AMERICAN MOSAIC #820 - The Sopranos

By Paul Thompson


Do you know the answers to these questions? Why would eating places and movie theaters like to see a television program stop broadcasting?How could the head of an imaginary criminal family make a six-thousand-year-old book popular? Shep O'Neal has the answers and more.


"The Sopranos" is one of the most popular shows on American television.It won several television industry awards last year. It has a good chance of winning several more this year.

More than eight-million people watch the program every Sunday night on the cable channel called Home Box Office. People must pay money each month to receive Home Box Office and some other cable television channels.So many people watch "The Sopranos" that the owners of eating places and movie theaters say their business is very slow on Sunday nights.People do not go out that night. They stay home and watch "The Sopranos."

"The Sopranos" is about a family: a father, mother, son and daughter.They live in a very costly home in New Jersey. They have many of the same problems that all families have. The father is worried about his work. His son is having problems in school. His daughter is just starting college. His wife worries about each member of the family.

But there is another part to the story. The father, Tony Soprano, is the chief of a large criminal organization. State and federal police agencies are investigating the group. Tony and other members of this crime family often kill people.

Tony has another problem, too. He suffers attacks of extreme fear. A doctor is treating him for mental health problems. The doctor knows Tony is violent and dangerous. She is trying to help him deal with the many problems and fears that sometimes make him physically sick.

Critics have praised "The Sopranos." They say it is very well written. They say the acting is extremely good. The program is often very funny. It is also sad and very violent. Some critics say the violence is too extreme. They also say the violent head of a criminal group should not be the hero of a television program.

It does not seem to matter what critics say. People love to watch "The Sopranos." The program has even helped sell thousands of copies of a book written by a Chinese military expert more than six-thousand years ago. In one program, Tony talked about the book "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu. Now, one newspaper lists it as the sixth best-selling book in the United States.

Voice of America Special English