Why the landmark HBO series The Sopranos, which ushered in TV's golden age, deserves a big screen prequel

Gautam Chintamani

Apr 30, 2018 19:30:37 IST

For Pablo Picasso, some painters transformed the sun into a yellow spot, while others transformed a yellow spot into the sun. In the same manner, The Sopranos — while rightly regarded as art on television — also transformed the idiot box into an art form and that is perhaps its single greatest achievement. The story of a New Jersey mob boss, Tony Soprano (the late James Gandolfini in his career-defining role) and the difficulties he encounters while balancing his home life and his organization (and the interactions with his therapist), has been hailed as the “the richest achievement in the history of television” and it changed television forever. Now, with a prequel of The Sopranos in the works, it will be interesting to see if modern audiences, who are enjoying a golden age of American television (which in more ways than one was ushered in by The Sopranos) would be as kind to the story of The Sopranos before Tony Soprano came about.

The Sopranos has been a critical milestone in popular culture and has been discussed, debated and dissected to no end. When The Sopranos debuted in 1999, HBO was still largely a premium cable network that was available in significantly fewer American homes than regular networks but that didn’t stop the show from being called “perhaps the greatest pop-culture masterpiece of its day.” The manner in which the show ended — Tony is in a diner with his family and there is a possibility of him being ‘whacked’ by someone in the business and he looks at the camera and the screen goes black — was very abrupt and completely unexpected. While the ending had somewhere left the possibility of a sequel, which the show’s creator David Chase has debunked, it also added to the show’s aura.

Why the landmark HBO series The Sopranos, which ushered in TVs golden age, deserves a big screen prequel

HBO's The Sopranos changed television forever and paved the way for shows like The Shield and Six Feet Under.

The show has been univocally called as one of the most influential artistic works of the 2000s and it can be safely said that it paved the way for shows like The Shield, Six Feet Under and many more. There is a direct influence of The Sopranos on Mad Men as one of the writers on the former, Matthew Weiner, went on to create the latter. The manner in which The Sopranos left an impression on the minds of audiences led to television being acceptable of far more intriguing and dark themes. Post-The Sopranos, a Breaking Bad and a Mad Men only raised the bar. I proved that television is the ideal platform for complex writing. It is now a given that had it not been for The Sopranos, characters that could not find space in cinema such as Tony Soprano, Walter White (Breaking Bad) and Don Draper (Mad Men) would not have existed.

David Chase’s decision to revise The Sopranos terrain albeit via a prequel titled The Many Saints of Newark and not a spin-off or a sequel is, in fact, a great idea. This is a space that Chase understands very well and the legacy of the show is enough to get the audiences curious; the prequel is set against the backdrop of the 1960s riots in Newark, where there was a lot of animosity between African-Americans and the Italian-Americans. Unlike a Lethal Weapon rehash on television or a revival of shows such as Roseanne that try to cash in on the legacy of the past, The Sopranos prequel would no doubt want to rekindle the memories of the groundbreaking show. But the fact that the prequel is a film — and not a series — makes the prospect a whole new ballgame.

Additionally, the world of television is a much different place than the time when The Sopranos called it quits and the likelihood of a redux, enticing as it may appear, might not warrant the same love. The chances of people feeling a sense of letdown with a new season of a legacy series is always a risky thing. Imagine getting to know what Don Draper was up to once Mad Men ended and not liking it. Getting to know Tony Soprano’s father, who would appear in flashbacks in the original series, or how his Uncle Junior (Dominic Chianese) started to resent his own brother and perhaps getting to see a younger Tony is more inviting than to see what happened to Tony in the diner.

Updated Date: Apr 30, 2018 19:30:37 IST