We're now past both the end of the broadcast network TV season and Memorial Day, so while the calendar might insist that summer is nearly a month away, the summer TV season is absolutely here. Dan and I have already run through some of the new and returning summer shows we're most interested in, and now it's time for me to tell you the classic TV season we'll be revisiting on the blog this summer. (That is, if the picture on this post hasn't already given it away.)
This is my sixth summer at HitFix, and I've spent most of the previous ones looking back at HBO dramas, including the third season of “The Wire” and all three seasons of “Deadwood.” (That first year, I also did “Firefly” rewinds, mainly because summer TV wasn't nearly as busy then as it is now.) Last summer, I was feeling burnt-out on the idea, particularly as there was more and more original summer content to look at, and I decided to experiment with occasional looks at classic sitcom episodes. That didn't work out, in part because there were fewer streaming options than I thought for many of the ones I wanted to use.
As we approached this summer, I gave a lot of thought to what show to use, considering the usual criteria: 1)It had to be a season I hadn't already reviewed; 2)It had to be 13 episodes or less so I could finish by September; 3)It had to be readily accessible by at least one streaming service; 4)It had to be a show I would enjoy revisiting; and 5)It had to be a show enough of you would enjoy revisiting to make it worth the time and effort.
Eventually, I kept coming to the same two thoughts: 1)“The Sopranos” season 1 was the obvious choice; and 2)Was it therefore too obvious a choice?
After all, I have written a word or 20,000 in my day about “The Sopranos,” from The Star-Ledger to my old blog to HitFix, not to mention as arguably the most important show in my book. If you don't know my feelings about the show by now, it's not for lack of trying on my part.
But I only did weekly reviews for the show's final two years, along with a handful of then in seasons 4 and 5 (you can find links to all of them here), and I wasn't writing about the show at all in its first three seasons, when Matt Zoller Seitz owned that beat for the Ledger. I've been asked often about going back to write about those early seasons in the same detail I gave to HBO contemporaries like “The Wire” and “Deadwood,” and I resisted long enough that it now feels like a good time to do it. It's been more than 16 years since these episodes aired, and since the success of “The Sopranos” spawned a legion of imitators and descendants.
Last year, I talked about how “Hill Street Blues” was so widely-copied that what was groundbreaking at the time could risk seeming like a cliche in hindsight. “The Sopranos” is nearly as old today as “Hill Street” was when “The Sopranos” debuted, and I'm curious to see both how I respond to the show and how you guys do, whether you know all the jokes by heart or have never watched it before.
For what it's worth, I rewatched the pilot before committing to doing this. Right around when Tony went to visit his mother, I realized that I hadn't stopped smiling the entire time. I'm sure there will be some bumps – even back in '99, the show wasn't perfect – but good lord am I looking forward to watching and discussing these episodes with you.
My plan, as of now, is to post these reviews each Wednesday, though summer vacation and press tour will, as usual disrupt things from time to time. Since it's already Tuesday, and I haven't written a word yet, we'll hold off on discussing the first episode until next week. You can stream the episodes on HBO Go, HBO Now, and Amazon Prime, and of course the entire series is available on DVD and Blu-ray. Also, my cable company (Comcast) currently has the first season available On Demand, which leads me to assume others do as well.
So go eat some f–kin' ziti, watch the first episode, and we'll meet back here in a week and a day to discuss when Tony met Melfi.