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James Gandolfini remembered for setting new standard on 'The Sopranos' -

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The unwritten rule: Don't make your central character someone viewers will recoil from. Break the mold and failure looms. The 1980s comedy "Buffalo Bill" on NBC was highly regarded but conventional wisdom was that it lasted only a year because Dabney Coleman's lead character was such a creep.

It's possible to even pinpoint the moment that "rule" was wiped off the books. In the fifth episode of "The Sopranos," Tony accompanies his daughter on a trip to scout out colleges and spies another mobster who was hiding in the witness protection program. Tony strangles him.


Draw a direct line from Tony to the serial killer at the center of Showtime's "Dexter," the chemistry teacher turned drug kingpin in AMC's "Breaking Bad," Jax Teller and the motorcycle club on FX's "Sons of Anarchy," the turncoat hero Nicholas Brody on "Homeland," the spies Philip and Elizabeth Jennings on FX's "The Americans."

Keep going.

"I don't think 'The Shield' would have happened without 'The Sopranos,'" said John Landgraf, the FX network's president and general manager. He's not sure a pilot episode with the lead character, Michael Chiklis' Vic Mackey, killing another cop would have been green-lighted if it hadn't been three years after Tony made his debut.

It's not just psychopaths, either. Don Draper's morally compromised advertising executive on AMC's "Mad Men" owes its existence to the television "rule" that Tony Soprano ended. The characters' flaws earn a pass, even devoted support from viewers, through strong writing and acting.


The Sopranos made Game of Thrones possible, too.

The ensemble, the many story lines, the 10-episode season format...

The fact that any character could be gone at any time.

Now that you mention it, yes, absolutely!

Game of Thrones extended the model, though.

The Sopranos was about Tony Soprano ascending to power and then everything he does to hold onto it.

Game of Thrones is more fascinated by the power vacuum created when its Tony Soprano dies.

The Tony Soprano of Game of Thrones is Robert Baratheon, who dies in season 1.

That sets into motion all of the events we've watched since.

There's a new book that comes out July 3:

DIFFICULT MEN, by Brett Martin.

He had backstage access to The Sopranos and Breaking Bad and tells the insider stories of making them. 

An American Family

In April 2007, Vanity Fair chronicled the making of the greatest pop-culture masterpiece of its day—HBO’s The Sopranos, the cast of which posed for a series of portraits by Annie Leibovitz. The indelible photographs from that shoot are curated here for the first time on; for a sneak-peek at the magazine’s oral history of the show, featured in the April 2012 issue, watch the story’s trailer.

Some of Tony Soprano's murder victims are pictured here, but you'll want to check out all five complete-cast slides .

Fascinating that James Gandolfini also made an appearance on Sesame Street:

RIP, James Gandolfini.

Rest In Peace, James Gandolfini. - Imgur

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