When it comes to HBO’s original programming, the network tends to knock it out of the park with its crime dramas. The Sopranos was no different and revolutionized television, as a whole.
No other show that came before or after the gangster drama has come close to how realistic the show is and the way organized crime in New Jersey is portrayed is unrivaled. However, not every storyline in The Sopranos makes total sense, and some are even so farfetched that they feel completely out of place and almost like they were written for a different, much more surreal show.
Most Realistic: Tony Turning On Artie
Artie is the most honest and hardworking character in the entire series, as he busts his hump every night at the restaurant, but he’s also the character who is most down on his luck. After rising bills and not generating enough business, the only option left is to be bailed out by Tony.
It’s the most unfortunate moment in the show, but it’s also incredibly realistic of the way gangsters prey on the weak, even if they’re best pals. Tony has made loads of bad decisions, but it shows just how evil he is, as he knows that if Artie doesn’t keep up with the vigorish, some bad things are going to happen.
Least Realistic: Randomly Bumping Into The FBI Informant
In “College,” it’s the first time audiences ever saw Tony actually murder someone, and it was extremely personal. It’s the best episode of the first season, but the logistics of it are so unrealistic.
Whilst driving his daughter to a college to visit, Tony spots a former FBI informant whose now in the witness protection program, who he then follows and murders. The chances of Tony bumping into this man on the other side of the country must be a billion to one, but it still makes fans nervous when rewatching.
Most Realistic: The FBI Wiretaps
When it comes to Tony Soprano, he may have had feuds with dozens of different mobsters, but his real enemy was the FBI, and though the FBI were rarely on screen, they were always present.
The first episode of season three shows the FBI planting wiretaps all around the Soprano residence, and the way it depicted the FBI working was so astutely accurate. It was so accurate that it even had the bureau wondering how the writers knew so much about the way they operate in an actual investigation.
Least Realistic: Tony Becoming A Gambling Addict
As the whole series is based around Tony’s organized crime, with one of those sectors being shaking down gamblers and taking advantage of how desperate they can be, it doesn’t make sense when Tony turns to gambling himself.
After witnessing so many pathetic people beg to borrow money for their gambling addiction and being generally strong-minded, there’s no way that Tony would ever fall for it himself.
Most Realistic: AJ Turning To Crime
Of all the characters in the show, AJ is by far the most hated by fans, as his antics take too much time away from the main narrative, especially when he becomes an adolescent teen. However, clearly Tony was never a great parent, and with seeing so many troubled moments with his father, who is terrible at hiding his criminal career, it only makes sense that AJ would turn to crime himself.
And it makes even more sense that Tony would be so hard on AJ after finding out because he wouldn’t want his son making the same mistakes as him.
Least Realistic: Paulie’s Mother/Aunt
Paulie is the funniest character in the show, but he takes somewhat of a nose dive in the sixth season when he finds out that his mother is actually his aunt. It’s completely out of the blue and considering how old Paulie is, he surely would have already found out by this point.
On top of that, the way that Paulie handled the debacle is so childish, as he acts like a baby and totally out of character. And at the end of the day, it doesn’t even matter who his mother is in terms of the storyline of the show and it just seemed like a strained way to give this character more depth.
Most Realistic: General New Jersey Culture
The Sopranos is so rich in its background and research, and it’s even considered a more realistic depiction of the mafia than the greatest gangster movie of all time, The Godfather. The culture of New Jersey is captured perfectly, from the gangsters who hung out outside delicatessens to all of the New Jersey barbecues.
This is captured in passing dialogue too, as Tony and Christopher can be heard talking about how to cook bbq’d meat, and there are even discussions about NJ tomatoes.
Least Realistic: Adriana Becoming A Record Producer
In the first season of the show, Adriana convinces Chris to help her become a music producer. Being a record producer isn’t the same as being a movie producer, though, as where a movie producer generally funds the movie and leaves the creative control to the director, a record producer is much more hands-on.
To be a record producer, one often has to go through so much education or work experience and often be an expert musician themselves. So Adriana, whose longest job up to that point was being the hostess of a restaurant, thinking she could become a producer, just doesn’t make any sense.
Most Realistic: Therapy With Dr. Melfi
Most people’s general knowledge of therapists comes from pop-culture and the way it’s depicted on TV. For the most part, the depictions are caricatures of therapists and not at all like how therapy really is.
However, The Sopranos flipped all of that on its head. The first meeting Tony had with Dr. Melfi might have been funny because of how out of his element Tony was, but that session, along with every other to follow, is fairly accurate.
Least Realistic: Chris Becoming A Screenwriter
In its final season, The Sopranos’ quality held up as well as any of the other seasons, even with its polarizing ending. However, one of the strangest story arcs of season six was Chris becoming a filmmaker. He wasn’t the screenwriter per se, but he developed the story of a horror movie around events that happened in his life.
The result was a movie called Cleaver, which went direct-to-DVD, and in reality, there’s no way Tony, or anybody else for that matter, would have ever let him tell his life story, even if it was in a movie that was a cross between Saw and The Godfather. Not only that, but there’s no way Chris was smart enough to develop the story.