T-pisode 185: Thank You Tony Soprano

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Real men smoke cigars while they swim
Real men smoke cigars while they swim

Yes this is one of those rare impromptu T-pisodes that I am writing right now and not one of the T-pisodes that I have loaded in the gun from 2-3 months ago. I am writing this the day after I found out James Gandolfini had died. As you all know I’m a writer. A writer on T-blawg and with movie & TV scripts that I’m trying to get out into the world. But I consider myself an entertainment writer more so than a screenwriter or a blogger. I plan on saving Hollywood one day with the way I write. Because of the life I live and the unique way I tell my tales. A while back I did a tribute to one of my favorite TV shows on here. And that show was possibly one of the greatest guy shows of all time in its prime, Entourage. So it only made sense for me to do it again and write something about James Gandolfini, Tony Soprano and The Sopranos. Let me explain why.

For as long as I could remember I had cable. My father did everything the “Eastie” way and stole cable with a black box hooked up to our TV set. I always had HBO. I’m Italian and grew up around crooks, criminals, bookies, drug dealers, thieves, degenerates and wannabe gangsters. So I am quite familiar with real life Sopranos characters. My love for movies and growing up in my Italian family and with Italian friends made “The Godfather,” “Scarface,” “Goodfellas,” “Casino” & “A Bronx Tale” a way of life for me. My everyday life was full of pasta, wife beaters, swearing, gold chains, violence, passion, humor and love. All of this was a prequel for when HBO premiered a cable TV show in 1999 about a mob boss and his dual life between his mafia family and his real family. Everything I knew and loved was now on TV. Every Sunday night. Starring a real life Italian who would become one of the greatest actors of all time, James Gandolfini. For almost 9 years and over 6 television seasons I watched a TV show that had so many elements of my own life change the course of TV history forever. Tony Soprano felt like a family member to me because he was a fucking family member to me! I knew that guy in real life and James Gandolfini’s performance hit close to home. A lot of Italians took offense with how he and the rest of the cast portrayed Italians, but not me. They didn’t glorify Italian stereotypes. No. I thought they brought all the Italian stereotypes to a national forefront and then managed to breakdown and destroy each and every one of those same stereotypes in each episode every week. It was amazing. The writing was amazing. The production was amazing. The cast was amazing. But none better than Tony. Tony was the man. He was the anti-hero. You had to hate him. But you felt for him and he made you love him. Tony Soprano paved the way for Vic Mackey. For Don Draper. For Jax Teller. The Sopranos made HBO. They made FX. They made AMC. They made Showtime. Other paid & basic cable networks had to step up their quality of TV shows. Then that ripple effect made regular television networks step up their TV programming as well. A TV character by the name of Tony Soprano changed everything and I wanted you all to know this.

He’ll always be Tony Soprano but James Gandolfini was in a lot of movies in small but memorable roles before The Sopranos. I’m not listing all of them but each one was fantastic. The one that stands out the most to me was his role as a hit man named “Virgil” in “True Romance.” I’ve seen millions of movies and love a lot of them but this is my all time favorite. All time. This movie along with “Clerks” and “Swingers” had the largest impact on me as a screenwriter. But James Gandolfini’s brutal yet magnificent 11 minute confrontation scene with Patricia Arquette over a suitcase full of cocaine is one of the greatest and most violent scenes in movie history. That scene stayed with me forever after I first watched “True Romance” in 1993. The movie is stacked with talent. From the cast to the writing to the directing to the music score. But it was James Gandolfini’s performance that left a mark on me forever. I thank you Mr. Gandolfini for the role you played in my life and you are gone from this Earth far too soon. From one T to another, may you enjoy that big Bada Bing in the sky and eat as much gabagool as you fucking want now Tony.


Until next time. Always take it there.