The Sopranos: from a continuous TV hit to the hottest show of locking | Television & radio the first episode of The Sopranos aired in January 1999, people weren’t sure what to expect. Two months later, in March, Robert De Niro would appear in the film Analyze This, a mafia comedy about a mob leader who, like Tony Soprano, seeks the help of a healer. But for most people at the time, the world was cosa nostra and mental health had been very different. And while Analyze B was a stumbling block, the Sopranos were on the HBO cable channel, which had only 11 million subscribers at the time.

But The Sopranos was very engaging, with the mix of drama, comedy, sex and betrayal, and dark comedy promises. Steve Schirripa, who played the beloved gangster Bobby “Bacala” Baccalierri, remembers a conversation he had with the late James Gandolfini, who played the complex main character of the show Tony Soprano. “Jim,” he said in a thick New York accent, “said he wasn’t going anywhere. He thought he would shoot the pilot, pick up the money for it and move on to the next thing. ”

But audiences were captured. The frenzy started around season two or three, Schirripa says. “On Monday, every radio show wanted a guest character, and what had happened the night before was covered by every newspaper. I don’t remember any show that happened. ”

The Sopranos in 2004.

Dark comic … The Sopranos in 2004. Photo: HBO / Everett / Rex Features

The Sopranos were “paradigmatic at a time when television was becoming an art and becoming more complex,” said Dr Jeff Scheible, a film and TV lecturer at King’s College London. “One of the innovations about the show is that Tony Soprano is this immoral, antihero character,” Scheible said. The first season would go on to win the first of his 16 Emmys and the actors became house names, while the antihero would go on to support what we are. now announcing “TV fame” such as Mad Men, Breaking Bad and Boardwalk Empire.

Flash has been on for 21 years, and the Sopranos, which ran for six seasons, ending in 2007, has suddenly picked up an audience. GQ reported that this was the hottest show of 2020. In the UK, NOW TV reported a 122% increase in views on the title, and in the US, America HBO reported a 200% increase in viewership . Google found The Sopranos topped those for other classic series such as The Wire; twice in June and August, there were almost twice as many searches as the previous ones in the UK, and between 18 and 24 October in the US, people were searching for the Sopranos three times as often ‘ in which they made The Wire.

But why are the Sopranos still so popular? Since the show ended in 2011, and with the tragic death of James Gandolfini in 2013, every effort has been made to keep the show ‘s legacy alive. Fan-driven podcasts like The Sopranos Show and Poda Bing have been around for several years now, but just as the pandemic has brought everyone into their homes, it seems Schirripa and Michael Imperioli (played by heir Tony Soprano, the rough-and-tumble Christopher Moltalsanti) Talking Sopranos launched.

For Schirripa, it was about setting the record straight. “I saw that there were podcasts with people who had nothing to do with the show, who weren’t behind the scenes, how would they know?” he says. For Imperioli, making the podcast was about bringing new life into the series. “Michael realized that there were a lot of young people watching the show and that we were in the podcast generation, [so] people in their 20s who were broadcasting it in podcast would also be interested. “If millennials who were too young to watch the show when it first started were to tune in now, what better way to recommend it than by converting the show to a format similar to it. do they communicate?

Among those younger fans is 21-year-old Maya, who just goes by her first name online, and lives in New York. “When the Sopranos first heard I was not born,” she says. She discovered The Sopranos on Amazon Prime when she was 19. After watching it all season, and inspired by the show’s humor and dark absence, she set up the Twitter account Sopranos Out of Context.

“Out of context” is a form of social media meme where users take a screenshot (with subtitles), tweeting pictures without any context of the happens in a series. By doing this, it creates a shibboleth of all kinds: only people who watched the show will understand and be inside the joke – it would be inconvenient for those who didn’t. What an infamous Sopranos line: “cunnilingus and intellect brought us this!” your group and you will be met with discouragement from some and experience laughter from others.

sopranos out of context

November 8, 2020

After starting the count in 2018, Maya she had gathered a small number of 3,000 followers by June 2020. Then, one day in June, she woke up with 8,000, then 15,000 and has been going up ever since. As of December 2020, the account is just shy of 100,000 followers.

June was not an irregular month. On May 27, HBO Max launched the WarnerMedia on-demand platform in the US, with the Sopranos among the most-watched titles. With a younger audience, live on social media, seeing the show for the first time, Maya’s Twitter account was prioritized for much interest among this demographic. It also helps that the show is humorously macabre, responding to the hidden pessimism of that generation. “A lot of younger people are watching for the first time and translating the show as we talk [by repurposing the quotes], which is presented in a modern way. “

Watch the trailer for the final season of The Sopranos

About 45% of people who interact with the Maya account are from marginalized groups, ie “people of color, LGBTQ + and women”. Like me, Maya is a black woman. On paper, it may seem strange that the show attracts superfans belonging to these demographics. The show’s use of racist, misogynistic and homophobic populations may fit the hyperreal picture of characters, but why have people like us found things here that we can relate to?

“We know he’s in organized crime, he’s not nice to blacks and liars, but we have to admit that some of the stuff that happens to him is real,” says Maya. The brilliance then, from watching the show in 2020 when we are more accepting and tolerant (though you would be forgiven for thinking otherwise) is that we have our uncomfortable decision about Soprano activities. “It’s about family as big as it is about the move. Tony may have been a plumber and he still had all these problems … perhaps without the murder ”Schirripa says cheerfully.

While mental health and add-ons were more stigmatized as topics at the time of the first run, they are now ubiquitous, and as the mental health and opioid crises progress in 2020, it’s as if we’ve been catching up with the show. While Schirripa, 62, complains that when he was “growing up, there was no cure, no antidepressants and if it was for the rich”, he admits he understands what he says “the Melfi stuff” now (mentions Jennifer Melfi, Tony Soprano psychologist), and people younger than him certainly do. At 21, Maya was picked up on TV shows that deal with such complex topics. For them “it’s good to watch the show that opened the floods”.

These may not be the reason for the show ‘s success at lockdown, but the themes of loneliness, family, trust and betrayal respond a little too well due to the state of the world now. Some might see Tony’s strong and complex relationship with his relatable mother if they are locked in similar parenting problems. Perhaps the loneliness and temple that Christian feels as the only addict among his contemporaries is true for people who are struggling to keep the bay to use the persuasion now. Looking at the Sopranos in lockdown, lines like: “They say gift every day, but why does it have to be a pair of socks?” has taken on a new, calmer meaning.

“On Sunday,” Schirripa says of the first run of the show, “people would have parties of 20 people and would gather to see the Sopranos over a great Italian meal.” Partly because not everyone was able to afford the high cost of $ 16 for HBO, but also because we were raised to want to share experiences and gathering together.

This year didn’t give us much luxury, so we had to compromise. Being on social media in lockdown creates a greater element of allowing people to enter a community. The Sopranos is a show that, unlike any other of its kind, is perhaps more important now than it was when it first debuted. We can’t enjoy a big, shared Italian meal of gabagool, branzino or ziti, but there’s still so much to debate as the fan community grows younger and smarter.

As Corado “Uncle Junior” Soprano says, “You steer the ship as you know best. At times it is smooth. At times you hit the rocks. In the meantime, get your pleasures where you can. ”