The Sopranos marked a turning point in TV history unlike any other. There clearly is a significant change in the TV shows aired before and after this show. This was because The Sopranos challenged every single norm prevalent at the time with regard to television. Whether it was the script, the characters, the plot or the theme. And for that, we have to thank David Chase.
Tony Soprano: The first anti-hero in a TV show
The biggest concept introduced on-screen was that of the anti-hero. Before the Sopranos, the lead characters on TV shows were mostly good guys with easily solvable conflicts. Friends, Seinfeld and Full House largely followed this concept. Half-hour episodes were a norm, with little to no repercussions. The Sopranos introduced the concept of a morally ambiguous hero or an anti-hero. An anti-hero is a character that lacks conventional heroic traits, such as morality and wisdom. It introduced episodes much like featured films, with hour-long episodes.
David Chase brought forth this idea in his TV show with the iconic character Tony Soprano. Tony Soprano was the brainchild of David Chase and was played by the late James Gandolfini. David made this character based upon his personal experiences throughout his life, especially his relationship with his mother. David has confirmed this in many of his interviews as well. James Gandolfini’s brilliant acting complimented David’s exquisite writing.
The real-ness of The Sopranos
The Sopranos didn’t just stop at creating a true to life lead character. The Sopranos extended its real-ness to its different characters of many shades, which was more than any other TV show at the time. Carmela Soprano (played by Edie Falco) was spoiled by the life Tony had given her. Likewise, Meadow Soprano (played by Jamie Lynn-Sigler) was a spoiled child, living her life with no regard for her loved ones. Christopher Moltisanti, played by Michael Imperioli had severe bursts of anger. Similarly, Jennifer Melfi (played by Lorraine Bracco) despite being a therapist, faced many moral dilemmas. The list of morally grey characters goes on and on.
These characters gave the TV show a true to life feeling unlike any other show could. The Sopranos feels like a TV show everyone can relate to at some level. It is much more than a mafia show, but instead has layers and layers of complexities. At some points, it focuses on family dynamics. At others, it emphasizes the cruelty of mobsters. This makes the show relatable to a large audience.
These concepts inspired many more tv shows that have defined the 21st century. The Sopranos inspired TV shows like Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Battle Star Galactica and Breaking Bad. This show dared to show life for what it really is. That is how The Sopranos was able to revolutionize television for all the good reasons.