The Sopranos Effect and How TV Changed Forever

STORY BY Artie Vincent

Published: May 1, 2013

Take a deeper peak at today’s TV shows and we’re in a golden age. 
 
There’s more quality shows on the air today than ever before. But all the great ones have something in common: they take a little bit from the iconic The Sopranos. 
 
In fact, if you ever think about it, television before The Sopranos was much different. You’d be hard-pressed to find a show with the cinematic approach The Sopranos supplied. 
 
Dramas like Law & Order, NYPD Blue, The West Wing and The X-Files were the elite prior to 1999 (the year The Sopranos debuted). Yes, they were all important pieces of pop culture but the shows lacked that believable cinematic, Sopranos-like feeling. You could start NYPD Blue or Law  & Order at any point of the season and not lose a beat. 
 
The episodic story arcs lasted for no more than three episodes back then. That’s not the case with today’s best shows — and that’s all to blame to The Sopranos. You could sit a watch The Sopranos and it’s a 36-hour-long film.
 
The formulae is broken down into three parts — story, acting and finally cinematography. And today’s showrunners like Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad) used the medium to it’s advantage.
 
You develop the characters and deepen the story. A film has two hours. A TV show has 12 hours at the least. The viewer is engulfed into a world like never before. Gilligan worked on The X-Files and then went to AMC when Breaking Bad premiered five years ago. A shorter season and more freedom gave Gilligan a chance to create a masterpiece. 
 
Since The Sopranos debuted, the programming changed on HBO. They released three of their best works in the years proceeding the 1999 season — Deadwood, Carnival, The Wire and Six Feet Under. The first two were ascetically sound but were victims to budget cuts to keep The Sopranos on the air. The Wire and Six Feet Under both lasted five seasons and were widely considered the best shows ever made — due to show’s realistic, gritty approach that was a direct nod from The Sopranos. 
 
And now all the best new shows are either on cable or streaming on Netflix (House of Cards). Again, the freedom of art and short seasons tighten the story lines.
 
Here’s a short list of five shows on TV now and directly influenced by The Sopranos: 
  1. Breaking Bad — a direct influence and the most successful show since the Sopranos debuted.
  2. Sons of Anarchy — it’s like The Sopranos on wheels. 
  3. Mad Men — crippling family values, alcohol and sex just like on The Sopranos.
  4. The Walking Dead — yes, it’s based on the comics but the success of this show is its adapting to story lines like … well … The Sopranos.
  5. Boardwalk Empire — created by former Sopranos producer Terrence Winter and director Martin Scorsese. You can’t get close enough influence.
Other Stories by Artie Vincent
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