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Category:    Home > Reviews > Gangster > Drama > TV > The Sopranos: The Complete First Season + The Sopranos: Season Six, Part II (HBO Blu-ray Sets)

The Sopranos: The Complete First Season + The Sopranos: Season Six, Part II (HBO Blu-ray Sets)

 

Picture: B+/A-     Sound: B+/A-     Extras: C     Episodes: B/B+

 

 

I would say ‘forget about it,’ but The Sopranos is a series that no one will ever forget.  We get a special treat here in this review as I will discuss, in a bookend type fashion, The Sopranos: The Complete First Season and The Sopranos: Season Six, Part II.  From the very beginning The Sopranos caught viewers’ attention and once again solidified that HBO brings audiences addicting quality television.

 

Since I have already discussed in depth the specifics of Season Six, Part II in an earlier DVD review, I will mainly focus on The Complete First Season here.  For more on Season Six, Part II please refer to the link listed below:

 

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/6478/The+Sopranos:+Season+Six

 

 

Without giving too much away (as each episode is more revealing than the last), Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) is a family man trying to balance life at home with business and pleasure.  The Sopranos have the same dysfunctional happenings as the rest of the world, but they have the mafia variable thrown into the mix.  Series creator David Chase single handedly managed to make HBO network into a legitimate and powerful presence in the entertainment business.  Sure HBO had solid success for years prior, but The Sopranos made the network a powerhouse that was able to make future productions that were bigger and sometimes better than anything a major movie studio could put out.  The Sopranos is landmark series for HBO and has become a modern television classic that will strongly stand side-by-side with many other past greats.

 

The series starts simple enough, delving right into the spaghetti and meatballs, with Tony Soprano sitting outside a very plain and stuffy office; seemingly unfit for a man of his status.  He is waiting to meet his new psychologist Dr. Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco of GoodFellas) who he is hoping will shed some light on several recent panic attacks he recently had.  The relationship between Tony Soprano and Dr. Melfi is one that, while very guarded in terms of specifics (due to Dr. Melfi’s legal obligations), is quite revealing into the most inner thoughts of a man with much to hide.  As the series develops we find a seemingly strong man that has a plethora of worries, insecurities and overwhelming obligations that is breaking him down one day at a time.

 

The New Jersey based series bounces between the day to day formalities of a mafia member; with official business, hanging with his crew and dealing with a family that he doesn’t quite understand.  This is all occurring while Tony Soprano and his boys are dodging the FBI and making *loosens collar* some lucrative business deals.

 

The First Season is a great launching point for the series that only gets better with each passing episode.  The characters are amazing, the acting and setting are superb and every moment leaves you wanting more.  Viewers will fly through the first season with ease and wait anxiously for future seasons to arrive on Blu-ray.

 

It is no surprise that the picture and sound quality of the Sopranos: The Complete First Season and Season Six, Part II are right on key with each other; though there is a clear upgrade in quality between 1 and 6.  I will start off by saying, WOW!  This series looks great on Blu-ray.  As previously mentioned Season 6 looks clearly better, but Season 1 is not horrible  by any means.  Whereas other HBO series have looked wonderful, many of them were period pieces that were hindered by artificial grain and color/hue alterations for stylistic purposes.  The Sopranos, however, is a solid visual and audio experience through and through.  The picture is presented in a 1.78 X 1; 1080p VC-1 transfer that contains bright/vibrant colors, dark inky blacks, solid contrast and a flowing quality that feels natural. The image quality emphasizes sharpness and goes above and beyond what the standard def DVD had to offer.  Even the shadowy shots found throughout the series are well rendered, balancing nicely between too dark and artificially bright.  There are no light/dark issues to be seen; with whites gleaming and deep blacks contrastingly pop against brighter backdrops.  Overall I was stunned.  I was expecting nice, but these two releases delivered a crisp, clear image that boasts of bright colors and a sharpness that goes beyond the original High Def television airings.  Now, Season 1 was a starting point when all kinds of crazy money was not poured into the series; this showing on the Blu-ray.  I must say, however, that I don’t know if HBO can improve on it much and it all together looks quite nice.

 

The sound on these two sets differs slightly as Season 6, Part II is presented in a PCM 5.1 Uncompressed Track and The Complete First Season is a English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround Track; and though both different, both are equally impressive.  Season 6, Part II’s PCM 5.1 Track is immersive as every speaker is used.  Not only do bullets fly by and bottles break all around you, but the dialogue is not confined to the front speakers as the track is delivered with beautiful timing and precision.  The directionality is stunning and every whisper is heard with the utmost clarity.  With a solid, deep bass track and crisp, clean dialogue throughout this reviewer was fully impressed.  The sound made every scene pop, especially when spot-on music traffics perfectly conveyed the emotion of the scene.  The English DTS Track of Season 1 is not quite on par with the PCM of Season 6, but I once again attribute that to the lack of HD support at the time of the series original filming.  The pilot episode fairs the worst as it is somewhat inconsistent in certain areas, but then all the following episodes pick up speed as they fully immerse the viewer in sound.  The dialogue surrounds you with solid clarity and once again every whisper is clearly delineated through high traffic scenes and restaurants.  The ambient noises are once again stunning and as bullets fly, the viewer feels like they are there.  It is clear to see that as the seasons progressed the greater financial support helped the productions technical features; therefore I can only expect better things to come from future releases.

 

The extras on both sets are lacking and even with an undying fan base HBO did not see it fit to gather more extras together.  Season One offers fans an Exclusive Interview with Sopranos Creator David Chase by Peter Bogdanovich that is interesting and revealing on the series creative process.  The other extras include 2 additional Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes that are really taken ‘em or leave ‘em and did not hold my interest for very long.  Season 6, Part 2’s extras are just as plain as they include Making of Cleaver: Behind the Scenes of Christopher’s Horror Film and The Music of The Sopranos: Creator David Chase, cast and crew discuss songs from the show.  Those extras are more interesting then those found on the Season 1 set, but the real gen here is Four Audio Commentaries with cast members Dominic Chianese, Robert Iler, Arthur Nascarella, Steven R. Schirripa and Steven Van Zandt; now if that doesn’t sound like a mafia meeting nothing does.

 

 

-   Michael P. Dougherty II


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