HBO’s organized crime drama The Sopranos exploded onto television screens in 1999 and changed the TV landscape forever. The shift from network to cable for serious drama began here, with creator David Chase’s series. The irony in all of this being that The Sopranos was originally intended by Chase to be a comedy film about a mobster with an overbearing mother who needed to go into therapy. Well, that core idea remained, but this series was no comedy. The show marked the rise of the antihero on TV screens, the absolute antithesis of the weekly fodder programmers had been force-feeding the viewing public in the United States for decades. No longer did the protagonist have to be a good guy who made all the right, ethical choices. Now, with Tony Soprano (played by the late James Gandolfini), he could be morally ambiguous. He could be taking his daughter Meadow (Jamie-Lyn Sigler) to tour colleges one minute and strangling a mob rat the next; no time for self-doubt or last minute bouts of moral realizations. Quite plainly, before Tony Soprano, we may never have had a Walter White (Breaking Bad) a Dexter Morgan (Dexter), or any number of the characters on Game of Thrones.
HBO’s 28-disc complete collection brings the aptly named series (it is, frankly, operatic in the way it handles its multitude of characters and the dramatic story arcs across seasons) together in one mammoth set that is, not surprisingly, very easy to sit through in a binge viewing marathon. From Tony Soprano’s sort of humble rise from mere captain to Soprano crime family boss, through his rocky marriage to long-suffering wife Carmella (Edie Falco; Nurse Jackie), conflicts with various and sundry bad guys, to the controversial series finale, this series will have you captivated from start to finish.
Given the fact that The Sopranos began its run on television in 1999, well before HDTV was ubiquitous, and was shot on 35mm (Super 35), this now fifteen-year-old (for its first season) series looks pretty good in this AVC/MPEG-4 1080p Blu-ray set from HBO Home Entertainment. Naturally, given the breadth of a series such as this, quality does vary and one can see a gradual improvement from season one to season six. Furthermore, there seems to be some slight sharpening around the edges taking place, most prominent in the first season and to a lesser extent in the later seasons. Some faces and object have an unnatural way of popping out against the background, looking almost etched, but without any kind of jaggedness. That said, it’s a satisfying picture overall with a natural appearance of grain and very little source damage, sparkle, or flicker to complain about.
A very competent DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is supplied for all six seasons. While it isn’t as aggressive as some newer series, it does get the point across with a good amount of low end extension that makes scenes in the Bing strip club pulsate, and decent, if not wholly engulfing atmospherics in the surround channels.
While we don’t get any DVDs in this Blu-ray-only collection, the set is well stocked with extras, including plenty of cast and crew audio commentaries, an entire bonus disc with featurettes including an interview by Alec Baldwin of show creator David Chase, and more.
- iTunes Digital HD Digital Copy & Digital HD UltraViolet
- Audio Commentary on Episode 1 with series creator/writer/director Peter Bogdanovich
- David Chase Interviewed by Peter Bogdanovich (1.33:1; SD; 01:17:34)
- Family Life (1.33:1; SD: 00:04:11)
- Meet Tony Soprano (1.33:1; SD; 00:03:32)
- Audio Commentary on Episode 4 with director Tim Van Patten
- Audio Commentary on Episode 9 with director Henry J. Bronchtein and producer Ilene Landress
- Audio Commentary on Episode 12 with director Allen Coulter and producer Ilene Landress
- Audio Commentary on Episode 13 with director John Patterson
- The Real Deal (1.33:1; SD; 00:04:54)
- A Sit-Down with The Sopranos (1.33:1; SD: 00:14:11)
- Audio Commentary on Episode 9 with writer/actor Michael Imperioli
- Audio Commentary on Episode 11 with director Steve Buscemi
- Audio Commentary on Episode 12 with series creator David Chase
- Behind-the-Scenes Featurette (1.33:1; SD: 00:03:50)
- Audio Commentary on Episode 4 with writer Terence Winter
- Audio Commentary on Episode 6 with writer/actor Michael Imperioli
Audio Commentary on Episode 9 with writers Robin Green & Mitchell Burgess
Audio Commentary on Episode 13 with series creator David Chase
Audio Commentary on Episode 4 with director Rodrigo Garcia
Audio Commentary on Episode 6 with director Peter Bogdanovich
Audio Commentary on Episode 7 with director Steve Buscemi
Audio Commentary on Episode 10 with director Mike Figgis
Audio Commentary on Episode 12 with Drea de Matteo
Season 6, Part 1:
Audio Commentary on Episode 2 with Edie Falco, Robert Iler, and Jamie-Lynn Sigler
Audio Commentary on Episode 7 with writer Matthew Weiner
Audio Commentary on Episode 9 with writer Terrence Winter, Michael Imperioli and Tony Sirico
Audio Commentary on Episode 12 with series creator/writer David Chase
Season 6, Part 2:
Audio Commentary on Episode 1 with Steven R. Schirripa
Audio Commentary on Episode 3 with Dominic Chianese
Audio Commentary on Episode 7 with Robert Iler
Audio Commentary on Episode 8 with Stevie Van Zandt and Arthur Nascarella
Making Cleaver (1.78:1; SD; 00:08:24)
The Music of The Sopranos (1.78:1; SD; 00:16:32)
Bonus Features Blu-ray Disc:
Defining a Television Landmark (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 00:45:32)
Supper with The Sopranos (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 01:14:59)
Lost Scenes (Seasons 1-6)
Alec Baldwin Interviews David Chase (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 00:43:21)
The Definitive Word
The Sopranos won 19 Primetime Emmy Awards in total solidifying its place in television history. A true landmark drama and one of the greatest drams series ever produced with fantastic performances from its entire cast, including the portrayal of the iconic Tony Soprano by the now late James Gandolfini, Edie Falco as Tony’s wife Carmella, and Michael Imperioli as the drug addicted right-hand man to Tony, Christopher.
Additional Screen Captures