Monday, December 13, 2021

If that Newark Family Gets a Series, Forgive the Film

by Germar Derron

Disclaimer: This is not something I'd normally write. But I may be writing for another site now, and they have me doing many many samples, pitches, trainings . . . .  And I just hate for content to be wasted. So, I'll post it here.

Anthony Neste / Getty Images

If David Chase's Sopranos-based "Mobverse" returns to television, HBO and that Jersey family will rule again. Chase had been fairly insistent that he would not be bringing the gang back to the small screen. Then, that certainty softened to, "well it would have to be a prequel." And that prequel series evolved (maybe devolved) into this year's lukewarm nostalgia trip, The Many Saints of Newark.

Arguably, The Sopranos started this whole prestige TV "thing of ours." And though Newark did many things, it did not do justice to its past future parent offspring series. One of the things it did do was renew interest in the original, far superior series. Post-Newark, its 2000s counterpart surged back into every top 10 most-watched series and episodes lists. That's what the fans want--no, not Paulie, Christopher, and Tony. The culture wants to be a part of the family . . . for a few years.

Today's entertainment is often attached to creating or extending family. See e.g., Succession. That show works because it's about family. Rarely, do the showrunners attempt to explain markets, law, the business, or any details of . . . anything. Audiences care about the brother, the father, the ex, etc. Today, people work remotely and virtually. Some of the tightest relationships form through social media channels. Podcasts give listeners the experience of regular conversation, with a group of friends united by common interests. The familial bond--that begins on sets and extends through monitors into homes--takes time to form. That bonding through time, more so than colorful characters, pushed The Sopranos to the top of so many television rankings.

"Little Sopranos--the movie," offered an opportunity to see the characters we love before they became the characters we loved--but mostly in supporting, and cameo, roles. In the ultimate bait and switch, trailers and synopses promised a story of a young Tony Soprano. But Newark told a brief tale of "the Moltisantis," which happens to be a far more fitting title.

And even though the story focused on the Moltisantis, too much happened, too quickly. Racism. Check. Tony the athlete and academic. Check. Crazy mom. Check. Wild Janice. Check. Rival factions. Check. Uncle Junior as Fredo. Check. Those stories hinted at here, and throughout the six seasons of the Sopranos, deserve the space and time to develop and impact. With time, the audience grows, and grows up, with the characters. And all that growing turns into caring.

No one cared about the cosplayer versions of Sopranos characters. Some version of The Many Saints of Newark should have debuted as a series on HBO. Indeed, Newark achieved comparably better numbers for the original Sopranos, than it did for itself. If Chase and HBO go forward with a sequel to the prequel series, it will be the best move for the property. America's real first family needs to come home to HBO.

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