The Sopranos Premiered 25 Years Ago — So Why Are Gen Z & Millennials Like Myself Obsessed?

Over the last few months, I’ve noticed more and more of my friends change their Instagram display pictures to characters from The Sopranos. Quotes from the acclaimed drama series are thrown around the table at the pub, signet rings have found their way onto pinky fingers, and I’ve heard more references to baked ziti and capicola (AKA Gabagool) than from my own Italian family during my lifetime.

As someone who has recently become obsessed with the life of the Soprano family and the dodgy dealings of the mob, it’s a welcome change. After all, what’s better than a deep dive into the show you’re invested in over a few frothy boys at the pub? But 25 years after the series first premiered, what is it about the award-winning series that is still about to capture the goldfish-like minds of young millennials and Gen Z?

To find out, I chatted to a bunch of my pals who love the show more than Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) loves ducks. Quack, indeed.

Okay but why do I think I could change him? (Photo by Anthony Neste/Getty Images)

For those who don’t know, The Sopranos follows American-Italian mob boss Tony Soprano as he seeks out therapy for the first time in an attempt to better understand himself, and cope with his rocky mental health, family life and criminal dealings.

Another wave of Sopranos fever kicked off during lockdown when a heap of young people had the time to binge all six seasons of the acclaimed drama. Then, as the series celebrated its 25th anniversary in January, it gained another heap of fans when Warner Brothers started a TikTok account dedicated to turning all 86 episodes into 25-second videos.

For Nick, 29, — whose IG display picture is Paulie ‘Walnuts’ Gualtieri (Tony Sirico) — this was his gateway drug into the show.

“I watched most of the iconic clips on TikTok before finally jumping into the actual show,” he said. “But it was Junior Soprano (Dominic Chianese) busting balls that kept me watching.”

(Image: Twitter)

Even with the repackaging on TikTok, or the extra time on our hands to watch the entire six-season run during lockdown, many older folks who caught the show when it was released have been surprised to see a new cohort of young people flock to the show — despite it being unveiled as the “undisputed champion” of Rolling Stone‘s Greatest TV Shows Of All Time List in 2022.

An article by Dazed even theorised that Gen Z should be actively rebelling against The Sopranos due to the many, many depictions of sex, drugs and violence, after finding that the younger generation wants less of these things on screen and more content that they can relate to. But thanks to the nuanced nature of the characters, and the compelling moral complexity of the plot, it doesn’t seem to be much of a barrier at all.

“The characters are so multifaceted and never do anything that doesn’t make sense to the plot or their own fictional realities,” Ben, 29, explains.

“It’s not just bloodshed and violence for no reason.”

“Ohh Christopher!!!!” but in Adriana’s voice. (Image: Anthony Neste/Getty Images)

Although the stigmatised way mental health is portrayed in the show is dated, seeing Tony through the lens of his therapist Dr Melfi (Lorraine Bracco) is incredibly fascinating.

“I think there’s so much talk around mental health these days but Tony’s just discovering in his 40s,” Tali, 29, says.

“It makes you wonder what his life could’ve been if he knew how to break out of these habits and cycles of trauma and violence. He’s a complex character and people are complex.”

Tag yourself, I’m Paulie Walnuts. (Photo by Anthony Neste/Getty Images)

While the show is undoubtedly drenched in problematic themes, the sense of community held by the families within the show is magnetic. And it’s not just because of my own Italian heritage seen in Sunday dinners, tomato pasta and everyone being a cousin.

“I think in this chronically online world people are craving for genuine community. And of course, it’s misogynistic and violent but also the value of family and living and dying standing by your community,” Tali says.

“There’s also this sense of nostalgia too, I feel like when I was a kid I had a massive family with big family BBQs where all the aunts and uncles and cousins are together.”

According to the series creator David Chase, the longevity of the series doesn’t lie in nostalgia or the nuanced characters. He thinks it lies in the honest story-telling and relatability to a crumbling world. In an interview with Financial Times right before the release of the prequel film The Many Saints Of Newark (2021), Chase was asked why he feels that young people are resonating with a show all these years later.

“I did feel when I wrote the show that things were, as they say in TV, trending down,” Chase said.

“And I feel that even more now.”

The Sopranos was a story hinging on America’s decline. In an interview with the New York Times, Chase once explained that the show wasn’t just about a mobster going to therapy. For him, it was about things getting so bad in the world around them that not even the most morally corrupt, selfish people couldn’t handle it.

For many young people watching feeling the weight of the cost of living crisis, impending climate disaster and war — just to name a few — it’s hard not to resonate with the feeling of apathy towards the world that the series evokes.

Mum and dad!!!! (Image: Anthony Neste/Getty Images)

Ultimately, quality shows like The Sopranos stand the test of time. Although it’s a series that might not be made today, there’s something to be said about still finding authenticity in a situation that so many of us can’t even fathom. And for me personally, the multi-generational appeal is the biggest treat. It’s been a great opportunity to find a show that I love just as much as my Fiat-driving, coffee-drinking Italian father.

So, if you haven’t seen The Sopranos and are looking for a compelling, nostalgic, and kind-fucked show to watch, give it a crack. And if you have any gabagool, bring it ovah ‘ere!