Watching the repeat of I, Claudius on BBC3 reminded me of The Sopranos… Or should that be the other way around? Anyway the Soprano family had much in common with the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Both have a Livia, one may have physically poisoned her enemies and rivals and family the other just poisoned the minds of her family, Livia a modern-day Iago, “pouring pestilence into the ear” of Uncle Junior, manipulating him to kill her son Tony Soprano. Truly Roman-esque combined with some Shakespearian tragedy along with a smattering of Jacobean revenge storylines . The sad thing was the wonderful actor, Nancy Marchand, who played the conniving Livia died of cancer towards the end of the second series. The end of Series One, there’s a spectacular yet restrained showdown between Tony and Livia. I remember rushing away from a work colleague’s leaving-do early as I “didn’t want to miss the penultimate episode”….
Couple of years back there was The Wire v. The Sopranos. No contest. I watched the first episode of The Wire, well strictly not true as I fell asleep half way through while with The Sopranos, I was riveted to the spot watching the pilot and first episode utterly amazed at the quality of writing and acting. I never missed an episode. And I can understand why it’s considered one of the best television dramas.. EVER! One of my favourite episodes has to be the one directed by the actor Steve Buscemi… which was an excellent and hilarious send-up of the Blair Witch Project. One of the most potent and powerful images I have seen of the cast of The Sopranos was Annie Leibovitz’s recreation of de Vinci’s Last Supper in a 2000 edition of Vanity Fair. Superb!
So I was really sad to read about the untimely death of James Gandolfini who was Tony Soprano. The storyline did make me laugh, a mobster with panic attacks who, grudgingly, visits a shrink (Dr Melfi) once a week. His first panic attack brought on when the fledgling ducklings in his swimming pool eventually fly away. Tony the violent gangster with vulnerabilities, a character full of complexities and contradictions Family man and husband to Carmella (the wonderful Edie Falco) and crime boss… separating the two becomes blurred on many occasions. Gandolfini brought to life the New Jersey mobster aided and abetted by the brilliant David Chase (no wonder The Sopranos won every award going ….). Even the intro music, the moody Woke Up This Morning by Alabama 3 set the scene of Tony Soprano driving around specific landmarks of New Jersey while smoking on a cigar rolling up the drive of his expensive house.
Here’s to The Sopranos and to James Gandolfini who will probably will be always remembered as larger-than-life mob boss, Tony Soprano….