The 20th anniversary of the HBO gangster series The Sopranos is here, but let's not forget the true lesson it left us: the series didn't glamourize crime or the mob.

Unless you were a child watching the Soprano fictional mob family, you understood that the HBO series wasn't making organized crime look like a solid career choice. Unlike the Godfather movies, which glamourized and excused the organized crime, The Sopranos showed the truth about life in and around the mob.

In The Godfather, some of the family members died, but they died as warriors. There was little downside to the lives of the characters played by Al Pachino, James Caan, and Marlon Brando. The movies showed almost nothing of the day-to-day life and crimes of a mobster.

The Sopranos ripped the lid off of the myth of being a member of a crime family. The deaths, debts, and drugs were on full display. Friends and family members setting each other up for rip-offs and murders. Gangsters swearing a blood oath of loyalty and then informing on their fellow gangsters to the FBI. The FBI manipulating the gangsters into situations that end up getting them killed and joking about it.

Much of the fiction in The Sopranos is the truth about life in crime. When Tony Soprano's cousin Tony (Steven Buscemi) comes home from prison, he has to move into his mother's basement. His daughter from a previous marriage, now in her late teens, is a missing runaway. She had been entrusted to Tony Soprano, but he didn't do a great job. He is later killed by Tony Soprano at the family farm.

The drug and alcohol use is constant among the characters. Cheating on wives is accepted until the pressure builds into an explosion. Physical assaults are commonplace. Despite stealing and scamming huge amounts of money, the characters are constantly in debt and under pressure to steal more and more.

This is no life of leisure in North Jersey.

Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. 

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