The Sopranos (episode)

For the series as a whole, see The Sopranos.
"The Sopranos"
The Sopranos episode
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 1
Directed by David Chase
Written by David Chase
Produced by David Chase
Cinematography by Alik Sakharov
Editing by Joanna Cappuccilli
Production code S101
Original air date January 10, 1999 (1999-01-10)
Running time 60 minutes
Guest appearance(s)

"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 series creator/executive producer David Chase.

Episode recap

New Jersey-based mobster Tony Soprano of the DiMeo crime family unexpectedly becomes short of breath and passes out while barbecuing. After his doctors are unable to find any physical problem with Tony, his collapse is diagnosed as a panic attack. He is referred to psychiatrist Jennifer Melfi. In their first meeting, the two discuss the events that led to his collapse.

Presenting himself as a "waste management consultant", Tony begins detailing the day of his attack to Dr. Melfi. Tony is initially uncooperative, expressing scorn for the practice of psychiatry. He tells Dr. Melfi about the stress of his business life—he has a feeling that he has come in at the end of something and describes a reverence for times past. Tony tells Dr. Melfi a story about a family of ducks landing in his pool and nesting there. He has a little stress in his home life with his daughter, Meadow, associating with a friend, Hunter Scangarelo, who his wife feels is a bad influence. Later he mentions that his wife and daughter are not getting along. Tony also tells Dr. Melfi about the stress of training 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 the doctor.

Tony details the stress of caring for his aging mother, Livia, who is relentlessly pessimistic and cynical, at once demanding and resentful of assistance. He also mentions his wife's relationship with her priest, Father Phil Intintola, as a minor irritation. By the end of their first session Dr. 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 occurs following Livia's derisive outburst at Green Grove, a nursing home in which Tony is attempting to place his mother. This sends Tony back to Dr. Melfi who prescribes Prozac. Tony does not attend their next appointment, but when he bumps into her at a restaurant, he tells her the "decorating tips" she gave him really work.

At their next session, Tony is still reluctant to face his own psychological weaknesses though he is quick to give credit to the medication for his improved mood, but Dr. Melfi tells him that cannot be so, as it takes several weeks to work. She gives credit to their therapy sessions. Tony describes a dream where a bird steals his penis. Dr. Melfi extrapolates from this to reveal that Tony projected his love for his family onto the family of ducks living in his back pool. This brings him to tears, to his consternation. She tells him that their flight from the pool sparked his panic attack through the overwhelming fear of somehow losing his own family.

When dining out with his mistress, Tony is greeted by the restaurant manager, who tells him it is good to see him and it has been ages since he has eaten there. He later gives the same speech 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 absolutely honest with, causing Carmela to scoff at him.

Tony's nephew and mob underling, Christopher Moltisanti, devises his own means of settling a dispute with a Czech waste management company, Triboro Towers Garbage, that rivals the Soprano family's own front business, Barone Sanitation. Under the false premise of a cocaine deal, he lures out and kills the company's heir, Emil "Email" Kolar, in the back room of Satriale's Deli. Originally planning to dump the body in a Kolar family garbage dumpster as an example, Christopher instead takes the advice of longtime family soldier Salvatore "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero, who advises him to bury the body and avoid police investigation, while tacitly intimidating the Kolars. The Kolars drop their rival bid following Emil's disappearance.

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 the organization in order to cover his debts. Herman "Hesh" Rabkin, an old Jewish friend of Tony's father, advises Tony on this scheme and in regards to some problems with Tony's Uncle Junior, who feels jealous of Tony's (and Tony's father's) ascendancy in the organization.

Uncle Junior wants to kill turncoat "Little Pussy" Malanga in Artie Bucco's restaurant, Vesuvio. Tony, a friend of Artie's since childhood, fears that a mob hit in his friend's establishment could damage Artie's business. Junior refuses to move the assassination to another location, explaining Malanga will not meet with Junior unless it is a place he finds safe and familiar. In an attempt to have Artie close Vesuvio's for a time, thereby forcing Junior to kill Malanga somewhere else, Tony offers Artie two tickets for a weeklong cruise. However, Charmaine, Artie's wife, not wanting her husband to get mixed up with the Mafia, demands that he reject Tony's offer. Unable to sway Artie, Tony has his trusted right-hand man, Silvio Dante, detonate an explosion in Artie's restaurant, in the hopes that Artie can claim insurance money without becoming any the wiser of the gangland conflict. Tony instructs Silvio Dante about this plan at their daughters' volleyball game.

At his son's birthday party, Tony and his crew comfort Artie about the loss of his restaurant, and Tony tells Artie he will always help him. Christopher becomes angry and storms off; Tony presses him and discovers he is disappointed at not receiving more recognition for his work on the Triboro Towers garbage conflict. Though Tony is slightly annoyed with Christopher for killing Emil without his explicit orders, Tony agrees and apologizes to Christopher. However, when Christopher reveals that he has been thinking about turning his life story into a Hollywood script and possibly even playing himself, Tony grabs him in a fit of sudden rage and tells Christopher to not even think about it. While Christopher seems stunned, Tony regains his good mood just as quickly, embraces Christopher, and they both walk off.

While giving Livia a ride to the party, an embittered Uncle 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.



"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 Babiy 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

Cultural references



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. 1 2 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 (2003-05). "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. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  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

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