Thursday, November 23, 2017
TV and Media

Does 'The Sopranos' hold up in a binge-watching culture?

RECOMMENDED READING


Does The Sopranos hold up compared to today's lofty TV dramas? A first-time viewer weighs in.

I was barely in middle school when The Sopranos debuted in 1999 on HBO. I remember my mom holing up in her bedroom Sunday nights with the door closed to watch it, knowing even then that this show must be something special.

But despite keeping up with lots of other groundbreaking shows of the 2000s, I never delved into the one most people consider the biggest influence on the great dramas of the past decade: The Sopranos. Most of it had to do with accessibility; I didn't get access to HBO Go until earlier this year, and I never felt compelled to drop $100 on a Sopranos box set. Frankly, I also didn't think the show would hold up very well. I once caught part of a rerun a few years back on TNT or something, and thought it looked dated and boring.

But, as a huge fan of TV and a veteran binge-watcher, I knew this was a show I had to see.

I'm deep into the series now, having just finished Season 3. And I have some mixed feelings. When The Sopranos is working, it's clear why it's held in such high regard. In addition to being wildly entertaining (it's surprisingly funny), it's also one of the most profound shows you'll see, one that's left me appalled, excited, sad — sometimes in the same episode. You'll be thinking about what you see long afterward.

Having never seen it before, I was surprised by how much of a slow burn it is. It's not very plot-driven in the same way that, say, Breaking Bad is. In one of the most memorable episodes, "Pine Barrens," the main plot revolves around two characters getting lost in the woods. It's what doesn't happen in that episode that makes it a classic.

What makes The Sopranos most compelling is, well, the Sopranos, led by Tony, who is brought to life by James Gandolfini with a performance that does not disappoint. I had heard a lot of great things about Gandolfini's Tony before I started watching the show, and it's one of the few things that exceeded my expectations upon actual viewing. His performance is rather astonishing (powerful, vulnerable, terrifying), especially when you consider how unlike anything else it was in 1999. It's also worth noting just how spectacular Edie Falco is as Carmela; the show would not be the same with a lesser actor in that role.

The Sopranos isn't the most bingeworthy show out there (I find I can't watch more than a couple episodes at a time without feeling restless, whereas I could watch an entire season of Breaking Bad in a day), but it's one you need to see, if for no other reason than to get a sense of where all this great TV began.

Where to watch it: HBO Go, Amazon, iTunes

Comments

Thursday’s sports on TV/radio

TodayCollege footballMississippi at Mississippi State7:30 p.m.ESPNCollege basketballMissouri vs. Long Beach State11:30 a.m.ESPN2Tennessee vs. Villanova12:30 p.m.ESPNSt. John’s vs. Oregon State2 p.m.ESPNUPortland vs. North Carolina2:30 p.m.ESPNNorth C...
Published: 11/22/17
When to watch ‘Rudolph,’ ‘The Polar Express,’ ‘A Christmas Story Live’ and more holiday specials

When to watch ‘Rudolph,’ ‘The Polar Express,’ ‘A Christmas Story Live’ and more holiday specials

'Tis the season for a TV schedule packed with holiday specials and Christmas classics.We've already been seeing Christmas movies and commercials since early November, but the days following Thanksgiving are when all the networks kick into high gear.F...
Published: 11/22/17
Meet Amazon’s bawdy, opinionated Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Meet Amazon’s bawdy, opinionated Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Miriam "Midge" Maisel seems to have it all.It’s 1958 New York City, Upper West Side, and she’s a quick-witted Jewish housewife with two kids. She and her husband live in a plush apartment just a few floors below her meddling yet endearing parents.He’...
Published: 11/21/17
What to watch this week: ‘Marvel’s Runaways,’ ‘Godless,’ Thanksgiving specials

What to watch this week: ‘Marvel’s Runaways,’ ‘Godless,’ Thanksgiving specials

MondayDavid Letterman: The Mark Twain Prize, 9 p.m., PBS: A special celebrating the work of Late Night and The Late Show host David Letterman.SERIES PREMIERE: Big Hero 6 the Series, 8 p.m., Disney Channel: The new animated series takes place after th...
Published: 11/20/17

Monday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYCollege basketballMarquette vs. VCU2:30 p.m.ESPN2Wichita State vs. California4:30 p.m.ESPN2Molloy at St. John’s6:30 p.m.FS1UCLA vs. Creighton7 p.m.ESPNUTexas A&M vs. Oklahoma State7 p.m.ESPN2Jackson State at Maryland7 p.m.Big TenWomen: Butler at...
Published: 11/19/17

Sunday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYAutosMonster Energy Cup: Ford EcoBoost 4003 p.m.NBCCFLSaskatchewan at Toronto1 p.m.ESPNewsEdmonton at Calgary4:30 p.m.ESPNewsCollege basketballMonmouth at Virginia1 p.m.FSFWomen: Maryland at Connecticut1:30 p.m.ESPNPuerto Rico Tip-Off, fifth pla...
Published: 11/18/17

Saturday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYAutosXfinity: Ford EcoBoost 300 qualifying11 a.m.CNBCXfinity: Ford EcoBoost 3003:30 p.m.NBCSNCollege basketballMaryland-Eastern Shore at GeorgetownnoonFox SunBucknell at Maryland8:30 p.m.Big TenGolfPGA Europe: Tour Championship2:30 a.m.GolfPGA: ...
Published: 11/17/17
Video: Forget Pizza Rat. Meet St. Petersburg’s Pizza Squirrel

Video: Forget Pizza Rat. Meet St. Petersburg’s Pizza Squirrel

New York, it seems, doesn't have a monopoly on pizza-chomping rodents.Around 2:45 p.m. Friday, the Tampa Bay Times spotted a squirrel digging a nearly entire slice of pizza out of a trash can at 146 Second St. N in St. Petersburg. The squirrel hoppe...
Published: 11/17/17
Jeffrey Tambor accused of sexual harassment by his ‘Transparent’ co-star

Jeffrey Tambor accused of sexual harassment by his ‘Transparent’ co-star

"Transparent" actress Trace Lysette has accused actor Jeffrey Tambor of sexually harassing her on the set of the Amazon series.Lysette’s allegations mark the second time the star, who plays Maura Pfefferman on the critically acclaimed dramedy, has be...
Published: 11/17/17
Here are this week’s pop culture winners and losers

Here are this week’s pop culture winners and losers

WINNERS:Taylor SwiftFollowing the death of his mother, Gloria, The Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon shared a touching story with the audience about his mom squeezing his hand three times and saying "I love you," when he was a kid. "Last week, I was in ...
Published: 11/17/17