Happy 25th Anniversary to “The Sopranos” – Tony Soprano vs. Logan Roy

by Allen Esrock | Jan 30, 2024 | Lifestyle

Promotion for 25th Anniversary of The Sopranos including listing for different business category including a large check for crime
Shutterstock lev radin

In case you missed it, as most of the world did, the strike-delayed Emmy Awards finally aired last week.  Only 4.3 million viewers watched the show, the equivalent of three Taylor Swift concerts.

“Succession”” was the big winner of the evening, taking the best drama honors for its final season, the third time the show has claimed television’s most prestigious prize.  “Succession” centers on the Roy family, the owners of the largest family-owned media and entertainment company, and the fight for control of the company amongst the next generation.  The show swept nearly all the major acting awards for drama, with Kieran Culkin, Sarah Snook, and Matthew Macfadyen winning for their last-season performances.  If you haven’t watched the show, here’s a quick breakdown of the family business characters.

Some viewers and critics placed “Succession” in the category of the best television show of all time. Ironically, it’s not even the best show about a family business on HBO.

Four days before the Emmys, the cast of ““The Sopranos”” gathered at Da Nico restaurant in Little Italy to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the most consequential drama on American television.

To understand the significance of “The Sopranos”, it is crucial to understand its historical context. In the late 1990s, television was undergoing a transition – cable networks were gaining popularity, and traditional broadcast networks were losing their dominance.  Additionally, the nascent internet was creating opportunities to narrowcast to different market segments.  This paradigm shift, led by HBO, enabled producers to develop more complex and thought-provoking narratives targeted to a sophisticated viewing audience. Television was no longer seen as a secondary medium but emerged as a platform that could rival and surpass film for thought-provoking narrative.

“The Sopranos” – Tony Soprano

“The Sopranos” is the story of an angst-ridden New Jersey mob boss, Tony Soprano, played by the late James Gandolfini, struggles to balance his work and family life.  The extraordinary cast includes Edie Falco, Michael Imperiloi, Steven Van Zandt, Robert Iler, Tony Sirico, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, and Lorraine Bracco.

Freed from the shackles of network television, “The Sopranos” broke new ground by challenging conventional television norms and paving the way for innovative storytelling. Some of the significant impacts of “The Sopranos’ include:

Complex Characters: “The Sopranos” introduced audiences to morally ambiguous and multidimensional characters that defied typical archetypes. The show depicted the realities of organized crime, dysfunctional families, and the consequences of immorality in a way that had not been seen before on television.

Narrative Ambiguity: “The Sopranos” embraced ambiguity, leaving much to interpretation. The finale, in particular, became a topic of intense debate, encouraging viewers to actively engage with the show long after its conclusion.

Influence on Television: “The Sopranos” paved the way for a new era of television storytelling. It inspired a wave of high-quality, character-driven dramas such as “Breaking Bad”, “Mad Men”, and “Game of Thrones”, among others.

The true gift of “The Sopranos” is Tony Soprano, the show’s center of gravity, and one of the most complex characters portrayed on television.

Tony, the anti-hero of the show, faces a multitude of problems from family conflicts to moral dilemmas, Tony’s problems highlight the duality of his existence as a mob boss and a family man, making him a compelling and relatable character.

Tony resonated with the audience because he represented a category of men in contemporary America with doubts, psychological stresses, money-chasing, being disappointed by family, wanting to see that family happy and provided for, and suffering from often intense depression/anxiety.

As the head of the Soprano crime family, Tony is immersed in a world of violence, deception, and constant threats to his power. His status creates additional pressure on him to maintain his position and uphold his responsibilities within the family.  However, this also means that Tony is often physically and emotionally absent from family life, which makes it impossible to have a stable relationship with his wife, Carmela.  Their dynamic is characterized by constant tension and conflicts arising from Tony’s infidelity.

Tony’s struggles with mental health add another layer of complexity to his character. He battles depression, anxiety, and panic attacks throughout the series, seeking solace in therapy sessions with Dr. Jennifer Melfi. These therapy sessions provide glimpses into Tony’s vulnerabilities and reveal the deep-seated psychological issues that contribute to his problems.

One of the most complicated relationships is between Tony Soprano and Christopher Moltisanti, played by Michael Imperioli.  Tony and Christopher are cousins and are related through his marriage to Carmela.  Christopher is seen by Tony as the heir to his empire, even though he isn’t his son.  The reason for this is that Tony recognizes that Anthony Jr. isn’t going to be cut out for a life of crime, but Chris, who is steadily working his way up the ladder, could one day take over.  Throughout the series, Tony frequently refers to Christopher as his nephew, and likewise, Christopher calls Tony his uncle.  While this isn’t the reality of the relationship, it underscores family businesses’ most pressing issue of identifying next-generation leadership for the family business.

While Tony initially views Christopher as a nephew and protege, their relationship becomes strained due to Christopher’s drug addiction, disloyalty, and erratic behavior. Christopher died during Season 6, Episode 18 “Kennedy and Heidi”; however, it wasn’t the result of a mob hit or a drug overdose, which were both possible scenarios.

Christopher is driving Tony back from a meeting in New York City.  He’s restless and Tony pays close attention to his actions.  Their car drifts into the opposite lane, then swerves sharply to avoid an approaching car. They go off the road and the car rolls over many times as it descends an embankment. Tony is not seriously hurt but Christopher, who was not wearing a seat belt, is seriously injured, with internal bleeding.  Christopher tells Tony to call a taxi as he would not pass a drug test. Tony begins to call 911 for help but abruptly changes his mind. He pinches Christopher’s nose shut so that he cannot breathe, and he chokes to death on his own blood.

Later in the episode, Tony has a dream about a session with his therapist, Dr. Melfi, in whichhe recalls Christopher as an embarrassment and is happy he doesn’t have to deal with future screw-ups.  During a live session with Dr. Melfi, he affirms his disdain for Christopher and confesses that he hates having to keep up appearances and feign being remorseful in front of his family.  Tony’s inner turmoil is the compelling force behind the show’s narrative.

“Succession” – Logan Roy

Logan Roy, played by Bryan Cox, holds even more power over his family empire and family members than Tony Soprano.  With a commanding presence and a cutthroat business mindset, Logan is known for his ruthless pursuit of power and his unwavering determination to maintain control over his vast media empire.  The opening episode of “Succession” shows an aging Logan peeing over the bathroom floor due to his declining health.  Later in the episode, he figuratively pees on Kendall Roy when he reneges on his decision to retire from the family business.

In his pursuit of securing his legacy, Logan has a strained relationship with his children, whom he sees as both potential heirs and threats to his empire. While he loves his children, he is a narcissist who thinks highly of himself, believes other people are inferior, and lacks empathy for them.   Roy’s love is meted out based on how his children respond to his loyalty tests and response to his constant and relentless humiliations.

In Season 2, Episode 3,” Hunting”, Logan’s disdain for humanity is in full force as he forces Greg, Tom, and Carl to play the demeaning game of Boar on The Floor.  While none of his children are made to participate in this game, there are many such incidents where they are the target of his wrath.  Boar on the Floor brilliantly captures the zeitgeist of “Succession” in a short clip.

Logan isn’t the only self-made billionaire who’s driven by an insatiable hunger to be recognized by others and demands unconditional loyalty and respect from others.  He isn’t the only billionaire who derives pleasure from humiliating his children regardless of the damage that’s causing them.  However, having Logan’s narcissism as the gravitational center of the show ensures that the other relationships will be filled with deception and loathing.  While these power dynamics exist in many wealthy families, it doesn’t allow for the same degree of complexity as in “The Sopranos’.

Congratulations to Jesse Armstrong for creating “Succession, a program that entertains and is a great match for the times we live in.   And thank you to David Chase and James Gandolfini, on the 25th Anniversary of “The Sopranos” and for creating a show and character that helped redefine television.

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Allen Esrock is the Founder of NxtGen Nexus, a platform for the next generation of family business owners which is based on his experience of growing up in a family business. Prior to that he started Jitter Fingers, the first safe, social networking website for tween girls and their bffs with Jitter Finger clubs in 12+ countries and 250+ cities in the US.

About the Author

Allen Esrock is the Founder of NxtGen Nexus, a platform for the next generation of family business owners which is based on his experience of growing up in a family business. Prior to that he started Jitter Fingers, the first safe, social networking website for tween girls and their bffs with Jitter Finger clubs in 12+ countries and 250+ cities in the US.