In one of the more unlikely television series revivals, David Chase is returning to the world of his iconic HBO series The Sopranos with a new prequel film, tentatively titled The Many Saints of Newark.
The Sopranos was in many ways the big bang of the current age of prestige television. The experimental, morally grey story of modern day mobsters rewrote the rulebook of what could be done in a TV series, and won everyone involved a raft of awards and acclaim, most notably the late James Gandolfini as crime boss/family man Tony Soprano. After one of the most divisive series finales in TV history, Chase (the series’ creator) was adamant that the story of The Sopranos was over.
However, Chase seems to have had a serious change of heart. According to Deadline, The Many Saints of Newark takes place several decades before the events of The Sopranos, during the Newark riots in the ’60s. That racially charged time saw growing tensions between the Italian American and African American communities in the New Jersey city, particularly between the organized crime segments of both groups. While that setting would mean most of the characters in The Sopranos would be too young to play any real role, it seems highly likely that Tony’s father, Johnny Boy, would figure prominently, as well as a younger versions of his mother, Livia (memorably played by the late Nancy Marchand) and uncle Junior (Dominic Chianese).
Even in an era where classic series like Twin Peaks and Deadwood have been granted unlikely revivals, a return to the world of The Sopranos is a truly shocking development. Gandolfini’s death in 2013 seemed to definitively close the book on any hope of a return to Tony’s world, and Chase’s public reluctance to revisit his seminal work seemed to cement the fact that the story of The Sopranos had been definitively told.
That said, Chase has had decidedly limited success away from The Sopranos. His only major project since the show ended in 2007 was the 2012 film Not Fade Away, which got a lukewarm critical reception and was a non-entity culturally and financially. It’s hard not to wonder if Chase didn’t see the success of Mad Men – the brainchild of one of his most talented Sopranos lieutenants, Matthew Weiner – and see the potential for exploring the world he created from a slightly different angle in an increasingly popular and culturally relevant period setting. It’s unquestionably a risk to the legacy the series left behind, but this is certainly a moment of cautious excitement for fans of The Sopranos.
We will bring you more details on The Sopranos prequel film when we have it.
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