It’s easy to look back on a pivotal episode of a super successful series and say how revolutionary it was at the time. Rewatching the pilot of The Wire or Breaking Bad is always an exciting opportunity to remind yourself how good they are. It makes sense that these certain shows go down in history as the best of the best, before eventually becoming too mainstream and therefore uncool again after they start selling merch at Hot Topic. It’s the whole cycle (see The Office).
But at the time, what eventually becomes a hit might not always be as well-received. Sure, when the show is good, it’s easy to say you knew it all along because you are smart, but not everyone will agree, and sometimes that includes the cast of the series. In this specific case, we are talking about Michael Imperioli of The Sopranos fame, who initially didn’t think that the HBO crime drama would become a hit. Maybe now that idea seems insane, but he does make a compelling point.
“When I read the pilot, I wasn’t like ‘This is gonna change television.’” Imperioli recently told The AV Club. He clarified, “I mean, it was okay! I’m not being facetious, really.” At the time, Imperioli was weary of the series because HBO original programming was so new. Oz was still in its early stages, and this was pre-Six Feet Under, so nobody even know who Michael C. Hall was. Imagine!
Because HBO wasn’t the TV show titan it is today, Imperioli just took the gig and didn’t expect it to have much of an impact. “The idea of a series on HBO did not have any prestige to actors at all at that time—it actually was the opposite,” the White Lotus actor explained, though once he got to know Christopher’s character, he became invested. “Being on a series didn’t really interest me, because I had mostly done movies and plays. But I thought [Christopher Moltisanti] was kind of interesting in the pilot, he had some interesting things to do, and I really liked who they were casting, a lot of people who I had worked with before and who I knew.”
It didn’t take a long time for Imperioli to realize that it takes more than a single episode to make good television (unless it’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer, but that’s a whole different blog). After shooting the pilot, he became more interested in the story. “When we started doing episode 2, episode 3, every script was better and more complex,” Imperioli added. “Then we really started seeing ‘Whoa, this is really special.’” Yes, The Sopranos was very special.
(Via AV Club)