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The HBO television series The Sopranos, produced by David Chase, achieved unprecedented critical acclaim and quickly established itself on both sides of the Atlantic as cult viewing. The fourth series, shown in the UK on Channel 4 in spring 2003, had already attracted record audiences in America and received 13 Emmy Award nominations. Not surprisingly, The Sopranos has generated several web sites and a considerable amount of literature, ranging from the usual spin-offs of television series, cds, scripts, collected reviews, and a number of more academic studies ranging from cultural studies through to explorations of the psychological aspects of the programme. At least one MA has been written dealing with the portrayal of psychotherapy in this series and in films. This is not as remarkable as it might seem given that therapy is central to the whole story. The main character, Tony Soprano (played by James Gandolfini), is the head of an Italian–American family living in New Jersey. However, like his name itself, “family” has a double meaning. Tony is also the head of a Mafia-style gang of mobsters, operating a “waste management company” and night club (The Bada Bing!). The two roles of family head are explored when Tony talks (or “sings”) to a psychiatrist (in addition to his gang-land counsellors) as a result of his anxiety attacks and depression. Thus, Tony Soprano, mobster, is presented as a troubled family man – troubled by his relationships with his wife, daughter, and son, and their futures, but also troubled by business rivalries and problems that arise from the nature of his “work” and colleagues. As one commentator writes, Tony is the subject of “profound moral ambiguity” and it is his struggle to come to terms with this that makes it possible for viewers to identify with him. It is also the focus of his sessions with the therapist, Dr Melfi (played by Lorraine Bracco).
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