Those of you who know me and/or read this blog regularly know of my love affair with Italy and all things Italian. So it should come as no surprise that I am avid fan of the tv show "The Sopranos". With the show ending it's historic run soon, I thought it'd be a good time to talk about why I love(d) it so much.
I had heard about a show on HBO called "The Sopranos" for a while, I hadn't seen it and all I knew about it was that it was about the mob. It didn't sound like anything that interested me all that much. I kept noticing that it was receiving all kinds of accolades and critical acclaim but since I was overseas it wasn't like I could just tune in anytime I wanted. So I just ignored the hype. Sometimes around 2002 or 2003 my brother Eric came to visit and he was a big fan of the show. We happened to be talking about the show and I was asking him if it was really that good. He seemed surprised that I had never seen the show and since he had the first 2 seasons on DVD he suggested watching them. Well, needless to say, I was hooked after the first episode. It helped a lot to watch it with Eric as he was able to sort of give me the rundown on things as they were happening. The one thing I remember most about watching the first episode with Eric was when Tony went to his mother's house. Eric muttered under his breath, "here comes the queen...". He was absolutely right. The character of Livia Soprano was one of the first things that attracted me to the show. It's really a shame she passed away after the second season.
Speaking of the second season, that was the one that got me hooked for good. To this day the second season remains my favorite of them all. It also contains my favorite "Sopranos" episode of all time; "Commendatore". That was the episode where they go back to "the old country" (Napoli/Naples), for those who don't remember. I guess what I love most about the show is that whole American/Italian connection. Living in Italy gave me a different view of things than I would have had in the US. It was always fascinating to contrast the Italian-American aspect of the show against what Italy was really like. One of my favortie lines was the episode where Tony and his crew were asked to deal with the problem of a Jewish man. They put him in a room and beat the crap out of him to get him to do what they want. He is defiant and at one point relates a story of how thousands of years ago a small Jewish group held thier own against the storied Roman army of vastly superior numbers. He finishes by asking Tony and Sylvio "The Romans...where are they now?". For a second you almost start to agree with his point of view until Tony utters the perfect reply; "You're looking at 'em asshole".
For me personally, one of the things I loved most about the show was the authenticity of the whole Italian part of it. The language, the references, the stories, even the names were right on and connected with me on a personal level. For example, the guy who played Tony's lifelong friend Artie is named John Ventimiglia; Ventimiglia is the name of the Italian town right on the border with the French Riviera. I first drove by it in the summer of 2002 so when I saw the credits I was like "hey, that's the town near the Riviera that I drove through!". Tony Soprano's neighbor's name is Bob Cusimano; Cusimano is also the name of my preferred brand of Nero d'Avola, one of my favorite wines from Sicily. Tony's family comes from a city called Avellino; Avellino is a team that my local team of Vicenza played twice a year in the second division of Italian professional soccer.
More Sopranos reflections in the next post...