The Sopranos

The Sopranos
The Sopranos

Everybody loves The Sopranos—the television audience, the critics, and even the mob. Actor Vincent Pastore portrayed the cuddly cat burglar, hit man, and mob informer "Big Pussy," who went to sleep with the fishes after his friend Tony Soprano exposed him—and effectively wrote Pastore out of a juicy acting job. It doesn't matter.

Although he is now permanently departed from the lucrative gig, Pastore still enjoys his fame. New York pedestrians wave to him on the street and pay their respects: "Hey, Puss!" Even members of the five families who bump into him in public, give greeting. As Pastore says, "They, uh, always want to meet you if you've played somebody they know."

The Sopranos owe it all to Mario Puzo's The Godfather, which burst onto America's conscience in the 1970s. The Sopranos had an easy time succeeding compared to the hostilities Puzo's epic endured in a day when mentioning the Mafia was politically incorrect.

A quarter century of undying popularity of The Godfather made The Sopranos as acceptable as the red, white and blue. The tale of the Sopranos makes them seem part of a romantic novel, and Puzo thought the same of his creations as well.

Only occasionally does some minor wise guy insist the mobsters are not as tough as in real life, where they rule by inducing fright in everyone, especially among their own supporters. Of course, the ex-mobsters reaping rewards as consultants find the show picture perfect. Compared to Puzo's characters, the Sopranos are relative marshmallows, frequently pushed around by their wives and their kids.

The real mafiosi kill women as well as men, including their wives, and they are nothing if not nasty, mean and brutal. If their relatives have to go according to mob rules, so be it. But The Sopranos and The Godfather characters are all really selling Mafia pipedreams. Everybody loves them, although it must be noted that some in the jaded audience show disappointment in closing episodes in which there is no sweeping final bloodbath. Puzo never let his fans down on that.

What next in the Mafia pipedream world? Maybe real-life mobsters playing roles similar to themselves. Some old Mafia hands will whine, "What have we become?"

But if it sells....