Sunday, June 23, 2013

episode alert: the sopranos pilot (S01 E01)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

I've been looking for a few new theme ideas to help keep me up and posting on the old blog, and being a television addict aficionado, I thought it might be fun to highlight individual episodes that I, in my infinite and profound expertise, deem compelling and/or spectacular.  *It is difficult at times to convey deep sarcasm properly with the typed word, but please note its presence here.

These episodes won't always be current (this first one dates back to 1998), but I will try to stick to things that are easily accessible.  Most of the series that I adore are on Netflix, and should your interest be piqued by anything I write about that isn't, I can promise it will be worth the $2.99 charge on iTunes.  I'll also tell you that while almost every episode I choose to highlight will be from a series that I watch regularly and admire, there might be a few exceptions.

With no further adieu, I submit for your scrutiny the very first episode of The Sopranos.  It seems apropos this week, don't you think? I'm always telling people that it's important not to judge an entire series and its possibilities on the pilot.  There is a lot of pressure on them to deliver-especially these days, to an even greater degree than when The Sopranos first aired-and there is simply no way, even in an hour-long format, that a series can really give the viewer enough of the story to ensure that their interest will be sustained over an entire season.  The best that most pilots can do is introduce the primary characters in an organized fashion, begin to develop at least one plot line, and provide a few memorable cases that effectively convey the genre of the series (i.e. if a comedy, it needs to have a few good laughs; if a drama, a shocking or tears-inducing event would be nice).  Now, the ironic thing about everything I'm writing right now is that even though we probably shouldn't judge the pilot, it absolutely has to have that expectation.  Most often, the pilot is the only part of a series that ever sees the light of day.  While I might advise you to watch at least three to four episodes before determining whether or now you'll keep watching, the reality is that if the powers that be in the entertainment industry don't think a pilot is worth spending additional cash to bring to full production, it's not going to happen.

The entire long-winded paragraph I've just forced upon you is all for naught, as it turns out, when it comes to the pilot episode of The Sopranos.  It is truly excellent, containing all the hallmarks of what makes a good pilot and even more.  This is a great accomplishment, considering that the story of a mob boss and his inevitable network of henchmen, lieutenants, and goons is a confusing prospect, particularly as it's occasionally difficult to decipher the many inscrutable nicknames when spoken with a Jersey/Italian accent as thick as peanut butter.  None of that matters in the pilot, however, which is more about the troubled anti-hero as he begins to face changing responsibilities in the "regime", beautifully conveyed by a metaphor involving ducks, if you can believe it.  During the final scenes, which set the stage for the countless times Tony Soprano sits across from Dr. Malfi, we were hanging on every word.

I've actually only seen a handful of Sopranos episodes, and I'm sure there are plentiful examples of great ones.  For once, the pilot is a good start.

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