Michael Franzese is a former crime boss in the American mafia. Specifically, he was a caporegime within the Colombo crime family, which means he made a lot of money in the ’80s by being the kind of mobster who knew a thing or two about money.
Of course, this didn’t necessarily play out well long-term for Franzese; he ended up in prison on a couple of occasions and ultimately left the mob in the mid-’90s. Franzese was careful to enrage as few of his mafia comrades on the way out as possible.
Today, Franzese is a motivational speaker, but he still gets called upon from time to time to weigh in on the reality (or lack thereof) of how people talk about the mafia in media.
Recently, Insider asked Franzese to give his thoughts on various scenes from movies and TV in terms of how accurately they reflect mafia life. The biggest surprise takeaway? The Simpsons and The Sopranos got things about equally right.
Michael Franzese had some choice thoughts on why ‘The Sopranos’ wasn’t totally accurate
Though he did rate the overall accuracy of The Sopranos at 7/10, Franzese made it very clear no mobster would ever go to therapy to air all the dirty laundry. Franzese said, “If a mob boss was ever visiting a psychiatrist, he’d be in the trunk of his car by the end of the week. Along with the psychiatrist. That would never happen.”
Harsh, but it’s Franzese’s job to get real about how the mafia operates! He also pointed out other inaccuracies from the show, like the infamous declaration that a don never wears shorts (Franzese: “You go on a boat, you’re in shorts.”) or the idea that an underling would ever raise their hand to a boss who just hit them.
He clarified that The Sopranos got other things right, like the effects and accents the characters used to speak. Franzese even shared an interesting anecdote about how he’d been asked to consult on the show but ultimately turned it down.
Franzese explains, “I always wondered why [the show] contacted me. In my house, back in the ’60s when it was being built, the government, the FBI, installed a bugging device.” Franzese explained his suspicion that someone on the show used the Freedom of Information Act to get related tapes. Ultimately, as Frank says, “Tony’s mother was so much like my mother … [I believe] he patterned that woman on my mother.”
The ex-mobster said ‘The Simpsons’ was more accurate than you’d expect
A 2006 scene from The Simpsons shows Homer explaining to Marge that the brand new truck he just drove into the driveway “fell off a truck … a truck truck” as a way of covering the fact that he got it working with the mob.
While watching the scene, Franzese laughed and remarked, “A lot of things fell off a truck. I mean, that was the expression that we used! Whether it be clothing, a suit, you know, electronics, cars, whatever.”
He added that car hijacking was a common crime committed by members of the mafia during his time, including many who made their niche specifically as professional hijackers, making it quite realistic that Homer might’ve been rewarded for cooperation with the mob in that way.
Whether it means The Simpsons has more insider-edge than you might think, or The Sopranos should have tried a little harder to get Franzese as a consultant, it seems both shows have a surprisingly similar level of accuracy when it comes to the secrets of mob life.