The Sopranos (1999–2007)
8.6/10
4,476
13 user 7 critic

Pilot 

A mobster passes out at a family barbecue and seeks therapy to understand why.

Director:

David Chase

Writers:

David Chase (created by), David Chase
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Photos

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Cast

Episode cast overview, first billed only:
James Gandolfini ... Tony Soprano
Lorraine Bracco ... Dr. Jennifer Melfi
Edie Falco ... Carmela Soprano
Michael Imperioli ... Christopher Moltisanti
Dominic Chianese ... Junior Soprano
Vincent Pastore ... Salvatore 'Big Pussy' Bonpensiero
Steven Van Zandt ... Silvio Dante
Tony Sirico ... Paulie 'Walnuts' Gualtieri
Robert Iler ... A.J. Soprano
Jamie-Lynn Sigler ... Meadow Soprano
Nancy Marchand ... Livia Soprano
Michael Gaston ... Alex Mahaffey
Joe Lisi ... Dick Barone
John Ventimiglia ... Artie Bucco
Jerry Adler ... Hesh
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Storyline

Tony Soprano is a New Jersey mobster with a complicated life. He's recently passed out as a result of an anxiety attack and begins to see a psychiatrist, Dr. Jennifer Melfi. Tony's mother is at an age where she should be in a retirement home but she flatly refuses, obviously preferring to nag at her son. His father's brother, Uncle Junior, is planning a hit at a restaurant owned by his high school buddy Artie Bocco. A rival company is edging in on his trash removal business. At home, his teenager daughter Meadow is rebelling against parental authority, especially her mother's. Finally, a family of wild ducks that had taken to living in his backyard pool and who he fed regularly has flown away. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Genres:

Crime | Drama

Certificate:

TV-MA | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

10 January 1999 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Pilot See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Stereo | Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The main reason James Gandolfini was cast instead of Michael Rispoli, who was also considered for the role of Tony Soprano, is that David Chase felt that, while both actors were likable and could make that work for Tony, Michael was a much more lighthearted person than James. Chase felt the elements of self-darkness would be a better fusion into the character of Tony. See more »

Goofs

At 47 minutes the character Meadow Soprano (played by Jamie-Lynn Sigler) refers to the character Silvio Dante as Mr Van Zandt which is the name of the actor and not the name of the character. See more »

Quotes

Herman 'Hesh' Rabkin: I hear Junior wants to whack Pussy Bonpensiero.
Tony Soprano: Pussy Malanga.
Herman 'Hesh' Rabkin: Oh, Little Pussy.
Tony Soprano: Yeah, Little Pussy. You think he's going to fuck with Big Pussy? My Pussy?
See more »

Connections

References The Birds (1963) See more »

Soundtracks

Rumble
(uncredited)
Composed by Milt Grant (as Mark Grant), Link Wray
Performed by Link Wray
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User Reviews

 
The beginning of excellence
31 December 2007 | by MaxBorg89See all my reviews

When this pilot aired in early 1999, few could predict a cultural phenomenon was born: after all, how many people would be willing to watch a cable drama about an Italian-American family (the gun-shaped "r" in the title was added to make sure no one wrongfully assumed the show revolved around opera singers), written by an unknown (David Chase) and starring a guy with weight issues, best known for playing Christopher Walken's henchman in True Romance (James Gandolfini)? In the end, though, quality prevailed over prejudice, and for nearly a decade The Sopranos kept seducing audiences all over the world with its clever writing, superb cast and medium-stretching complexity, deservedly earning the moniker "best TV show ever made". And it all started with this episode...

Borrowing the premise from mob comedy Analyze This, the show opens with Tony Soprano (Gandolfini) waiting outside a psychiatrist's office. The reason he is there is he allegedly had a panic attack. "They said it was a panic attack.", he quickly points out, believing a man in his position is incapable of having such problems. And what exactly does he do, asks Dr. Melfi (Lorraine Bracco)? He works in waste management, comes the quick-fire answer. The truth, however, is entirely different: Tony Soprano is torn between two radically conflicting worlds. On the one hand, he has to provide for his family, which comprises wife Carmela (Edie Falco), daughter Meadow (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) and son Anthony Jr. (Robert Iler); on the other, he is a captain in the New Jersey mafia, working preferably with his nephew Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli), his uncle Junior (Dominic Chianese) and old friends Silvio Dante (Steven van Zandt), Paulie "Walnuts" Gualtieri (Tony Sirico) and Salvatore "Pussy" Bonpensiero (Vincent Pastore). Throw in an oppressive mother (Nancy Marchand), a Russian mistress and other problems, and it's no wonder poor Tony needs to see a shrink.

The whole "boss in therapy" thing might have seemed like a too far-fetched idea, but Chase gets away with it, so to speak, by crafting a complex but realistic universe in which to move his players and making sure every single character comes off as a three-dimensional person instead of a pale gangster caricature. Take Paulie, Silvio and Chris, for instance: we don't see much of them in this first show, but great lines and nuanced acting make sure there's more to them than just snazzy suits and foul mouths, as later episodes proved brilliantly. Naturally, the most impressive of these people is Tony, to whom Gandolfini lends a contradictory charm: how many family men are able to be endlessly tender when left alone with their wives and, five minutes later, beat the crap out of a man yelling: "Where's my f*cking money, you pr*ck?", and conquer the audience's sympathy with the latter behavior? Contradiction lies at the show's heart and is perhaps what viewers responded to the most: love and vulgarity, poetry and violence, laughter and death all went hand in hand throughout the series' 86-episode run, often in the same scene, leaving a blueprint for other HBO masterworks (Six Feet Under, Deadwood) to follow.

Speaking of blueprints, The Sopranos might initially sound like a small-screen version of The Godfather, and there are in fact several references to the mafia masterpiece in the show, not least Tony's tendency to compare himself to Marlon Brando. In reality, though, the series is closer to Goodfellas, as has been admitted by Chase himself, and not just in the casting (Bracco, Imperioli and Sirico all appeared in Scorsese's magnum opus): the family/crime contrast, the stress and paranoia, the profanity (Tony and his affiliates swear more in one season than Joe Pesci has in his entire career), the shocking violence (there's a quite brutal murder at the end of this episode, and more would follow) all belong to either product, and they all prove the same thing: organized crime isn't as fun as it has looked in the past. It's an ugly, uncompromisingly bleak life. And it makes for essential television.


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