The Sopranos (The Sopranos episode)

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"The Sopranos"
The Sopranos episode
Christopher The Sopranos Pilot.jpeg
Episode no.Season 1
Episode 1
Directed byDavid Chase
Written byDavid Chase
Produced byDavid Chase
Cinematography byAlik Sakharov
Editing byJoanna Cappuccilli
Production codeS101
Original air dateJanuary 10, 1999 (1999-01-10)
Running time60 minutes
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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The Sopranos (season 1)
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"The Sopranos", also known as "Pilot", is the first episode of the HBO television drama series, The Sopranos, which premiered on January 10, 1999. It was written and directed by the series creator and executive producer David Chase.

Episode recap[edit]

New Jersey mobster Tony Soprano passes out while barbecuing. Tony's collapse is diagnosed as a panic attack, leading to his referral to psychiatrist Jennifer Melfi. Tony is initially uncooperative, but soon tells Dr. Melfi a story about a family of ducks which nested in his swimming pool. He goes over tensions between Carmela and Meadow over a girlfriend, Hunter Scangarelo, with whom Meadow wants to take a trip. Tony also tells Melfi about the stress of training Christopher Moltisanti, whom he calls his nephew, in the "family business." After establishing the ground rules of what will fall under doctor-patient confidentiality, Tony opens up about his career, but keeps the violent details from Melfi.

Tony details the stress of caring for his aging mother, Livia, with whom he has a strained relationship. He also mentions being irritated by his wife's affinity with their priest, Father Intintola. Melfi succeeds in making Tony admit he feels depressed, but he storms out when she presses him further about the ducks. A second panic attack triggered by Livia sends Tony back to Melfi, who prescribes Prozac. Tony claims the medication has improved his mood, but Melfi instead credits their talk therapy together. Tony describes a dream where a bird steals his penis. Melfi extrapolates from this to reveal that Tony projected his love for his family onto the family of ducks living in his pool, and that their flight from the pool sparked his panic attack through the overwhelming fear of somehow losing his own family. To his consternation, this brings Tony to tears.

When Tony dines with his mistress, the restaurant manager greets him. He later gives the same greeting when Tony arrives with Carmela, aiding Tony in covering up his infidelity. At this dinner, Tony confesses to Carmela that he is taking Prozac and seeing a psychiatrist. Carmela, who thinks Tony is about to confess to more adultery, is overjoyed and tells Tony she is proud of him. Tony stresses that he only told her because she is the only person he is honest with, causing Carmela to scoff at him. Meanwhile, Chris kills Emil "Email" Kolar in the back room of Satriale's Pork Store as part of an ongoing dispute involving Tony's sanitation business. Chris follows the advice of Soprano soldier Salvatore "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero and they bury the body to avoid police investigation.

By beginning a new enterprise inspired by his MRI, Tony demonstrates his suitability as an innovative mob leader. Mahaffey, a compulsive gambler who is in debt to Tony, is intimidated into making false claims to pay out to his crime family. Herman "Hesh" Rabkin, an old Jewish friend of Tony's father, gives Tony advice on this scheme and on problems with Tony's Uncle Junior, who feels jealous of Tony's ascendancy in the family. Junior wants to kill turncoat "Little Pussy" Malanga in Artie Bucco's restaurant. Tony, a friend of Artie's since childhood, fears that a mob hit could hurt Artie's business. After Junior refuses to move the hit to another location, and Artie's wife Charmaine refuses Tony's offer of cruise tickets, Tony has his trusted right-hand man, Silvio Dante, bomb the restaurant in the hopes that Artie can claim insurance money without becoming aware of the gangland conflict.

At his son A.J.'s birthday party, Tony and his crew comfort Artie about the loss of his restaurant, and Tony promises to always help him. Chris becomes angry and storms off; Tony presses him and discovers he is disappointed at not receiving more recognition for his work in the garbage conflict. Though Tony is slightly annoyed with Chris for killing Kolar without his explicit orders, he agrees and apologizes to Chris. However, when Chris reveals that he has been thinking about turning his life story into a Hollywood script, Tony grabs him in a fit of sudden rage and tells Chris to not even think about it. While Chris seems stunned, Tony regains his good mood just as quickly, embraces Chris, and they both walk off. While giving Livia a ride to the party, an embittered Junior floats the idea of eliminating Tony if he continues interfering in his business. Significantly, his sister-in-law's reaction is to silently look the other way with a slight hint of a smile.



"This wasn't four pretty women in Manhattan. This was a bunch of fat guys from Jersey. It was an incredible leap of faith."

James Gandolfini about the prospects everyone in the production team thought they had of the pilot being picked up to series by HBO[1]

Pre-production for the pilot commenced in the summer of 1997, a year and a half before the series debuted on TV. The episode was completed by October 1997. Despite being well received by Chase's closest friends and the cast and crew who watched it, Chase feared the pilot would not be picked up by HBO and, in that case, planned to ask the network for additional money to shoot another 45 minutes and turn it into a feature film. Chase was also pressured by another, completely new development deal offered to him by another network, which he kept postponing until he heard HBO's verdict on The Sopranos. Right before Christmas of 1997, David Chase received a phone call and learned that HBO did like the pilot and ordered a full season, all of which happened about two hours before the deadline for accepting the other network's deal. Chase was relieved as if "let out of jail. It was like a reprieve from the governor."[2] "The Sopranos" is the first of only two episodes directed by Chase. The other is the series finale, "Made in America". Although this episode is titled "The Sopranos" on the DVD, Blu-ray and reruns on A&E, it was referred to as "Pilot" when originally aired.

During the year-long break between the pilot and the start of the shoot of the rest of the 12 episodes of the season, James Gandolfini gained 60 pounds for the role of Tony and underwent voice coaching. Siberia Federico and Michael Santoro play Irina and Father Phil respectively. For future episodes, these roles were recast with Oksana Lada and Paul Schulze. Drea De Matteo was originally simply cast as a restaurant hostess for this one episode only. The filmmakers liked her performance, and her character was developed into the role of Adriana La Cerva in future episodes.[2] The pork store used as a meeting place is Centanni's Meat Market, a real butcher shop in Elizabeth, New Jersey. However, because the shop had a steady business and because local business owners were annoyed with the incidental effects of having a television production being shot on a weekly basis, HBO acquired an abandoned auto parts store in Kearny, New Jersey which became Satriale's Pork Store for use in future episodes.[3]

Connections to future episodes[edit]

  • Christopher mentions his cousin Gregory's girlfriend who claims to be a development girl. Gregory and Amy Safir would both make an appearance in "D-Girl".
  • Pussy correcting the quote to Christopher that "Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes" would ultimately foreshadow the former's fate. In the Season 2 finale "Funhouse", Pussy's dead body gets thrown in the ocean after Tony, Silvio and Paulie execute him for being an FBI informant — mirroring the quote.
  • The opening shot of the first scene in Dr. Melfi's waiting room shows Tony triangularly framed by the legs of a sculpture of a naked woman. In the Season 3 episode "Second Opinion", this exact framing is replicated, this time with Tony's wife, Carmela seen through the legs of the statue.
  • Tony talks to Dr. Melfi about Gary Cooper as "the strong, silent type" and how society has become a far cry from that ideal, with people constantly playing the victim and complaining about their problems instead of doing what they have to do as Cooper's characters did. In the episode "Christopher", Tony does exactly the same thing when Silvio's complaints about the Native American boycott of the Columbus Day Parade go too far in Tony's eyes.
  • In episodes, "The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti" (with Georgie Santorelli's help) and "Cold Cuts" (with Tony Blundetto's help), Christopher disinters and moves Emil Kolar's remains.
  • In "Whoever Did This", Tony suspects Ralph Cifaretto of having Pie-O-My's stable torched. He asks if Ralph has heard from Corky Ianucci lately — an expert arsonist who was responsible for setting Artie Bucco's restaurant on fire in the pilot episode.
  • Carmela wants to take Meadow to the Plaza Hotel for tea—a longtime mother-daughter tradition—Meadow declines in this episode; it takes place in season four, episode "Eloise".
  • Carmela tells Tony that he will go to Hell when he dies. Tony reminds her of this in "Whitecaps". In "Join the Club", Carmela tearfully tells a comatose Tony that she regrets saying this.
  • When describing Uncle Junior, Tony tells Dr. Melfi that his uncle embarrassed him by telling all his girl cousins he didn't have the makings of a varsity athlete. Uncle Junior repeats that declaration to Tony on multiple occasions in the season five episode "Where's Johnny?".
  • Tony's ownership of John F. Kennedy's sailing hat, which he keeps on his boat The Stugots, is established in this episode. He later shows it off in the season five episode "In Camelot".
  • "Little Pussy" Malanga, the man Uncle Junior wants to kill in Artie's restaurant, is the same person for whom Junior mistakes Tony when he shoots him in the season six episode "Members Only".

Cultural references[edit]

  • Voicing his discontent to Dr. Melfi about the current trend of people to publicly discuss their personal problems, Tony mentions the Sally Jessy Raphael Show.[4]
  • Carmela and Father Phil watch Field of Dreams before finding out that Meadow broke curfew.
  • While touring Green Grove, the theme to The Rockford Files can be heard coming from the television. David Chase was a writer/producer for The Rockford Files for many years.
  • Christopher is introduced while driving a Lexus LS 400, which was a flagship automobile and seen as a quintessential product of the 1990s.
  • When disposing of Emil Kolar's body, Christopher says to "Big Pussy," "Louis Brasi sleeps with the fishes." Pussy corrects him, "Luca Brasi." The character Brasi, as well as the famous phrase describing his death as "sleeps with the fishes," are from The Godfather. The movie is referred to and homages to it are made throughout The Sopranos' entire run.[5]
  • When Tony grabs Christopher after he was considering selling his life story into a biopic, he mentions mobster Henry Hill whose life story was documented in the true crime book Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family and subsequently adapted into Goodfellas.


  • The very first song to play in the background while Tony gets the newspaper is "Welcome (Back)" by Land of the Loops. It is played again in "The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti".
  • The background music playing while Tony is in the pool with the ducks is "Who Can You Trust?" by Morcheeba (from their album of the same name).
  • The song played in the kitchen during the breakfast scene, while Tony plays with the ducks, is "Shame Shame Shame" by Shirley & Company.
  • The song played in the kitchen during the breakfast scene, as Tony and Carmela speak, is "I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying" by Sting.
  • The song played in the car, when Christopher first appears, is Fred Neil's "The Other Side of This Life", performed by Jefferson Airplane. The cut is from the album Bless Its Pointed Little Head.
  • The song played when Christopher and Tony are chasing Tony's debtor is "I Wonder Why" by Dion and the Belmonts. Within the commentary track on the DVD release, David Chase states his regret about choosing this song for the scene.
  • The song played in the scene outside the cafe is "Rumble" by Link Wray and His Ray Men.
  • The song played as Tony and Christopher drive to Vesuvio and as they meet Uncle Junior and Artie Bucco is "Can't Be Still" by Booker T. & the M.G.'s.
  • The song played on the CD player Tony bought for Livia is "Who's Sorry Now?" by Connie Francis
  • The song played during Tony's first attack is "Chi il bel sogno di Doretta" from La rondine, by Giacomo Puccini. This song is also played at the end of the episode "Irregular Around the Margins".
  • The song played during the scene where Christopher kills Emil Kolar is "I'm A Man" by Bo Diddley.
  • The song played at the Bada Bing when Tony and Christopher meet with Hesh is "Fired Up!" by Funky Green Dogs
  • The song played in Meadow's room when she informs Carmela that she is not going to the New York Plaza Hotel is "Lumina" by Joan Osborne.
  • The song played on Dick's car radio when he informs Tony and Paulie about the Kolar Bros. withdrawing their bid is "Little Star" by The Elegants.
  • The song played when Tony is with Irina, his mistress, in a restaurant and runs into Dr. Melfi who is also on a date is the same one as when he has a date with Carmela at the restaurant, is "Tardes de Bolonha" by Madredeus.
  • The song played during the barbecue scene at the end is "No More I Love You's" by Annie Lennox.
  • The song played during the nursing home scene is the Theme from the Rockford Files by Mike Post and Peter Carpenter.
  • The song played over the end credits is "The Beast in Me" by Nick Lowe.


David Chase won the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – Drama Series for his work on this episode and a Primetime Emmy Award for Joanna Cappuccilli for Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Drama Series. It was also Emmy-nominated for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series and Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series for David Chase.


  1. ^ Martin, Brett (2007-10-30). ""Woke Up This Morning": The Birth of a Show". The Sopranos: The Complete Book. New York: Time. p. 11. ISBN 978-1-933821-18-4.
  2. ^ a b Martin, Brett (2007-10-30). ""Woke Up This Morning": The Birth of a Show". The Sopranos: The Complete Book. New York: Time. p. 16. ISBN 978-1-933821-18-4.
  3. ^ Martin, Brett (2007-10-30). "Welcome to New Jersey: A Sense of Place". The Sopranos: The Complete Book. New York: Time. p. 31. ISBN 978-1-933821-18-4.
  4. ^ Weber, John; Kim, Chuck (May 2003). "Those Who Know". The Tao of Bada Bing! Words of Wisdom from The Sopranos. United States: Carhil Ventures LLC. p. 45. ISBN 1-56649-278-5.
  5. ^ Martin, Brett (2007-10-30). ""Woke Up This Morning": The Birth of a Show". The Sopranos: The Complete Book. New York: Time. p. 19. ISBN 978-1-933821-18-4.

External links[edit]