Critics, audiences and Barack Obama all agree that some of the most intelligent and trail-blazing entertainment in recent memory has come from one source: the US cable television channel HBO. But is there more to their magic formula than sex, violence and shopping? Sam Delaney finds out.
The executives at HBO took a year to make up their minds about David Chase's new drama. The pilot episode had been subtle, complex and dark. Were audiences really ready for a show about a mob boss in the throes of a midlife crisis? Then there was the name. The Sopranos? It sounded like a show about opera singers. They suggested some more explicit titles: Family Man, The Tony Files, Made In New Jersey. But Chase wouldn't budge. Eventually, against some of their better instincts, they gave the series the go-ahead.
When the first set of scripts came through, their worst fears seemed fulfilled. In one of the early episodes, protagonist Tony Soprano was described as taking his teenage daughter on a college road trip, during the course of which he beats then fatally strangles a former colleague turned FBI informant. The executives were aghast. 'We called David in and said, ''We can't have the hero commit a brutal murder this early in the series! Are you nuts?" ' says HBO co-president Richard Plepler. 'He said, ''That's what it is. That's the show I'm making.'' We thought about that for a while and said, ''OK, you're right. That is the show you're making. And it's a great show.'"Read on Telegraph UK