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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Sopranos: Season One
The Sopranos: Season One
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Review by Aaron Beierle | posted January 11, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

"The Sopranos" has been one of the shows that revitalized not only HBO, but cable television in general. Wildly popular and award-winning, the show stars James James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, the father of a New Jersey family - and the head of a mob family. The opening epsiode establishes the characters as well as some pieces of the plot; Tony suffers a panic attack and then finds himself in a psychologist(Lorraine Bracco)'s office. Once there, he talks about his work as a "waste management consultant" and we then see what really happens in Tony's life.

The show boasts impressive writing. You have a wealth of characters in this show, and their entire history seems to have been constructed down to the most minor detail. These don't feel like "characters", but the uniformly great cast really makes their roles feel lived in. Yes, there is violence, there is nudity - but, with the subject matter, this is to be expected. The series has an undercurrent of dark humor running through it as there are often touches of jokes and comedy as well as some great references such as DVD (the second epsiode has the crew hijacking a truck full of players and discussing the positive aspects of the format). The series may not be for everyone, but I think it's easily one of the best shows in recent years - and that's particularly pleasing, since the last few years haven't offered too many other new bright spots in the television world, as it seems like sitcoms and other network shows are being cancelled left and right. HBO really has become a place where television talent can really have creative freedom; "The Sopranos" and other good shows from the network have really brought new life to cable.

On these discs are:
DVD 1:
The Sopranos (Pilot)
46 Long
Denial, Anger, Acceptance
Meadowlands
DVD 2:
College
Pax Soprano
Down Neck
The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti
DVD 3:
Boca
A Hit is a Hit
Nobody Knows Anything
Isabella
DVD 4: I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano
Extra Features


The DVD

VIDEO: HBO released the first season of "Sex and the City", and many were not entirely pleased by how some of the episodes looked. HBO has thankfully presented "The Sopranos" in better fashion. These episodes are anamorphic, and presented at about 1.85:1. There are some problems that pop up, but the pilot episode is where they seem more evident. On the rest of the episodes, they pop up, but far less. More specifically, some light shimmering and minor grain.

Sharpness and detail vary a bit; some scenes look slightly soft, but at best, the picture quality is very pleasing, looking well-defined and crisp. The pilot episode has a bit of an edgy, digital look at times, but presentations seem to look smoother in later shows. Colors look great throughout, with colors looking rich and well-saturated with no instances of bleeding or other problems. Flesh tones are also accurate and natural. Again, aside from a few little problems now and then, HBO has done the series justice - and I was certainly happier with how these looked than how "Sex and the City" looked.

SOUND: Surprisingly, these episodes are presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. This simply opens up the audio for the show, and does a fairly effective job doing it. It doesn't use the surrounds that often, but they occasionally come into play to offer the great songs, score, or some light ambient sounds. On the "college" episode, there is a thunderstorm in the background that does a nice job presenting enveloping rainstorm sounds at times, for example. Bass occasionally is present, but not too strong. Dialogue is clear and easily understood, not edgy or harsh sounding.

MENUS:: HBO has done some fantastic menus for this disc, with great show-themed animation, as well as background music. The box that the disc comes in is also nicely done - the front cover flips up to reveal the box with the 4 discs. The 4 discs are in a fold-out package, sort of like the "X-Files" TV show discs come in.

EXTRAS: I have not been that excited over the extra features that Fox has released with their season box sets for the "X-Files". Although I was happy to see that there looks to be some newly done supplements(the commentary), there still really isn't that much for how much the set costs.

Commentary: This is a commentary from filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich and Sopranos creator David Chase. It's what I call a "question and answer" commentary, where Bogdanovich asks Chase about what inspired various elements of the show from the opening song to how certain scenes were filmed. The discussion doesn't really expand upon the show as a whole series, but keeps mostly focused to this particular episode and some early history of the show. On it's own terms, it's a good commentary that is informative and at times entertaining as Chase admits that he doesn't like a song that he included behind a certain scene in the pilot. Worth a listen. The commentary is only for the pilot episode - there are no other commentary tracks for other episodes.

Previews: The TV ad for each episode.

David Chase Interview: Like the commentary, this is between creator David Chase and filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich, who provides the questions for the interview. The nearly 80 minute interview does provide some informative bits from Chase, who gives us a great deal of information on the show's creation and ideas. I would have liked a bit more back-and-forth from Bogdanovich, though. He does provide good questions, but instead of expanding upon what Chase says, he mainly seems to agree with him. Chase talks about the characters and how the stories were going to be told as almost mini-movies on their own. The interview is a little slow at times, but it does provide an interesting look at the process of creating and continuing a television series. I did like the fact that this is just an interview - there's no "filler" - as some promotional documentaries like this might put in a lot of clips and other things in-between to give it additional length.

Featurettes: Two short featurettes, "Family Life" and "Meet Tony Soprano" last a few minutes each. They are strictly promotional featurettes, with interviews and clips. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Also: Text notes on awards, biographies and DVD-ROM web-link.

Final Thoughts: "Season One" is a little bit on the expensive side at $99.99 retail with not many extras, but if you're a fan of the show, it's great to have the entire season on disc. The audio/video quality is not perfect, but still pretty good. If you're a fan of the genre, it's also worth taking a look at because the show is simply so well-written and well-acted by the fine cast.

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