Photo: Barry Wethcer/HBO

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The Sopranos (HBO, 1999–2007)
Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini)—Jersey crime boss, family man—confronts existential dread in therapy; self-medicates with cured meats, mistresses.

What It's Really About
Daily grind's ability to devastate—or, as one character laments, "It's like just the fuckin' regularness of life is too fuckin' hard." Murder, feds, brushes with death don't faze Tony, but the mundane—marital spats, ducks fleeing his pool—can level him.

Cultural Touchstone
Final scene. Tony and family order onion rings at diner, play Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" on jukebox. Screen goes abruptly black. Was Tony whacked? Ask creator David Chase.

One to Watch
"College" (season 1). Tony takes teen daughter on campus visits in Maine, spies former crony turned FBI informant at gas station. Efforts to balance dad duty with need to take out snitch get at show's brutal central tension.