There was a time, not to long ago, when an HBO show other than the glorious Game of Thrones was the critical and popular darling of the TV universe. In fact this show, one full of sex, violence, betrayal, greed, and naked lust for power (sound familiar GoT fans?) was extremely instrumental in helping to usher in what we now call the “Golden Age of TV.”
This show was full of actors who were newcomers, veterans still looking for their big break (and boy did they ever get it!), and longtime character actors. Its main character chewed through scenery with all the style and abandon of a wounded wild boar and the actor who played him became a household name and the supreme avatar of the whole “the star is the show” concept.
So, what show could I possibly be talking about? Well, sorry Breaking Bad fans (and yes, there are tons of similarities between these two shows) but I gave the answer away in the first line. Since I’m talking about an HBO show, then I must be talking about The Sopranos.
Even more interestingly, our obsession with The Sopranos didn’t end with Tony, Carmela, Meadow and AJ’s last scene. Instead, thanks in large part to the internet- OK, precisely because of the internet- fan theories about the show have sprouted like .45 slugs on a Mob boss’s chest during a family “disagreement.” Fans have also uncovered all kinds of dirt on the show itself, much like the Feds uncovered on Junior and Tony. OK, OK, I’ll stop with the dumb analogies. Instead, I’ll give you 15 Soprano’s theories and nuggets you never knew. Just don’t share them with anyone, if you know what’s good for you.
15. Tony Dies
Let’s get this one out of the way first. We all know the series ends with the Sopranos family in a restaurant and then a cut to black. The cut lasts five seconds and there are all sorts of clues in that final scene that something might have happened during those five blacked out seconds. That’s the premise, anyway, that drives the theory that Tony dies at the end of the show.
Here’s the evidence. One, Meadow was running late and every time Tony looked up from his restaurant table, expecting to see Meadow, it wasn’t her. She’s supposed to be there but he never sees her. Why? Because he’s been shot before she arrives. Two, earlier in the season Tony said he thought dying was like “cutting to black.” Pretty obvious, right? Finally, there’s a dude at the bar of the restaurant whom the camera fleetingly returns to a lot for no apparent reason. That character eventually gets up to go to the bathroom, off where Tony can’t see him. Meaning Tony didn’t see him when he pulled out his gun and did the deed. Hence the black screen.
14. AJ Mooches Around
If there’s one character on The Sopranos who’s more infuriating than all of the rest of them put together it would be AJ now, wouldn’t it? I know AJ was just a kid when the series began but what he grew into was just brutal. No, he’s not a monster, ready to take over his father’s business someday and obsessed with revenge (we’re assuming Tony’s dead still, folks).
What AJ becomes is worse; a moody, brooding little pr*ck who can’t seem to find himself in a world he doesn’t understand or fit into. What I mean by that is that AJ is a spoiled teenager and will always be a spoiled teenager. I see bad things ahead for AJ as he ages- suicide attempts, drug addiction, little to no support from his remaining family, and unlucky romances. Perhaps in desperation AJ begs Paulie to let him in on a score. You know Paulie is idiotic enough to do it too. And you also know AJ takes the fall if the score goes bad- that’s just his lot in life.
13. Real Club, Real Strippers
Alright guys, here’s the reveal you’ve all been wondering about. Was the Bada Bing, the most famous strip club in TV history (and also maybe the only strip club in TV history), real or was it all stage-managed. The answer? It was real, of course. The Sopranos was a show that reveled in “authenticity” after all.
Since The Sopranos was filmed on location all over New Jersey and New York, it makes sense that the show’s creator David Chase would find a real club for his crew to use as a front. That club was Satin Dolls, a “Gentlemen’s Club” in Lodi, New Jersey. It’s still there, if anyone’s up for a field trip, and quite proud of its connection to the show, if its webpage is any indication. Just don’t think you’re going to see the backroom where the real deals went down- that was part of a sound stage.
12. Janice Says See Ya!
If you’re not a fan of AJ then you probably don’t like his aunt Janice either. Basically the woman was more conniving and backstabbing than the rest of the family put together- and that’s saying a lot, for this family! Most fans know in their hearts that, with Tony gone, all the shackles of civilized behavior would slide right off of Janice, revealing her true gold-digging character.
Which is fine- Janice was always unlikeable anyway. I can just see her digging at Carmela for help to deal with the “trauma” of her brother’s death, on top of the loss of her husband Bobby. She already got a settlement engineered by Tony after Bobby’s death. By dipping into whatever she can find left of Junior’s stash, and with whatever she can squeeze out of Carmela, Janice would be gone in a heartbeat. Where, you ask? Who cares.
11. Bobby Wasn’t Really Fat
Everybody loved Bobby “Bacala” Bacalieri, the fat, happy gangster with the heart of gold. The family man (literally!) who wore his heart on his sleeve. The loveable buffoon, who played with model trains, doted on his kids and had never killed a man- that is, until Tony fixed him of that handicap. He was the exact opposite of the other “stout” guys on the show, Big Pussy Bonpensiero and Vito Spatafore.
But what people don’t know is that actor Steve Schirripa had to wear a fat suit to play his character on the show. Apparently he wasn’t quite as big as David Chase wanted the character to be so- on with the suit. Schirripa told Vanity Fair that he had to wear the fat suit the first three seasons but was allowed to go au naturel by the fourth season. It must have been all of that Italian food!
10. Silvio Disappears
This one makes a lot of sense if you believe in alternate universes. The fan theory is this: Sil (remember he’s been shot) comes out of a coma only to realize that his whole world has been turned upside down with the death of Tony, whom he relied upon. Sil was always the most loyal one to Tony and everybody knows it. There’s no way he’ll ever be safe with Tony gone so Sil makes a deal with the Feds to become a snitch. His one demand is that he get sent by Witness Protection somewhere where the NYC mob will never hunt him down. That place, you ask? Why Lillehammer, Norway, of course! Any fan of both The Sopranos and that show know that this is the only possible, true explanation to Silvio’s fate.
9. The Sopranos And Goodfellas Have A “Connection”
It seems only fitting that the great mob movie from the beginning of the 90s and the great mob TV show that ushered in the end of the 90s would have a lot in common. But did you know just how much the two works shared with each other when it came to the actors they employed? I bet you didn’t. It turns out that Goodfellas, the classic flick starring Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, and Joe Pesci, and The Sopranos shared 28 actors. That’s right; almost 30 actors appeared in both of them! Apparently not just anyone can act in a mob show- it has to be the right people.
What’s even more interesting is that Ray Liotta was actually approached to appear on The Sopranos in an undisclosed role. He turned it down, obviously, but could you see Henry Hill and Tony Soprano charging through scenes taking on all comers? I surely can.
8. Paulie’s Fate
There are a few possible fan theories out there about the fate of the character everybody loved to hate, Paulie Walnuts. Some of the theories make a fair amount of sense while others…well, don’t. My favorite is that Paulie and Sil have an all-out war for control of the family after Tony’s death. The reason I like this one so much is that it’s so insane.
First of all, in the universe of the show, I’m pretty sure the NYC mob (you know- the ones who probably killed Tony- in theory) wouldn’t let either one of those guys run a family. They’re soldiers and henchmen. Second, Paulie is a full-on idiot. He can barely handle being a Capo. And that’s from a guy in middle-age. Paulie is basically a walking advertisement for testosterone and moronic behavior. He would never even think to muscle in on running the family. Finally, we all know Paulie must get killed in some ridiculous, low-rent liquor store holdup or something else equally dumb. That’s just how he rolls.
7. The FBI & Wiseguys Loved It
If there’s one thing we all know about the mob by now, both from fictional portrayals and from tell-all memoirs, it’s that Wiseguys, Made Men, Capos and even just “Soldiers” all like the notoriety that comes with the Mafia territory. These guys relish it, in fact, which doesn’t make a lot of sense for professional criminals but there you have it.
With that in mind it should come as no surprise that these guys loved The Sopranos. A former FBI agent told Vanity Fair that on Monday mornings, after Sunday night’s episode, all any of the real-life mobsters could talk about (conveniently caught on wiretaps by the FBI) was the show the night before. The same held true for he and his fellow agents. Talk about rehashing a show by the water cooler! Apparently the mob even thought the show had an “inside” guy as it was always so accurate.
6. Meadow Gets Out
This one is my favorite, if only because on the surface it makes more sense than any of the other crazy theories we’ve been subjected to since the series went off the air. The working theory is that Meadow Soprano, daughter of Tony, ultimately decides to sever her ties with her family. This theory works whether Tony dies or not, which makes it beautiful in its simplicity.
For one, Meadow always seemed to be the Soprano most uncomfortable with what the family did for a living. Given that she went off to college and expanded her horizons, as well as her strained relationship with her parents, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if she ended up with a career in law or finance. As she also likes the good life, a marriage to a broker and a nice, respectable McMansion somewhere in Connecticut doesn’t seem too out of character for her either.
5. Emmys For Cable
We all know The Sopranos was an awesome show. Or I assume, anyway, that you know that or why are you reading this? But did you know it was the first cable show to ever win an Emmy for Best Series? That’s right, the show had been nominated for every single one of its first five seasons in the “Outstanding Drama Series” category but had yet to win. Then in 2004 it finally broke through the proverbial “glass ceiling” that had kept cable shows out and network shows in the major Emmy categories. The series won again in its final season in 2007. So all of you fans of Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and Game of Thrones and all the Emmys those shows have now won have to thank The Sopranos for being the first to pave the way for the success of those shows.
4. Carmela’s Distress
It became pretty obvious as the series wore on that, for all of her wandering eyes (remember Carm’s crush on a priest, of all people) and her fury at Tony’s wandering eye, Carmela was never going to leave Tony. But if Tony did indeed die, well what happens to Carm then is probably not that great.
No, it’s not like New York is gonna off her and throw her body in a state park somewhere. But the life of a Mob Widow isn’t all that great, no matter what the code of the family may say. Can anyone honestly believe that Paulie is going to look after Carmela? Or Patsy? Umm, no. Those guys can barely look after themselves. Carm probably ends up living with her parents and never seeing Meadow again. Unfortunately, she would end up seeing AJ all too often. Or maybe she runs off to Italy in search of Furio- although that seems highly doubtful.
3. Tony Had Mad Cash- Sometimes
It’s no secret that one of the perks of being a mob boss is the money. Those guys see a lot of cash flow through their hands. And given that they have their hands in everything and get a cut from everything that any one of their crews does, that money can add up quickly. Tony Soprano was no different- after all, look at everything from the house he lived in to the cars he drove to the suits and jewelry he wore. Oh yeah, I suppose you can count all of the cash hiding around his house too- if you have time… Get it, count all of the cash. OK, forget it.
David Chase wanted to get Tony’s financials right so he hired a legal financial expert to help him out. The number for Tony’s worth came out to around $6 million. But, and it’s a big but, given Tony’s career choice and lifestyle, that number may have fluctuated quite a bit. After all, we all know Tony had a serious, serious gambling issue. Still, after all is said and done, wouldn’t it be nice to have hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of cash lying around the house (and in the backyard, remember).
2. Junior’s Toast
The only one left by the end of the series who gave a rat’s ass about Junior was his niece Janice. And that seemed to be more out of a desire to find out if he had any more money squirreled away than anything else. Tony had certainly made it clear Junior was “dead to him.” In fact, I would go so far as to venture that the only reason Tony ever really cared for Junior was because, as the de facto head of the family, Tony needed to keep the old boss close to him just to keep an eye on him. Tony’s familial love was certainly put to the test many times by Junior’s crazy behavior- and that was before Junior literally went crazy. The same thing happened to Janice but for her, money always won out.
With Janice gone, many fans believe Junior would have just withered away in the rest home- after all, his dementia was so advanced he no longer knew who anybody was. I would add that, since Janice and Bobby had been the ones paying the bills, Junior may very well have found himself in a state-run rest home, blissfully unaware of what’s happened to his family. But he would still be a mean old assh*le of course.
1. Furio’s Golden
Furio was always a fan favorite. After all, he was the only guy who ever seemed to like Carmela for who she was, not because she was Tony’s wife. He was also pretty bad-ass as a gangster and totally backed Tony up a bunch of times (until, that is, he almost didn’t). And you’ve got to admit the whole ponytail, silk shirt, “real Italian, not some New Jersey goon” thing he had going on was kind of cool.
With Tony dead, Furio can probably relax about some random stranger offing him for daring to look at Carmela. In fact, some fans think Furio might even be a guy who could pull the New Jersey crew back together. If the old school bosses in Italy sent him back he would be a strong, familiar face to the rest of the crew and already know his way around. Maybe Furio becomes a Capo and eventually the boss. A guy can dream, can’t he?