The Sopranos (1999 – 2007 USA)

aida t (2)   (“Um ole school Janice…when I tink ah that jaackat de bawss spit awn..”)

You wouldn’t know it from watching this infamous HBO show but Italy brought the fruits of civilization to a vast multi-ethnic empire stretching from Scotland to the Sudan. The heirs to Julius Caesar; they gave the world many treasures from the Pax Romana to the Renaissance so I can understand some Italian people feeling outraged by this TV series. One FBI report in 2002 stated that Italian Americans make up only .00782 per cent of convicted criminals in the US. Considering Italian-Americans are about 5.4 % of the US population (2013) they are remarkably well behaved citizens…but trashy Hollywood never let facts get in the way!

A massive hit in most places it has been shown – with the notable exception of France where, despite a lot of press hype, it died a total death. The French proved they had some taste then, while the English-speaking world lost their heads. The producers of this series use the Mafia as a backdrop for what is essentially a soap opera. With more screen time devoted to domestic woes than to the rackets, this series is a clone of a dozen daytime serials past and present except that the endlessly yakking women are as foul mouthed as the males. Oh, the realism of it all! There are enough characters coming in and out of the story to populate “War and Peace.” (Yeah yeah, I know that was a cheap shot to land because many other TV series are guilty of this, but I’m in the mood for hitting below the belt…ref, take away a point!)

There are moments of sudden violence without a clue offered as to why. The characters are parodies and stereotypes, not real people. In a NY Times interview, creator David Chase said “it’s really very easy to write The Sopranos, because everything that everybody says is untrue. Complete falsehoods, self-justifications, rationalizations, outright lies, fantasies and miscommunication. For that reason, I think there’s always a sort of a joke going on, which is that these people aren’t communicating at all. These people are kidding themselves, and lying to themselves and to each other all the time.” Mmm. On his resume is the truly awful Rockford Files so maybe Chase can be dismissed as just another ignorant Hollywood hack.

On the plus side, DC was involved in a guilty pleasure of mine: Kolchak The Night Stalker (1974). So he can produce entertainment without having to be offensive. Maybe he had been given a memo to gnaw away at whatever moral fabric American television still had. What else can be said about this demoralizing crapfest? There are ludicrously unrealistic devices: a female ‘mafioso’ in Naples who is not only a boss but also looks like a lingerie model; a John Gotti-like character who is in analysis (channeling Woody Allen); and some politically correct propaganda that is simply false, like the implication that vehicles carjacked by gun-waving blacks in New York are shipped intact to Italy in an organized operation. That’ll be the day: black criminals involved in crime that is both international and organized. Yeah, right.

With shows like The Sopranos it’s no wonder society likes to strive forever downward in its aspirations. ‘Keeping it real’ doesn’t have to mean grime and foulness. The main character is a mess of a man that assumes life is just drugs, sex, and murder. He’s a dude who can commit a horrible act then go home to his wife and kids and act like nothing happened. As long as no one tries to harm him or his family, because that would be wrong. Tony is always in the right. No one in the family seems to have a conscience. They sit around knowing everything that’s going on and it’s just a normal day. It’s sick. The show glorifies and tries to make you feel for a guy that’s a criminal and a murderer. We’re supposed to care for this psycho? Give me Norman Bates any day. At least he could be funny with his dysfunctions.

The Sopranos is just a horrible series that probably inspired many horrible TV series that we are now saddled with in the 21st century. The saddest thing is why people enjoy watching this. I suppose watching people get strangled or shot and sniffing coke is called entertainment. In reality, anyone who witnessed or knew about these acts would be repulsed (hopefully). These people have no remorse and don’t think anything about their actions, killing people with families and children etc. The greatest episode this show could have made would have seen Tony Soprano locked up behind bars where he belonged. The theme music alone is enough to plunge one into depression! Talk about ugly, drab and plain shitty.

I remember casually flicking through some budget priced dvds once when an English woman implored me to find The Sopranos for her. I didn’t work in the store, and the discs were not in alphabetical order, she obviously thought ‘all hands on deck.’ At the time I noted the hysterical tone in her voice and the obsession in her body language. It was disgusting. I felt she should have been ashamed to be such a sweaty fan, not proclaiming it to all and sundry. You’d swear she was on a quest for the Holy Grail. I feel sorry for people with what I consider to have no taste or imagination. How can sane adults eat this up as ‘drama’? But the bigger question for yours truly is why did Tony’s sister (played by the reliably chunky Aida Turturro) have a tattoo of Woody Woodpecker on her left tit? Tattoos are nasty. So is The Sopranos.


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