van Zandt - Silvio
                      Tony's second in command and just as unpredictable as Tony. One to watch as in many cases what Sil says goes and he also owns the greatly named strip club bada bing which is where they all meet. Steve is fantastic and a true mob person in this show. Wonderful1!!!


                      Ok to be honest I am going to stop listing the characters now as there are so many great ones I would be here for ages. I think all characters in this show are so memorable and the show will have you talking about them for ages after you have watched it. I think it is amazing that in six series I have not seen one badly cast character which shows how much the makers adored this show.


                      About the Show:

                      The show is an 18 certificate and that is because with all of the violent content it does really need to be. I have had to look away from the screen on more than one occasion which is unlike me but sometimes it does get too much. What I think this show has that I didn't think it would though is lots of comedy which is just wonderful. I think I have laughed out loud with every episode and it is mainly when Paulie laughs as his is just a great laugh.

                      Each episode goes on from 40 - 50 minutes and some a little over that and the episodes go by very quickly indeed. You can start watching one and then two seconds later it will be over.

                      The Sopranos started in 1999 and made six series which you can buy every single one on DVD now for about £18 for most of them which is good. There are around 12 episodes in each series so I think it is well worth the money for them. I think you will like this show if you like things like prison break as although there is no action it has a similar feel I think.



                      Verdict:

                      I have loved every episode bar 1 and the characters and stories are so amazingly good that I was upset when I came to the end of my Soprano viewing. I cant believe I brought it on a whim to give it a go and got that addicted I had to have the rest straight away. It is a fantastic show and I would love them to make more but the main thing was that it was satisfying to start with and satisfying to end and never lost the pace in the middle.

                      A great show!!!!!

                      Thanks for reading.

                      xxx

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                        11.05.2008 19:57
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                        Television drama at its most pure

                        For some bizarre reason, many people have a strange fascination with crime, especially organised crime, namely the mafia. Francis Ford Coppola particularly popularised it with his epic Godfather trilogy, and Martin Scorsese followed suit with gritty, street-level pictures such as Mean Streets, Goodfellas and Casino. There's something about this genre that is undeniably simultaneously enticing and repulsive. Perhaps it's because we, a society bound by rules and supposed mediocrity, admire these dark figures for their disregard for normality. Amidst the densely populated Western world, they make room for themselves, pushing their ambition beyond the constraints of the law. They are impenetrable, formidable and most of all, subversive. We condemn them, but many of us are totally intrigued by them. Whilst the Sopranos has this element to it, there is so much more to David Chase's series than the dynamics of organised crime and the drama within. It's a deep, complex web of the old-fashioned Italian-Americans adapting (and clashing with modern society); it's a masterfully balanced examination of these apparent sociopaths, both externally and internally; it combines intellectualism with the practical wisdom of the street. Indeed, the level of detail in the writing of the Sopranos is astounding in its brilliance, David Chase's creation reaching near perfection. A groundbreaking piece of art, the Sopranos is possibly the finest television ever to grace our screens.

                        It would be easy to compare the Sopranos with films, but it's something completely different and unique. Films convey a large deal of information in a small amount of time, and the finest films are the ones that can draw rich, empathetic characters within that time frame. The Sopranos, however, is slow-burn. Six seasons stretch over eight years, eight-six episodes, all roughly an hour in length. Chase takes his time, interweaving subplots into the overriding story arc of each series, bringing us closer to the characters. Each season has a different theme and general story, though prevalent issues overlap. The main issue that anchors the whole series focuses on Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini), an Italian-American mobster from New Jersey who suffers from panic attacks for which he seeks psychiatric treatment. Attended to by the intelligent, astute Doctor Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco), Tony voices his thoughts, consisting of his fears and anxieties over the people he works with, but most importantly his family; his wife Carmela (Edie Falco), his two children, Meadow (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) and A.J (Robert Iler), as well as his pessimistic, conniving mother, Livia (Nancy Marchand) and hot-headed uncle, Junior (Dominic Chianese). Then there's the business side of things, with his erratic nephew, Christopher (Michael Imperioli), trusted friends Silvio (Steve Van Zandt) and Paulie (Tony Sirico) all causing their fair share of drama. And this is just a vague snippet of the bigger picture, as there's a mass of characters in Tony's world, all played by brilliant actors, regulars and guests alike, all eased in over the many seasons, and all equally colourful and intriguing.

                        It'd be unfair to give away specific plot details for each season, but an underlying theme of the series is Tony's interaction with these many personalities. A central focus is his tumultuous relationship with his mother (supposedly based on Chase's own), something which has in many ways shaped the person Tony is. But what Tony is remains forever ambiguous, our perception of him constantly in flux. He seamlessly moves from being a loving husband and father, to an irresponsible adulterer, to a measured businessman, to an unhinged sociopath. Gandolfini is absolutely superb as this man of many faces, the power with which he plays the role never faltering, Tony consistently at the centre of the story. He has an undeniable charm, a trait which serves him in all departments of life, but which is seen most often in Lorraine Bracco's Doctor Melfi. She embodies the critical external eye of the audience, her perception of Tony also forever changing as she, like us, sees every side to him. Gandolfini's performance is without a doubt the most versatile of the entire ensemble (though the character calls for it), Tony never becoming boring or uninteresting. He commands the vast majority of the scenes he's in.

                        But the diversity of the Sopranos doesn't begin and end with Tony. Chase writes it with a deft hand, each episode standing firmly on its own two feet, the style and structure varying. Because there's many directors and several writers handling each episode, one might expect it to feel a little fragmented, but it never does. Each episode has essentially the same feel, all of them rich and textured, but the directors and writers give the episodes that unique touch. The most notable departure in style comes with the use of dream sequences, Chase unashamedly (and realistically) making them surreal and bizarre, as well as packing them with symbolism that offers a large amount of insight into Tony's psyche. It's never pretentious, and one of the most impressive things about the series is that 95% of the writing is so spot-on, it's quite unbelievable how accomplished it is. Though the acting and the direction is excellent, without the quality of the writing the series would have no way near enough the same punch. And writing is the most telling thing about a television series, unlike a film. Indeed, the reason the Sopranos stayed so strong for its eight year running period is because of the writing.

                        That said, the direction is similarly accomplished, and there are few weak episodes. The ways in which they are crafted makes them feel like a mini-film, rich and rounded and, most importantly, very satisfying. Individual directors furnish it with their own style and the eclectic writing make the episodes generally varied, some tension-ridden, others dreamy and surreal, some theatrical and poetic, and others raw and vivid. This approach to television is rare, but extremely refreshing, especially in the face of shows such as Lost, which follow rather a rather repetitive formula for each episode. Snobby as it may seem, but by the end of a Sopranos episode, you feel like you've eaten a gourmet meal with fine wine, as opposed to a lot of other programmes where it feels like you've scoffed down a McDonald's. All the same, it really feels like each episode has been nailed to a tee and tied up with a ribbon. The story, the acting, the music (a particular Scorsese-esque highlight), the humour (there are some classic moments) and the direction serve as reminders what a rarity the Sopranos is. HBO certainly gave the writers ample artistic freedom and a fitting budget, the latter increasing slightly with each season.

                        As for the seasons themselves, a different approach is taken to each one. Season One, for example, starts off with a stronger central story, as opposed to Season Two, which puts its main focus on sub plots. Some seasons are more based on the mafiosi side of things, rampant with mob warfare, whilst others are more grounded by Tony's personal lives. That, or they distribute both elements equally. No season is poor, though, personally, I find Seasons 3 & 4 to be the weakest of the bunch, but it's all down to personal preference. On the other hand, it could be said that Season One is the weakest, since in parts it's quite rough around the edges. Either way, they're still excellent, which in itself pays testament to the sheer quality of the others. The many plot threads throughout include Tony's relationship with various characters; the secrecy of "rats" within the mob; the tensions between the New Jersey and New York families; the personal lives of individual mobsters ... the list goes on. In some ways it could be argued that the storylines get quite repetitive in nature (some critics say it wears thin after a while), but they're all kept different, in addition to the fact that the show is set over six seasons, all thirteen episodes each, so it never runs out of steam. Committed fans probably wouldn't have qualms with this in any case. Admittedly, as the show edges closer to its final episodes, some of writing in the sub plots is very rushed, a couple of plot threads literally being fabricated out of thin air. The Sopranos has such scope that this flaw is forgivable, but then again, for writing that is usually so meticulous and detailed this inconsistency does niggle. It's because so much care and love evidently went into each individual episode that such clumsiness is confusing. But when we do see that masterful crafting (which is almost always) it's incredibly rewarding, and there are many touching episodes. An example of this is in an episode when Tony is catering for his father-in-law's (Tom Aldredge) birthday, and the joy and happiness Aldredge's character gets from the gesture is so real that it's very touching. There's many small treats like this scattered throughout the Sopranos, and that doesn't even cover the main storylines ...

                        The Sopranos models itself on reality in many ways. It's executed with a soft touch that makes it into escapism more than anything, but it's also real. Typical mob films give the viewer only a slice of criminals and their personal lives, but the Sopranos gives it all, almost priding itself on the fact. This also applies to the main storylines, which, as many fans have discovered, has been taken to the extreme. There are a lot of shocks, some expected, some random, resulting in loose ends. But again, this is the reality which Chase writes in so much. Life clearly involves premature loss, the answers to questions dying with the departed. Ambiguity surrounds these people once they're gone, and a lot of audiences hate this in media. The Sopranos doesn't shy away from this, fearlessly revelling in these mysteries. It's not scared to shock, and it rarely drives the road most audiences would want it to. This, amongst the general brilliance of it, makes the Sopranos worth re-visiting because there's just so much to explore. There's so much substance in the material that it's impossible to absorb all of it on first viewing, made even more difficult if you watch several episodes in one go. It has to be savoured; each episode, unless it's a weak one, should be allowed to sink in for full impact to be extracted from it (though this isn't a discipline I consistently followed). The Sopranos is a demanding show in that sense, because not only is it quite long, the viewer does have to be committed, unlike with other lighter TV shows which are more immediately accessible. Many people have missed out on the Sopranos purely for that reason, in addition to the daunting fact that it has to be watched from the start. To tune in on a random season/episode can be very disorienting.

                        But once you're in, you're in, much like the mob itself. Aside from Tony, the characters are intensely watchable. The mafiosi themselves are how one would expect -- at heart, brutal, amoral, obnoxious people -- but unlike in a Scorsese film and the like, all of them are explored so that the viewer really gets a sense of who they are. They're jokers, family men, with surprisingly(?) conservative opinions on drugs, loyalty, homosexuality, and their children, the latter of whom they are unrelentingly protective. But despite the affable side we see to them, that of generosity and good humour, each one of them has a violent streak and their good humour can as soon become stinginess. They don't allow anyone other than their bosses to impose their will on them. To be thrown into this very introverted section of society leads the viewer to realise that they live an old-fashioned way of life, difficult to judge from the outside, or rather difficult for them to judge themselves from the inside. The lesser known actors playing them are consistently solid, but there's also a vast array of veteran mafiosi actors, including Steve Buscemi, David Proval, Joe Pantoliano, Frank Vincent, Robert Loggia, Burt Young and Frankie Valli, amongst others. Casting was done so well on the Sopranos, since the guest actors are excellent but neither upstage the equally excellent regular cast, and aren't high-profile enough that they completely dominate the screen, unlike legends like Robert De Niro or Joe Pesci would inevitably do had they been cast. Big names aside, the regulars never disappoint, and on the other side of the fence that is Tony, the actors portraying the Americanised children of the mobsters prove their worth, Tony's kids Meadow and A.J epitomising the sheltered (i.e. naïve, self-righteous, hypocritical, but good-natured) nature of middle class children. These are the only characters who really progress throughout the show, the changes occurring in and outside of them apparent.

                        And its not as if the lack of change in the adult characters is a bad thing, because it's their inability to change and adapt that provides so much of the drama in the Sopranos (and in reality, to some extent). It's a truly epic, groundbreaking show, and the light shed in this review only scratches the surface because, as said, there's so much to explore. Hyperbole aside, the Sopranos is near-flawless, TV at its most accomplished and affecting. For any dedicated viewer of both films and cable dramas, it's a must, if not a rather demanding must. With a bit of everything for everyone, including black humour, domestic drama, violence, and the like, the Sopranos is beautifully rounded, and has raised the bar for real television.

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                          09.06.2007 13:34
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                          A monumental achievement reaches its climax

                          The Sopranos first aired on HBO in 1999. It’s a compelling saga of mafia shenanigans set in New Jersey, and is currently widely acclaimed as the greatest TV drama of all time. (Which isn’t quite true – Deadwood was better, and HBO cancelling it means that they deserve bankruptcy and death). The final ever episode of Sopranos airs tomorrow night. All being well, I’ll have seen it by Monday afternoon. The tension is truly unbearable, so I’ve been re-watching old seasons to try and allay the effects of what’s almost certain to be a monumentally upsetting finale. The penultimate episode was bad enough, god knows…

                          Created by David Chase, the series is one of those TV shows with movie production values – shot on film, in widescreen, it looks and feels a lot like cinema. There were five seasons of 13 episodes followed by a sixth season of 20, split into two halves. Season 6b is currently nearing the end. Episodes are generally about 45 minutes long.

                          It’s the story of Newark mafia boss Tony Soprano and his two families. There’s his ‘real’ family (brittle wife Carmella, talented daughter Meadow, layabout son AJ and his fantastic, twisted, joyless mother Livia). Then there’s his ‘professional’ family, his mobster friends and enemies (his old cronies Paulie, Silvio and Pussy, his obstinate Uncle Junior, his impulsive nephew Christopher). The series begins with Tony having to seek psychiatric help because he suffers panic attacks, and his psychiatrist, Jennifer Melfi, rounds out the principal cast. These characters are the main focus for most of the show’s run, although there’s plenty of death and mayhem, and memorable new characters turn up all the time, from the obnoxious sexual deviant mobster Ralphie to Tony’s conniving new-age bitch-goddess sister Janice.

                          But as with every great series, even the peripheral characters are worth paying attention to as they often take centre stage. Adrianna, Christopher’s girlfriend and Tony’s principal rival, Johnny Sack, had made the transition from scenery to compelling central characters by the third series. Almost every part is acted to perfection, something very few other series can claim, especially ones that have been on air for eight years. (The one exception is Robert Iler as Anthony Junior, who sometimes seems a bit out of his depth with his more emotional scenes, but this is forgivable considering that he was only about 13 when they cast him.)

                          With six seasons I’m not going to bother talking about the plot in any detail as that would be extremely tedious and would spoil things for anyone who hasn’t seen it. And if you *haven’t* seen it, you should remedy that as quickly as possible (although not until you’ve seen the three seasons of Deadwood and bombarded HBO with abusive emails for cancelling it.) Season one is a bit uncertain at the start, but really picks up in the second half. Season two is good, but it’s seasons three and four that really shine. They’re some of the most compelling TV I’ve ever seen and epitomise everything that makes the show work. Season five, while still good, wasn’t quite up there. Season 6 started well but the last few episodes marked a sustained patch of dullness that made you yearn for the end to come. Fortunately season 6b is a return to form – the show hasn’t been this good for some time.

                          The acting, as I said, is perfect, and there are way too many characters to list everyone, but James Gandolfini as Tony deserves a mention. After all, if they’d mis-cast his part the series wouldn’t have survived. Somehow likeable despite being a violent sociopath, he switches between loving father or jokey buddy and dead-eyed psycho in an instant. If The Sopranos was English, he’d be Ray Winstone.

                          The series has always used music in a very intelligent way, using pop songs to underline what we’re seeing, or make an ironic point. The whole series is obviously very influenced by Goodfellas, but the music is used with more subtlety than in Scorsese’s film. It’s also very postmodern, but without being annoying about it. Characters are obsessed with the Godfather (they don’t mention Goodfellas as often, probably because an awful lot of the Sopranos cast was in it). Films and TV shows running in the background are often used to make thematic points. And characters obsessively discuss movies, TV, music, but with none of Tarantino’s irritating nudge-nudge knowingness.

                          When the series really gets going it’s not afraid to play around. Slow motion and freeze frames are used occasionally. One whole sequence started with the dénouement then rewound the film to show us how it got there – which just about worked. And there’s been extensive use of dream sequences, often featuring long-dead characters. These, it must be said, did start to go a bit over the top in later series, with one taking up almost an entire episode, and another one spread over three. Mercifully we haven’t seen much of that in the latest run, and it was a nice idea before they took it too far.

                          It’s a very violent series – almost every episode features a nasty beating, if not a full-blown murder. Every season has an 18 rating, and quite right too. Definitely not one for the kids. It’s also full of swearing and there’s plenty of nudity and sex (Tony’s main headquarters is a strip club, the Bada Bing). But there’s a lot more to it than that. It can be suspenseful (often unbearably so), sad, heartwarming and unbelievably dark. It makes you care about characters who are monsters without ever really condoning what they do (Tony’s psychiatrist acts as the series’ conscience). It also makes you care about the more normal soap-opera aspects of the story – Tony’s relationship with Carmella, how the kids are doing in school etc.

                          But above all it’s funny. Hilariously funny. Even the latest episode, probably the most traumatic and tense yet seen, had a couple of laugh out loud moments. Those weird little everyday things happen to gangsters too (Uncle Junior getting his hand stuck in a waste disposal thingie in his sink, for instance). The dialogue is superb, with malapropisms all over the place (‘I am prostate with grief’ being my current favourite). But we never forget that, in spite of all their very physical, ritualised displays of affection towards one another, these characters can turn in a second, killing old friends with seemingly no qualms. It’s generally not a good idea to get too attached to anyone – chances are they won’t be around forever – and violence can be sparked by the most trivial-seeming things (a dead horse, a Monopoly game gone wrong, whether a man should orally pleasure his lady friend).

                          The best episodes combine self-contained stories (which range from the surreal to the nasty to the touching) with ongoing plot strands which usually come together at the season’s climax. The best episodes are genuinely brilliant pieces of television which could probably stand alone (‘Pine Barrens’, where Paulie and Christopher run into all kinds of trouble while trying to exterminate a Russian mobster is usually regarded as the best single episode, although it has some stiff competition). It’s not really possible to describe exactly why this series is so good and within a reasonable word limit – just watch it, if you haven’t. It’s the second closest that TV has come to perfection.

                          Each complete season is available on DVD, usually for around £35-40. Channel 4 has shown them on British TV, which is a mixed blessing, as they tend to shuffle it around the schedules (they’re not going to show that last season until after Big Brother, for christ’s sake. Thank god for bittorrent.) I haven’t done this series justice – I really only wrote this as a form of therapy while I wait on tenterhooks for the final episode to be broadcast. But trust me on this – you won’t see much that’s better than The Sopranos.

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                            11.06.2002 19:59
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                            Background ********** You only have to look at the success of films like the Godfather Trilogy, Goodfellas and Casino to name but a few and you have to admit the undeniable attraction of the Mafia. These films allow us inside the violent and gritty world of the mob and open our eyes to how organised crime functions. Many different “families” make up the Mafia with each family having their designated areas of control. Within that area they control everything. Protection rackets where they “ask” businesses to pay them in return for protection. The price of acceptance is high but nothing in comparison with refusal. But the Mafia prides itself on its honour and if a business is protected by the Mob, then it is safe from everyone except its protectors. Rival businesses will be burned to the ground or their owners eliminated. Fall behind with your payments and they become partners in your business. Once they are in, they use the company name to order as many goods as they can in as short as time as possible on credit. By the time the credit is exhausted, they have received and sold the goods at 100% profit. The owner of the business is forced to file for bankruptcy but in return has a clean slate with the mob. The Sopranos *********** The Soprano family operates and controls New Jersey. Working under the cover of being a “waste management” consultants, the family is split into several different crews. Each crew controls a specific area within the New Jersey boundaries but must report back to the head of the family either with problems, or with a cut of any profits that they make. There is a captain or “Capo” appointed by the head of the family to control each crew. Every single penny that is extorted or stolen by the foot soldiers has to be accounted for and a large proportion kicked back to the Capo. He then has to give the head of the family a healthy proportion of this at the end of e
                            very week. The head of the Soprano Crime family is a man called Jackie Aprille a great friend of Tony Soprano’s late father Johnny Soprano. When season one begins Jackie Aprille is in hospital dying of cancer and Tony Soprano is acting head of the family. We enter his world in a psychiatrist’s office where through flashbacks he explains how he had passed out that morning following what seemed to be a panic attack. His psychiatrist Dr Melphi is aware of what he does for a living and sets out the ground rules of what she can and cannot hear under the terms of the patient –doctor relationship. Thus the flashbacks we see as the viewer differ slightly from the “condensed” version that he relates verbally. Cast & Characters *************** Tony Soprano – James Gandolphini Head of the New Jersey Family – a violent but troubled character with a deep sense of honour. Tony longs for the old days and old ways were everyone conformed to the “code of silence” rather than the modern day of witness protection and turning states evidence. Carmella Soprano – Edie Falco Tony’s wife. A committed catholic woman who is aware of his business although they never discuss it. She is a strong woman who loves him despite the knowledge of his mistress. Anthony Junior (AJ) – Robert Iler Tony’s son. A typical kid who wants to play Nintendo all the time. Tony thinks he’s too soft and needs to toughen up Meadow Soprano – Jamie-Lynn Sigler Tony’s daughter older than AJ and aware of what her father does. A completely rebellious teenage girl. Dr Melfi - Lorraine Bracco Tony’s therapist – a patient, professional woman keen to help Tony and help him overcome his panic attacks and depression. Uncle Junior - Dominic Chianese Tony’s uncle and an old hand at the mob game. Runs his own crew as par
                            t of the Soprano family but has more respect than a normal employed or nominated Capo. The other supporting cast members are members of Tony’s crew, “Paulie Walnuts”, Pussy Bonpensiero, Silvio Dante and Christopher Molisanti. Interestingly Steven Van Zandt who plays Silvio Dante was a founder member of Bruce Springstein’s E-Street Band. The Story ******** The series follows the life of Tony Soprano and his cohorts as they conduct their business. The first season concentrates on the effects that this has on Tony as the pressures of running a successful and industrious family begins to take its toll. Through his meetings with the therapist, we see our “hero” wrestle with his conscience and feelings as he tries to justify his way of life to himself. We follow the successes and failures of his enemies and friends and every episode the line between honour and dishonour is defined more clearly as are the repercussions. We delve into the world of organised crime and the story takes the time and trouble to explain clearly how the scams and deceptions work. The loan sharking, protection, gambling, drugs aspects are all there and you begin to realise how many pies there are with Mafia fingers sticking in them. In fact you realise that once a Mafia finger is in a pie, they may as well own it anyway. The Acting ********* There is not one actor or actress in this whole series that hasn’t delivered a highly polished and brilliant performance which belies the strict standards that the director has obviously set. James Gandolphini is excellent as the unlikely hero of the series and he has deservedly won the best actor award at the Emmy nominations for the same. All of his supporting characters are excellent and bring to life all you expect from a mob crew. They are frightening and violent and have no remorse to their prey but are unswervingly loyal to their fellow members. Yet the actor
                            s involved make them somehow likeable characters giving them each character quirks or mannerisms that you can’t help but grudgingly like. Theme ****** Make no mistake this is a hard, dark and gritty crime drama, there are brief moments of comedy but not enough to make light of the situation. Violent and moderately graphic scenes frequently remind us that our “heroes” are the bad guys and we should be on the side of the cops and the FBI. It is this theme of will they get caught or “whacked” that keeps me watching. There are no hearts of gold in this, no gangsters that decide to help old ladies rather than hijack a truck and no Bruce Willis heroes to bring down the mob single-handedly. When you watch the Soprano’s, you are not merely watching a separate adventure every week but a continuing diary of the life of a crime family. Overall ****** Highly recommended series, which introduces you very quickly in the first episode to every regular character. By the end of the first episode, you will already have been introduced to the main players and will have a handle on their character, which will grow and develop through the subsequent episodes. The story line is one of a continuing nature so if your to stand any chance of getting into this series, I would recommend that you start from the beginning rather than try to jump in half-way along. All in all an excellent series, which keeps you on the edge of your seat as a result of brilliant storylines, excellent acting and the fact that anyone at all could be “whacked” at any time. How Can I watch It ? ******************** Investment in the boxed set of the first series is expensive at approximately £70.00 - £80.00 depending on where you buy and whether you get DVD or video. Or you can wait for Channel 4 to repeat it which they may do soon so that they can follow on with the third series. If you ha
                            ve Sky, E4 shows the first series followed by the second and then starts again every now and again but scheduling seems to be very random, so you will need to watch out for it. If you liked Casino and Good Fellas you will love this series, but it is an adult drama so most episodes carry an 18 certificate and earn it well so it's not one you can watch with the kids.

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                              14.02.2002 06:55
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                              Hope you got yourself a gun. Give me a crown for this review because I got myself a gun. The Sopranos has totally dominated the mainstream of TV since the day that it was released over a year ago, but in all this time, the Sopranos as a show has kept the ingredients that made it a hit so long ago. No only have they retained the classic introductory song now remixed by Nas, but the whole style and Italian flavour has been retained and simply stimulated to reach the climax in popularity that the Sopranos is now enjoying in the year 2002. For those that haven't watched the Sopranos yet, I know very few will be interested to know that it is about Italian Americans and is solely based around the life and times of Tony Soprano in particular and his relationships and links with the mafia. The interesting thing about the Sopranos is the fresh manner in which they have decided to take to emulating a life of a mafia co-ordinator. And believe me this fresh new style is critical and makes for beautiful and exciting watching. The Sopranos takes that approach of looking at Tony Sopranos mind and the psychological changes that he goes through as a result of his harsh dangerous gangster lifestyle. This is extremely interesting and although I don't want to turn this into a psychology lesson the interviews and short interludes between Tony Soprano and his shrink are vital for the nutrition and the success of the show. It's interesting to see that although Tony a member of a highly sophisticated crime organisation has weaknesses and fears. This is also very relieving and a breath of fresh air from the hard man images that most TV documentary's or films such as Goodfellas (Amazing Film) attempt to portray. The cast is nothing that came out of Hollywood and this is great because it almost and I know this may sound ridiculous, but it makes the acting more believable and one finds themselves being caught up in the emotion and the
                              tension that each of certain scenes. There is an element of comedy instituted into the film but this y no stretch of the imagination is the reason why the Sopranos is a success. The jokes understand are not in the format of sitcom but are more intellectual and inspiring and thought provoking. The talk about factor of the Sopranos is unbelievable. It is great to watch a program and then be able to talk about it with friends the next day and no other program does it better that the Sopranos. Surprisingly, despite the huge amount of details that the watcher is bombarded with the next day because the program is so gripping and inspiring one can say easily 'see the part where' and recall the most minute of details. Even the reliving of the program is a blessed and most appreciated thing indeed. In addition to this the Sopranos also makes the family of Tony Soprano the main character play a major part which makes the program a universal program because, one can relate to any of the characters in the show. This is very clever the way that they have co-ordinated this, the dad of the household may find themselves relating to Tony and some of the personal situations he encounters whereas the child of the family me see themselves relating to the young girl or her counterpart. This is interesting to see how people in different circumstances deal with the problems that you have. And this works only because the Sopranos does actually deal with everyday issues such as Mid Life Crisis and the typical unruly child. The Sopranos has decided to take a whole new outlook on gangster life. This is fresh and innovative making the Sopranos the best thing on television at the moment.

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