• Golden Globe Awards

2000: “The Sopranos” Welcomes the Golden Age of TV

The new Golden Age of Television arrived on the eve of a new century, as the New York Times declared that the 1999 drama series The Sopranos “just may be the greatest work of American popular culture of the last quarter century.”

Created by David Chase, the series starred James Gandolfini as New Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano, a man in therapy for panic attacks as he tries to balance his work and family. In 2000, the first season won four of its five Golden Globe nominations: Best Actor – TV Drama (Gandolfini), Best Actress – TV Drama (Edie Falco), Best TV Supporting Actress (Nancy Marchand), and Best TV Drama Series. The only reason the fifth nominee didn’t win was because Lorraine Bracco shared the same category with Falco.
During the six seasons that spanned 1999-2007, the groundbreaking series earned a staggering 23 Golden Globe nominations and five victories. The Globes later also recognized supporting cast members Michael Imperioli and Drea de Matteo with nominations, but in its final season, the show only received one nomination (two-time winner Falco), which was largely attributed to the criticism that erupted from critics and audiences after the series wrapped with an ambiguous, fade-to-black ending.

Previous shows had tried to bring big cinematic storytelling to the small screen with mixed results. Miami Vice, Moonlighting, and Twin Peaks all challenged the stigma of television as somehow “less” than movies. But Chase, alongside The West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin, both seemed to somehow invent creator-driven shows that same year which gave birth to the kind of “prestige TV” viewers have now come to expect. Great auteurs continued to raise the bar with complex, ambitious small-screen storytelling on shows like Six Feet Under, The Wire, Lost, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, and The Americans, to name a few.

In a recent Awards Chatter podcast interview, Chase insisted he had no idea his show was making history. “I didn’t think The Sopranos would live on at all, even after doing it and even after it got all these accolades, because I thought, ‘In a couple of years the references won’t work, nobody will know what we’re talking about, the phones will be different, TVs will be different,” he said. “And that part of it is true — the technology is different. But apparently what it’s about still resonates with people, and to think that you’re really reaching another generation 20 years later is astounding.”
Falco, also a four-time Golden Globe nominee for her work in Nurse Jackie, had a simple response when asked about the legacy of The Sopranos at a 2006 Hollywood Foreign Press Association press conference. “I think the legacy is that it told us real people are quite complicated,” she said, “and that you can’t ‘get it’ in a five-minute sound bite like they try and deliver on a different kind of show.”