The Sopranos: Ahead of its time

Widely regarded as one of the best TV shows to ever grace screens, The Sopranos launched into our lives on 10 January 1999 – running for a total of six seasons until concluding in 2007 after 86 episodes.

When it launched in the late 90s, it became an instant hit, with The New York Times saying at the time that it ‘just may be the greatest work of American popular culture of the last quarter century’. But it somehow continues to resonate with so many to this day, remaining a genuine cult favourite 20 years after premiering.

While you catch many people gushing on social media about ‘finally watching the Sopranos’ thanks to streaming sites, others use places like Twitter and Reddit to discuss just what it was that keeps the show so relevant. Turns out there’s quite a lot to it.
For starters, our melancholic and problematic lead character, Tony Soprano (played by the late James Gandolfini), arguably helped pave the way for the anti-hero figure – one that we’ve since seen crop up countless times in entertainment through roles like Breaking Bad’s Walter White or Mad Men protagonist Don Draper. Not only that, the character also broke new ground in talking about mental health – with one Twitter user even referring to Tony Soprano as a ‘mental health awareness icon’. He keeps his psychotherapy sessions secret from those around him, especially the men. There’s a shame attached to it – a shame that’s only really recently been addressed by society and the media, but is thankfully now being challenged.

The show’s creator, David Chase, has also spoken out about what The Sopranos did that TV hadn’t done before.
Speaking to the Independent, he explained: “I think The Sopranos showed humans more as humans than what had come before it. I mean, on network television those are human beings, certainly. But I think more people could feel like ‘Tony Soprano is more like me than a doctor, or a cop, or a judge’.
Chase also said he felt the ‘use of a deeply flawed hero and his problems’ is an influence he now sees elsewhere when he watches television, showing how The Sopranos continues to move us decades after it premiered.

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