How the Sopranos Got Supercharged By the Birth of Binge-Watching

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Published on 27 Sep 2021, 15:30
In the 20 years since The Sopranos premiered on HBO, TV has never been the same. With the release of The Many Saints of Newark on HBO Max, we're looking back at the legacy of the Sopranos and how the birth of binge-watching supercharged the show's success and helped jumpstart a new golden age of TV.

When David Chase created Tony Soprano and his North Jersey families, he had no idea he was paving the way for shows like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and The Wire to become some of the best TV shows to binge watch. And that’s all thanks to serialized shows’ abilities to create complex characters like Tony Soprano, Walter White, and Don Draper.

But it wasn’t always that way. In the early 1990’s, TV networks were very hesitant to make complex serialized dramas like The Sopranos, because it was difficult to ensure viewers tuned in every week to watch new episodes as they air. If viewers didn’t watch the shows live, the only way they’d be able to catch up is if they recorded it with their VCR- which wasn’t the easiest thing in the world to do.

Shortly after The Sopranos premiered, DVDs and other technologies like TiVo and On-Demand cable started to make it easier for people to watch the shows they wanted at times that were more convenient to them. Binge-Watching TV Shows didn’t hit its heyday until Netflix created the streaming subscription in the late aughts, but DVDs were an early harbinger of the change in viewing habits.

Thanks to DVD’s ability to put whole seasons on just a couple of discs, audiences could very easily catch up on TV shows before the new seasons aired. So if audiences needed to catch up on “The Sopranos best scenes” from season 2 or The Sopranos best moments from season 4, all they had to do is pop in the DVD collection and binge watch away.

If there’s anything to take away from this video is that characters like Tony Soprano (and the performance of James Gandolfini ) were helped by the advent of technologies that allowed people to watch narratively complex shows on their own time. And that newfound flexibility in viewing behaviors allowed TV to create some of the most beloved complex fictional characters in all of pop culture.

For more on the Sopranos and The Many Saints of Newark, be sure to stay tuned to IGN.