Photo courtesy of HBO.
Some of the greatest TV shows ever created are known to stand the test of time.
AMC’s “Breaking Bad” premiered 16 years ago and its finale season aired over a decade ago, yet it’s still widely regarded as one of the greatest TV shows of all time. But before we got the iconic antihero in Walter White, we were gifted with New Jersey crime boss and family man, Tony Soprano.
On Jan. 10, 1999, the world was introduced to Tony Soprano and his two families — his wife and two children and his “family” in the DiMeo crime family in New Jersey. The show explores Tony’s two lives, as well as his mental state and the way he thinks and feels through therapy sessions with his psychiatrist.
Now, a quarter of a century after the show’s premiere, the show’s legacy continues to grow through original fans who watched the show while it was premiering weekly on HBO, and to new fans who’ve given the show a watch because of its highly respected cultural status.
But how did this show about mobsters in New Jersey get its legendary status?
When you watch the iconic intro set to “Woke Up This Morning” by Alabama 3 with visuals of the New Jersey Turnpike and Pulaski Skyway (including a shot of the Mr. Wilson statue along US Truck 1 & 9 and Route 440 in Jersey City), you know exactly what show you’re watching.
The characters are beautifully fleshed out and the mobsters we get to know and love possess complex moral compasses. They have a deep devotion to the mob and the family that connects them, yet they have no problem taking lives or cheating on their wives but most importantly, the characters are funny.
They make us laugh–whether they mean to or not–and there’s no better example of this than season 3 episode 11 (“Pine Barrens,”) where Tony’s hot-headed nephew Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli) and mob captain Paulie Gualtieri (Tony Sirico) are lost in the snowy Pine Barrens after failing to collect money from a Russian man. The pair gets lost, have their car stolen and nearly freeze to death.
The episode is filled with their back-and-forth banter which is elevated to new heights. Not to mention, the many iconic moments we see including the duo sleeping in an abandoned van and eating frozen ketchup packets to survive, Paulie losing his shoe in the snow and the miscommunication between Paulie and Tony because of a shoddy phone signal.
This miscommunication is the reason why this episode is Hoboken resident, Iain Hallenborg’s favorite.
Hallenborg began watching the show about eight years ago when he was in high school. He remembered his mother steering him away from it because it was “a very violent show.”
After watching it, Silvio Dante (Steven Van Zandt), Tony Soprano’s right-hand man became his favorite character.
“My favorite character of the show has to be Silvio because he is so memorable and seems to be the most level headed guy in the mafia,” Hallenborg said. “[He is] very wise and he is just funny when he isn’t trying to be.”
Besides the impactful characters, fans tend to remember the show’s finale the most. The final scene is one of the most iconic scenes in the history of pop culture that’s been debated ever since it was released — however this debate settled down after the show’s creator David Chase gave a clear-cut answer to the finale’s meaning. The finale had such a lasting impact that the sitcom “Everybody Hates Chris” recreated the final scene nearly shot-for-shot for its own series finale.
Sandra Flynn, a Bayonne native, has been watching the show since the pilot aired 25 years ago and has been a fan ever since.
“I love New Jersey and that’s why I started watching [The Sopranos] initially,” Flynn said. “But they get you sucked into watching it because it was so good.”
The series finale, “Made in America,” was her favorite episode in the series and her favorite character is the main man himself, Tony Soprano. She even got to meet James Gandolfini when the show was filming in Bayonne.
I first watched the show during the summer of 2021 and fell in love with it instantly. My parents are big fans of the show, having watched the series FIVE TIMES in its entirety. Being a New Jersey native, it gave me a special connection to the show that fans around the world may find hard to replicate.
I will never forget watching the series finale for the first time. My father and I even met the actor who played Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero (Vincent Pastore) at a Bruce Springsteen concert back in September 2023 at MetLife Stadium (does it GET any more New Jersey than that?)
Even after 25 years since they entered our home, “The Sopranos” continues to linger in the minds of fans.
The Sopranos can be streamed in its entirety on Max.