So, here I am, sitting down to watch the first ever episode of The Sopranos - and it's the first time I've actually bothered to do this.
I have absolutely no idea what's going to happen. So no spoilers! I also have no idea what I'm letting myself in for. I mean, what if I can't stand it, and I have a shitload of other episodes to get through? Hmmm.
First up, the credits. Now, not wanting to sound rude, but they kinda date it. I am, of course, talking about the shot of the Twin Towers.
Incidentally, the World Trade Center's appearance was the ONLY thing about the American version of Life On Mars which was better than the British original.
Seriously, go here, forward it on to about eight minutes and ten seconds and then honestly tell me that a bypass in Manchester has anywhere near the same effect.
While you're at it, though, a note to any American readers - the American version of Life On Mars was pretty woeful compared to our version. Beg, borrow, or steal a copy, because it is fuckin' ace.
Yes, the credits. We see a man (presumably Tony Soprano) driving his car from New York, through the tunnel, through the toll booth and back to New Jersey.
I like New Jersey, for three reasons. Firstly, my Mam has a distant cousin in New Jersey. Second, lots of great bands (Monster Magnet, Gaslight Anthem, Rye Coalition, Skid Row and The Misfits, to name but five) have come from there. Third, someone said the Garden State (for that is its nickname, fact fans!) was the Essex of America. I live in Essex SO I TOTALLY UNDERSTAND.
OK, actually I don't, but you get the point.
Also, the music appears to be by Britpop-era Indie-Dance also-rans Alambama Three. Cool.
So, the fella drives up through NJ, past the factories and the train tracks and the marshlands, past the American houses (Yes, yes, I know - but American houses look so different to ones in Britain!) and finally he goes up the drive to his home. Got it.
And then....and then...
Whoa! He's seeing a shrink? Like, seriously?
This reminds me rather a lot about rather-amusing Billy Crystal/Robert Di Niro film Analyse This.
Worth seeing, as it happens.
Oh dear, allowed myself to get sidetracked there...
Right, so Mr Soprano is seeing his psychiatrist because he's been having panic attacks, although he denies it. He tells Dr Malfi about what happened leading up to the attack, explaining that he 'came in too late' and that, lately, he's felt like he came in at the end of something, and the best is over.
I may not be in organised crime, but that's how I feel about where I work!
Anyhow, Tony Soprano then starts talking about these ducks that landed on his pool. I'm pretty hard, but those are cute ducks. He feeds them, and he tells them that if they don't like the ramp going into the pool, he'll build them another one. Awww, bless.
We meet his wife, Carmela, his son, Anthony Jnr, and his daughter, Meadow.
We also meet his nephew, Christopher, who looks familiar. Hold on...
...Oh, blimey. He not only played the guy who got shot in the foot by Joe Pesci in Goodfellas, he also played the American Ray Carling in the American Life On Mars. Like, whoa, coincidence.
Then Dr Melfi explains that there's Doctor/Patient confidentiality, and says that IF she thinks someone's going to get hurt, then she would have to go to the authorities. Like, whoa. But Tony tells her that he 'had coffee' with this guy, Mahaffey, who owed him money.
This brings us to a GREAT scene. Tony chases Mahaffey around a hospital grounds in his car, runs him over, and beats the crap out of him - all to the sounds of doo-wop. This, I like.
We then go to a 'breakfast meeting', where Tony is trying to sort out a deal for a friend/colleague to get them a waste disposal contract. Thing is, a bunch of Czech guys - the Kolaks - have made a better offer. Chris says he'll sort it out. Hmm
Oh, and then there's a problem with Tony's Uncle Junior. He wants to Whack some bloke called Pussy Malanga. Now, I'm guessing this wouldn't normally be a problem, except it's being done at Tony's mate Art's restaurant.
I don't know much about Mafia etiquette, but I'm guessing that having a whacking carried out at a mate's restaurant is a terrible faux pas.
Then - bang - we see Tony moving away from The Family and going back to, well, his family. He goes round to his mother's - and his mother seems to be an absolute nightmare. She doesn't seem to have much time for Tony.
Another dating thing - Tony gets his mother a CD player. He also mentions a retirement community - but Mrs Soprano says she's not going to a nursing home.
THEN THE DUCKS FLY OFF!
This is rather upsetting - especially for Tony, whose at his son's birthday party and collapses. Off to the hospital for an MRI scan, and then we see how Christopher's negotiating with Emil Kolar (who he calls Email). This particular business method involves chopping out a line of cocaine, and then Christopher shoots Emil in the head. WHACK TIME!
Tony is then trying to stop his Uncle shooting Pussy Malanga at his mate's restaurant, and then it turns out that Carmela and Meadow (MEADOW???) don't get on.
Back in Dr Melfi's office, Tony admits that the ducks leaving has caused him to feel depressed, but then he storms out - and it's back to trying to get Mrs Soprano into the retirement village - which goes well, until she sees the nursing unit, but then we're back with Dr Melfi, and more stuff about how Tony feels - he's like a 'Sad clown, laughing on the outside, crying on the inside'. He gets prescribed anti-depressants, and it's off to the strip bar where Christopher's talking to someone else about Mahaffey. Tony and the guy - who's Jewish - work out a scheme to defraud insurance companies with Mahaffey's help.
Tony tries to get Artie (the restaurant guy) to go on a cruise. However, Artie's wife isn't so keen.
Mahaffey is taken to a beauty spot - a waterfall - by the Jewish guy and Big Pussy (not the Pussy who might get whacked by Uncle Junior). He takes the hint, and agrees to the scheme.
Dr Melfi has a date, but there's a massive queue...until Tony walks in with his mistress. The shrink's date is a tad shocked, but Tony get's em a table. Bless 'im.
Tony then admits to his wife he's on prozac. He goes to his daughter's volleyball game, and on the way back he takes her to church, where he tells her of how his grandfather and great-uncle built it.
Then Artie's restaurant blows up. With a big fucking explosion. Awesome.
We're back with Tony and Dr Melfi, and we about a bizarre dream. A duck flies off with his knob (in the dream) and he breaks down as he admits that he misses the ducks.
At this point, everyone has a barbecue. Artie's there and is rather upset, but Tony tells him 'talking helps'. Of course, Tony (or possibly Christopher) made it EXPLODE IN TOTAL FLAME. Christopher meanwhile has the arseache over not getting any credit for whacking Emil Kolar, and that he wants to get into movies. Tony doesn't like this.
Uncle Junior's driving Mrs Soprano to the barbecue, and they both have a moan. Junior says 'something may have to be done about Tony'. Ooh. Sinister.
Then they turn up, we cut to the pool, and that's it.
SO! What have I learned?
I've learned Tony Soprano is a conflicted man. On one hand, he's gotta be the tough guy, but on the other hand, he isn't coping very well in himself. I've learned that his mother and his uncle are pains, that his kids are nuisances - and his nephew is a bit of a psycho. I've learned he's a man of violence, but a man of decency.
More to the point, I've learned that, well, I just might like this show. It was a good, well made, exciting episode, and it introduced me to loads of characters, who I'll have to keep tabs on. I want to know what's going to happen next.
Anyway, until next time...see ya around - and leave your comments!