Widely considered to be the finest TV show of all time, The Sopranos gets a second lease of life this year. Ahead of a prequel movie this autumn, former cast members are entertaining live audiences with their memories of starring in the hit drama. Brian Donaldson talks to ‘Bobby’ and ‘Christopher’ about fights, fans and fatsuits
It’s been 13 years since the screen cut to black on The Sopranos’ final scene. Some viewers assumed that a power cut had happened while they watched Tony Soprano, his wife Carmela, and their son Anthony Jr popping onion rings in a New Jersey diner as AJ’s older sister Meadow struggled to parallel park outside. It was a pretty humdrum family setting, but a growing sense of dread built within the audience as the camera gave undue prominence to a shifty man we’d never seen before. After throwing Tony’s table some casual glances, he headed off to the bathroom.
With the strains of Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believin’’ (the jukebox tune chosen earlier by Tony) getting steadily louder, we wondered if this unidentified male was about to retrieve a gun hidden behind the toilet cistern, à la Michael Corleone in The Godfather, before wiping out the Soprano family. Or was this sequence of events merely reminding us that a man like Tony, neck-deep in organised crime, would have to look over his shoulder for the rest of his life? As he himself had previously stated to his therapist Dr Melfi, ‘there’s two endings for a guy like me: dead or in the can’. Chances are we’ll never know exactly what that ending meant. Creator David Chase has refused to give a definitive answer, other than to say, ‘it’s all there’. But there was always much more to The Sopranos than just an enigmatic ending. Before 1999 (the year it launched in both America and Britain), there were undoubtedly some unappealing central characters on TV, but The Sopranos was the first show which actively required us to invest our sympathy in a sociopathic liar, cheat and killer. Still, invest we did: he cared about his family, he seemed to be very fond of animals (the ducks in his pool, the horse burnt alive in her stable, the tiny dog sat on and squished to death by a heroin addict), and he was, in the main, considerate towards his friends. Oh, and there was that time his mother and uncle plotted to have him murdered.
Deeply unpleasant individuals (usually men) that we ultimately care about have flowed from our TV screens ever since, in dramas like Deadwood, Dexter, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, House of Cards and The Wire. But The Sopranos set the template, and is obsessed over even more so now than when it concluded in 2007. The podcast era has also afforded an outlet to articulate super-fans who dissect each episode in the minutest of detail and go ‘deep-diving’ among the unanswered questions: whatever did become of the seemingly invincible Russian in the legendary ‘Pine Barrens’ hour?
Pods like The Sopranos Show, Poda Bing, and No Fuckin Ziti not only break the drama down to its bare bones, but have also carried interviews with actors, writers and even costume designers. Arguably, the most exciting recent podcast development is the imminent launch of Talking Sopranos, in which two of the cast, Michael Imperioli (Christopher Moltisanti, right) and Steven R Schirripa (Bobby Baccalieri, left), will revisit the show episode by episode.
Imperioli and Schirripa, alongside Vincent Pastore who played Sal ‘Big Pussy’ Bonpensiero, are due to arrive in the UK this May for the latest leg in their In Conversation With The Sopranos world tour. Already a live hit in Australia and the US, a comedian warms up the crowd for 15 minutes before the three come on to discuss clips, reveal some behind-the-scenes gossip, discuss that ending, and take questions from the audience. This is often the point where things get weird.
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1 Apr–31 May 2020 THE LIST 49