The Sopranos

Book Pages: 232 Illustrations: 29 illustrations Published: February 2009

Author: Dana Polan

American Studies, Cultural Studies, Media Studies > TV

“In its original run on HBO, The Sopranos mattered, and it matters still,” Dana Polan asserts early in this analysis of the hit show, in which he sets out to clarify the impact and importance of the series in both its cultural and media-industry contexts. A renowned film and TV scholar, Polan combines a close and extended reading of the show itself—and of select episodes and scenes—with broader attention to the social landscape with which it is in dialogue. For Polan, The Sopranos is a work of playful irony that complicates simplistic attempts to grasp its meanings and values. The show seductively beckons the viewer into an amoral universe, hinting at ways to make sense of its ethically complicated situations, only to challenge the viewer’s complacent grasp of things. It deftly exploits the interplay between art culture and popular culture by mixing elements of art cinema—meandering plots, narrative breaks, and an uncertain progression—with the allure of a soap opera, delving into its characters’ sex lives, mob rivalries, and parent–child conflicts.

A show about corrupt figures who parasitically try to squeeze illicit profit from the system, The Sopranos itself seems a target of attempts to glom on to its fame as a successful TV series: attempts by media executives, marketers, critics and writers, and even presidential candidates. “Everyone wants a piece of Sopranos action,” says Polan, and he traces the marketing of the series across both official and unauthorized media platforms, including cookbooks, games, DVDs, and the kitschy Sopranos bus tour. Critiquing previous books on The Sopranos, Polan suggests that in their quest to find deep meaning, many of the authors missed the show’s ironic and comedic side.


“[R]ich and comprehensive. . . full of surprising connections and comparisons.” — David Thorburn, Cinema Journal

“As a case study of the modern media environment, with its focus on synergy and the extension of media product across the expanse of the controlling conglomerate's subsidiaries, as well as into the popular culture of its audience(s), The Sopranos is a thoughtful and intensive tour de force.” — Michael R. Frontani, Italian American Review

“Polan delimits an excellent set of features and motifs to analyze and, by and large, acquits himself well in his readings, as well as in their situation within the popular media.” — Charles J. Stivale, Criticism

“Rather than going along with the familiar judgment that The Sopranos stood above and apart from the usual run of mass-cultural fare, Polan reads it as continuous with both the traditions of genre television and the hierarchy-scrambling protocols of the postmodern condition. . . . Polan’s book is often insightful about the visual dimension of the Sopranos. . .” — Scott McLemee, Inside Higher Ed

“An engaging and lucid account of the influential cultural status that HBO’s The Sopranos achieved by allowing diverse artistic and commercial interests to profitably converge in the postnetwork era. The book is distinctive in detailing not just how fans and critics animated the series, but also how HBO and the producers carefully crafted an epic narrative that would lead to a profitable ancillary afterlife. Dana Polan proves that close, careful narrative analysis can provide prescient insights about television’s increasingly sophisticated practices to which broader cultural and industrial accounts are blind.” — John Thornton Caldwell, author of Production Culture: Industrial Reflexivity and Critical Practice in Film and Television


Availability: In stock
Price: $25.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Dana Polan is Professor of Cinema Studies at the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. He is the author of several books including Scenes of Instruction: The Beginnings of the U.S. Study of Film, Jane Campion, Pulp Fiction, and Power and Paranoia: History, Narrative, and the American Cinema, 1940–1950.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Prologue 1

1. The Sopranos on Screen 17

1. Watching The Sopranos 19

2. Eight Million Stories in the Naked City 32

3. Food for Thought 45

4. Living in the Moment 56

5. The Late Style of The Sopranos 63

6. Gaming The Sopranos 72

7. Getting High with The Sopranos 86

8. Qualifying "Quality TV" 98

9. "Honey, I'm Home" 105

10. Against Interpretation 113

11. New Jersey Dreaming 133

2. The Sopranos in the Marketplace 143

12. Tie-ins and Hangers-on 146

13. Touring Postindustrialism 155

14. Cashing In on the Game 162

15. Cable and the Economics of Experimentation 174

16. This Thing of Ours 194

Notes 197

Selected Bibliography 211

Index 213
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4410-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4392-9
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