TV SHOW OF THE DECADE

The Sopranos

TV SHOW OF THE DECADE

Chalk it up to premillennial angst, but when The Sopranos debuted on Jan. 10, 1999, it was as if creator David Chase were telling the nation that the very best things were finished, and that American life from that moment forward would be informed by a dull longing for the irretrievable past. A meticulously crafted fable about a group of people who lived in a purgatory of their own devising, Chase’s show laid out its guiding principle in that early episode, when James Gandolfini’s Tony Soprano told his teenage daughter, Meadow, that he wouldn’t tolerate any “sex talk” at the breakfast table. “You see, out there it’s the 1990s,” Tony said, jabbing a finger at the kitchen window. “But in this house it’s 1954, now and forever.” For Tony and his crew, life was about clinging to the folkways of the past, a dark regression that found everyone making the same mistakes over and over again, until eventually some cugine gets the wrong end of a Moe Green special. To bust through the stasis, Tony drags himself to a Freudian psychotherapist, Dr. Melfi. It’s not as if Tony isn’t aware that he’s being broken on the wheel, and even dimwitted A.J. gloms on to just enough existentialism to blurt out, “God is dead” at the dinner table. “The kid’s on to something,” Tony tells Melfi, although when he picks up the thread again with A.J., he takes a harder stance. “Even if God is dead, you’re still gonna have to kiss His ass.” Like so many Sopranos moments, that one is perfect, but let the show’s defining monster, mama Livia, play us out: “In the end, you die in your own arms. It’s all a big nothing.” For the show’s many acolytes, a big nothing is how we define our Sunday nights now that The Sopranos has faded to black. â€”Anthony Crupi

TV SHOW OF THE DECADE

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