CHML mid-morning host Bill Kelly called Friday to talk about the 20th anniversary of The Sopranos. The landmark HBO series launched in January of 1999. Did we fagetaboutit? Fagetaboutit!
The two Bills agreed that the late, great James Gandolfini had a lot to do with the success of the series. While others may have been considered for the lead in the mob drama, including non-actor Steven Van Zandt (the Springsteen guitarist had impressed producer David Chase at a Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony), it is impossible to see anyone but Gandolfini in the lead. In his hands, brooding wiseguy Tony Soprano became one of the greatest TV characters of all time.
Besides upping the bar as to how anti- you could craft an anti-hero, the series re-set the way TV series are made today. Before The Sopranos, every crime drama was using Law & Order as a blueprint. Chase merged procedurals with serials and delivered character-driven stories that could start, stop or even disappear.
Of course, we talk about that final episode. Everyone remembers the ending, but the entire hour was edited in such a way it almost gave me heart palpitations that first viewing. Chase kept everyone off balance, adding extra oomph to that timeless finish.
Bill Kelly mentions that a prequel series is in the works at HBO. I wonder just how far back they’ll go. Will it seem like “The Sopranos: The Wonder Years” with a ten-year-old Tony the head of a bike stealing ring?
The host also reminds me that episodes of the series originally aired on Monday nights in Canada, one day after the American premieres. Man, the nonsense we used to have to put up with here in The North.