Alongside “The Wire” and “Six Feet Under,” the mob drama helped HBO dominate television discourse in the early 2000s. The program ran from 1999-2007.
Fourteen years later, the show still has a massive audience full of people who are perhaps too young to have watched the show during its original run — and not just casual viewers, but superfans.
Musician and “Sopranos” star Michael Imperioli noticed just last month that the audience at one of his band’s concerts in New York was full of fans of the show, some even dressed in skin-tight animal prints like his character Christopher Moltisanti’s girlfriend Adriana La Cerva.
“I don’t know what they were expecting,” Imperioli told the New York Times of the concert, which had nothing to do with “The Sopranos,” but was a benefit for the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, a trans rights organization.
Imperioli noted that there was an audience that “grew up with” the show.
“They watched it when it first aired,” he recalled. “They had, you know, pasta and pizza parties on Sunday night, and they grew older with us.”
But the actor noticed a change in the fandom when he joined Instagram in 2019, finding “all these fan sites and meme sites” dedicated to “The Sopranos,” as well as an affinity for the program by a younger audience.
At about the same time, Imperioli was approached by podcast producers, and he created “Talking Sopranos” in April 2020 with his former co-star Steve Schirripa. Their show joined the legion of others dedicated to “The Sopranos.”
According to the Times, binging “The Sopranos” made for a popular activity during the coronavirus pandemic, with HBO reporting that the show’s streaming hours tripled during the time period.
The outlet also notes that the show has a leftist spin, with other podcasts and fansites highlighting the show’s political angles when approaching topics like environmentalism, the opioid epidemic, teenage depression, American history and more.
Additionally, the outlet points out that despite the heinous acts committed by James Gandolfini’s Tony Soprano, the actor and “The Sopranos” itself make him sympathetic and gives him plenty of qualities relatable to a young person.
Soprano is what audiences today would call a “Boomer,” a member of the Baby Boomer generation known for holding tight to classic American traditions and the like, certainly separating himself from younger audiences. But his self-conflict is what the Times reports resonates with viewers of a younger demographic.
Soprano suffers from an anxiety disorder and visits a therapist. He feels the effects of impostor syndrome. He uses psychedelics and is in an arguably open marriage. His spirituality also echoes current trends in younger generations, as well as his career dysphoria.
Of course, Soprano’s character has children of his own who face uniquely millennial obstacles, opening the show to younger audiences that see themselves in the post-modern characters.