Runtime: 4300 Mins
What To Expect: The greatest TV show of all time finally gets the release it deserves
Click Here To Buy The Sopranos – Complete Collection [Blu-ray] [Region Free]
I’ll tell you one thing, this is probably the heaviest box set I’ve ever come into posession of. It weighs in at a beefy 4.8lbs. And it’s probably fitting given the content. I’ve had it since August, but it’s just so monstrous a set to get through that only now am I getting a review up. The main question is, what took it so long? I have my own conspiracy theory for this. For a long time for anyone looking for seasons 2-5 in high definition, that is to say 1080p, if they went to the HBO homepage for the series they’d be linked to Amazon Instant, the only place to view the series in 1080p. Was it that Amazon had purchased some sort of embargo on the remaining seasons? Well at any rate, me, I abstained. The reason being that streaming 1080p will never match disc-based 1080p. For instance the Blu-Ray episodes with this release, while 1080p just like those Amazon episodes, are up to six times larger in size. Go figure.
Anyway, all that is over now. The real thing is here. And if you’re desperate to get it right now you can find it in certain regions already on sale, region free.
For once, Wikipedia is right with its heavily moderated descriptions – that The Sopranos is the greatest TV series of all time. Ever since it ended in 2007 I have been looking for something to fill that giant void, Sons Of Anarchy, Breaking Bad… but nothing comes close to The Sopranos. Each episode is so good that as the hour winds down you wish that it won’t end, which often leads to heavy binging. That’s what good TV does to a viewer. I’m surprised by how many people haven’t seen this masterpiece, so maybe a synopsis is needed, just in case. The series follows Tony Soprano, who has just become mob boss of New Jersey, as he tries to balance family life with a brutal second life as ruthless thug and wily gangster. The stress of this gets to him and he enters therapy, which of course is kept secret lest sharks in the lower ranks try to seize upon it as a weakness.
I have never seen writing or the fleshing out of such enjoyable characters as I have in The Sopranos. The perfect mixture of realism and black humor is brought to life by powerfully organic actors on top of their game. Even there, creator David Chase seemed to home-run every casting decision. The genius structure of the story telling in The Sopranos makes Game of Thrones’ reliance on exposition appear frustrating and sluggish. The realism of its violence, and the way it is only used to strengthen its story and theme, makes the likes of Sons of Anarchy look like adolescent rip offs. Throughout, Tony Soprano mostly remains front and centre. And what a performance put in by James Gandolfini. It’s layer upon layer with that guy and every now and again, David Chase and Gandolfini challenge the viewer on the fact that they’re rooting for him.
For this series the only other thing worth mentioning is the ending. It split many down the middle and I was against it at first. But in a way, it’s (almost) perfect. I feel that The Sopranos, in true classy style, went out while the going was good. I really must emphasize that this is one of the few TV series where each season is 10/10. And it was right and just that they ended it that way. A seventh season might have been good, but evidently Chase felt that he had reached a crescendo. Bravo for pulling the plug when the time was right.
Starting with the packaging of this Blu-Ray release then, I’m glad they haven’t cheaped out. I’m not one for gimmicks so box sets with toys and gadgets and what not don’t interest me. But this release, although minimalist, at least uses premium material and packaging. The last thing we want for The Sopranos is one of those cheap cardboard boxes/sleeves that will be worn by the third time you pull it from the shelf. There are 28 discs here, you’ll be going back to that box a lot. As an added extra, there’s a thick picture book included too with never before (to me) seen pictures – no words – of The Sopranos. It’s a nice touch.
The quality of The Sopranos on Blu-Ray is a mixed but satisfying affair. Mixed not in the sense of bad/good, but different approaches and feeling to the print of seasons. The main difference is the first season and season two onwards. The quality of the first season is, I don’t want to say weak, but more aged. Keep in mind that the pilot for The Sopranos was shot in 1997 on an older type of film. And it shows for season one although it’s by far and away superior to any other format it has been presented in, including online streaming 1080p rental. The quality picks up, for me, noticeably from season two onwards. Edge enhancement for example seems to be present, but not to the detriment of viewing, with deeper colours and a more filmic experience. They changed the film used in 1998/1999 I believe, that probably contributes too.
To talk extras, there are five hours worth included, or thereabouts. About 50% of this is old stuff, an archive of material if you like from TV and DVD features. The other half is new. ‘Supper with The Sopranos’ gets the cast and crew around a large dinner table to reminisce on the series – it’s odd to see Anthony Junior/Robert Ller sitting there at around Christopher Moltisanti’s age when the series began. This two-part feature (about 30 minutes each way) is full of trivia.
There’s another new documentary, ‘Defining A Landmark’, which runs in high definition and calls of many critics and famous faces such as Jeff Daniels to speak about their favourite TV show. Alec Baldwin gets in on the act too, but he gets to have two of his own features, a two part interview with series creator David Chase, running about 20 minutes each way. Baldwin, fans who has already seen the series will remember, does appear in the show. Finally, this set is littered with deleted scenes – worth their weight in gold alone, and commentary tracks. Steven Buscemi’s is possibly the best, for the season three episode that he directed. One other thing, it’s been a long time since I’ve been impressed with a disc-release menu, but The Sopranos Blu-Ray collection has a beautiful menu for each disc. Sytlish and blood red and clearly they had their own director.
The only complaint here is the scandal of its delay, and otherwise then, this is one of the best Blu-Ray sets ever released.