Hall of Faces: Who’s the Greatest Character on “The Sopranos”?

The Sopranos The cast of The Sopranos. (HBO)

Deep in the bowels of The Spool Studios, there lies a chamber only the greatest TV characters can enter – the funniest, the grumpiest, the maddest masks the television medium has to offer. There, we honor the breakout comic relief, the magnetically flawed protagonist, the one-time guest character that defines an entire series. This is where we hoard TV’s most valuable visages. This… is the Hall of Faces.

Welcome to the Hall of Faces, The Spool’s monthly TV podcast! A spinoff of the short-lived Consequence of Sound podcast TV PartyHall of Faces sees hosts and TV critics Allison Shoemaker and Clint Worthington build up a pantheon of television’s greatest characters, one show at a time.


Twenty years ago, a little mobster show by the name of The Sopranos premiered on HBO, and hit the pop culture zeitgeist harder than a plate of rigott‘ pie hurled at your face. David Chase‘s layered, presentational, deeply complex prestige drama didn’t just help establish the network as the home of serialized, critically acclaimed dramas; its telling of the story of New Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) and the delicate balancing act he walks between his life of crime and the domestic travails of his family was a triumph of long-form storytelling, and helped cement TV as a medium to be taken seriously. On the surface, it was GoodFellas meets The Honeymooners; dig deeper, and you’ll find volumes of intriguing remarks on American culture around the turn of the millennium, the precarious nature of masculinity, and man’s impossible tug of war against its own worst instincts. (In concert, of course, with jokes about Big Mouth Billy Bass and mobsters complaining about poison ivy.)

So much of The Sopranos‘ success can be laid on its absolutely stacked cast, which is what we’re here to discuss: of Chase’s carousel of incredible characters, which one deserves a spot in our vaunted hall of TV’s greatest characters? Is it Gandolfini’s iconic Tony Soprano? Edie Falco‘s tantalizingly conflicted matriarch Carmela? Nancy Marchand‘s scene-stealing villain Livia? Dr. Melfi? Paulie Walnuts? The show is an embarrassment of riches, which makes this one particularly difficult. However, Clint and Allison have some help in the form of perennial guest Kate Kulzick of The Televerse and noted Dudelander Noel Starbird to sort this one out among the families. Grab a glass of orange juice (not the pulp kind, the some pulp kind) and take a listen!

Hall of Faces is a proud member of the Chicago Podcast Coop. Thanks to Cards Against Humanity for sponsoring this episode!)


HALL OF FACES:

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