HBO singing over success of 'Sopranos'
June 10, 1999
From Mark Scheerer
NEW YORK (CNN) -- In the first episode of the HBO drama "The Sopranos," mob capo Tony Soprano insists to his new therapist, "This isn't going to work. I can't talk about my personal life."
Ah, but it has worked. In "The Sopranos," HBO has a bona fide hit, and not the Mafia kind.
"This is a series that so many people are talking about ," says New York Times television writer Bill Carter. "There's active signing-up of people trying to get HBO, because they've got to see the show."
In its conception, it might have seemed like a crazy idea: A mob boss saddled with everyday domestic stress heads for the psychiatrist's chair to get help. His wife is threatening to leave him, his children have trouble at school and his mother has to go live in a nursing home. Even the cast of this genre-bending study is surprised it's being hailed as a breakthrough show.
"I knew it was going to be good," says Michael Imperioli, who plays Soprano associate Christopher Moltisanti. "But you don't know that everyone else is going to think so, or that so many people would think so."
'No way I'll get hired for this!'
But James Gandolfini, who heads the cast as Tony Soprano, says he knew it would be a great show from the moment he read the script. "I was in bed, and I got the script and I was reading it, and I said, 'Man, this is really good, there's no way I'll get hired for this!'"
And Lorraine Bracco (therapist Jennifer Melfi in the show) agrees. "I think it's so original. I think there are so many layers to it that people are really enjoying."
Some broadcast network executives are said to be so envious of the show's success that they've asked about obtaining the rights to reruns of "The Sopranos." In fact, executive producer Brad Grey says it was originally pitched to networks, "but we didn't have any takers. I think they thought I was crazy. And so they didn't buy it."
David Chase, the show's creator and executive producer, can also cite articles in which, he says, network heads have said, " 'We wish we had it, and we wish we'd done it,' and all that. But," he says, "they had their chance -- and they didn't."
There wouldn't be any of the nudity and crude language often found now in the show's episodes, had it become a network show; being on a cable network gives the producers that freedom. It might not have been shot on location in New Jersey, where the story is set. And Chase says he thinks he wouldn't have had as much creative support.
Show assumes smart viewers
"I just never get asked, 'Do you think they'll understand this? Maybe we should make this clearer,'" he says. "HBO's questions, and their comments, by and large, are about how to make the show as smart as it can be."
Actress Edie Falco, who plays Carmela, Tony's wife of 18 years, suggests it wouldn't have surprised her if they'd heard such questions, too.
"I think you're always, sort of, at odds with your own feelings about what happens on the show, and I think it's a common misconception of network executives who think that everything has to be very clear. ... People are smarter than that. You've got to give them a little more credit."
It's to be next January before any new episodes are aired. But HBO's Chris Albrecht says that to keep from losing momentum, the network plans to bring back the show in June and run all 13 episodes consecutively on two nights. The "first season encore" started Wednesday night.
Now, "Sopranos" fans, won't that ease some of your separation anxiety?
'Sopranos' Sirico spent time in Sing Sing
MORE TV NEWS:
Holiday specials help CBS win the week
|Back to the top||
© 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.|
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.