THE SOPRANOS THE COMPLETE SERIES, produced by HBO, Total Runtime 4980 minutes (adds up to 83 hours), Starring James Gandolfini, Edie Falco, Lorraine Bracco, Dominic Chianese, Steven Van Zandt, Tony Sirico and Michael Imperioli. Rated TV-MA for mature depiction of Mob-related violence, extremely coarse language, nudity and other questionable acts. NOT for children.
Blu-Ray Review by Dominic Messier, Founder, Editor and TV Critic
In this age of glorious pay TV and cable-produced shows, it only stands to reason that the television series which redefined the prime-time cable serial would eventually see a deserving release in the heightened HD format.
And so, with moderate fanfare, HBO has released their flagship late 90s show, The Sopranos, in a hefty box set that could easily be used as a gangster’s blunt instrument, packed with all seasons of the hit series.
As a whole, The Sopranos managed a tour de force which was both refreshing and yet familiar: a tragicomic story about a mobster named Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) who takes care of the family, both his own and that of his crew in the organized crime milieu he leads as part of the New Jersey division of the American mob.
When work and home stresses become an issue, he ends up consulting a therapist (Lorraine Bracco) on the down low, lest it be seen as a sign of weakness to be used against him in his role as capo. Then begins the delicate game of mental healing while not spilling the beans on his daily misdeeds.
With a crew of eccentric yet lethal twitchy henchmen by his side, including his nephew Christopher (Michael Imperioli), Tony must find a balance between his work and his dysfunctional family before he loses himself, those he holds dear and very possibly his very life.
Much to its credit, the show had many positives rolling in its favor: a particularly salty brand of humor; continuous power plays by the most unexpected of supporting characters; a strong lead (the late Gandolfini) and wonderful co-stars who knew how to contribute to a solid storyline, and a showrunner, David Chase, who held it all together.
Over the course of six very busy seasons, we saw the evolution of a man who began with panic attacks and a sense of dread, only to become more than the sum of his own parts through violent and dangerous trials and tribulations.
It’d be hard to really discuss the specifics of the series without spoiling too much ahead of time, but suffice it to say that the plot evolves well enough to introduce colorful characters over the years, worthwhile opponents and new henchmen at that, keeping things fresh while Tony avoids jail time, rage fits from his incredibly patient wife Carmela (the excellent Edie Falco) and countless setbacks from all sources. Ahh, the life of a mob captain…
See below, an excerpt from one of the myriad interviews interspersed over the set’s numerous discs:
The Blu-Ray box set comes with plenty of great extras and some features that leave a bit to be desired. Look for an hour-long one on one with creator David Chase being interviewed by Peter Bogdanovich in the Soprano family kitchen, easily the best feature you’ll find; there’s a round table dinner with cast members and producers, but to find yourself limited to Robert Iler, Dominic Chianese and Aida Turturro when you’re craving input from the show’s bigger leads, makes you wonder why everyone else was so busy.
The set provides excellent video quality and sound to match; the one downside, while not technical in nature, results from the show’s origins, where the production values seem below par, likely because the series was still finding its footing. That said, still a great product, a fun suggestion for binge watching and a memorable series. I highly recommend it for fans of mob films like Goodfellas, The Godfather and other such classics.
4 out of 5
Dominic Messier is a media veteran who’s written and discussed movies for almost 20 years, from entertainment radio shows to newspaper columns to websites. Follow him on Twitter via @dommessier or join the Pop Culture Landscape with Dominic Messier page on Facebook.