Why the ‘Sopranos’ Creator Said It Was ‘Terrifying’ to Work on Season 2 of the Show

When David Chase assembled his team of writers and began work on season 1 of The Sopranos, the crew worked in relative obscurity. Sure, HBO was spending big on the production of Chase’s mob series, but the terms of prestige TV were different back then.

For starters, there really was no such thing as prestige TV. Long before the days when series like Chance (2016-17) or Get Shorty (2017-19) get lost in the sea of high-quality TV, HBO was the network for movies, pay-per-view fights, and that cool Garry Shandling show.

Shows like The Sopranos (especially The Sopranos) changed that in the ’90s. When the season 1 reviews and Emmy nominations came in, Chase was pleased for several reasons. “TV critics and journalists were giving me food for thought,” Chase said in a circa 2000 interview with Peter Bogdanovich.

Chase liked the feedback and interpretations of the work he hadn’t considered while making season 1. When Bogdanovich asked if that helped during the production of season 2, Chase said he and his crew were “so terrified” they didn’t have the mental space to have it help.

‘Sopranos’ creator David Chase said his team was ‘petrified’ because of the hoopla surrounding the show

James Gandolfini on the set of 'The Sopranos'
James Gandolfini works on the set of “The Sopranos” in 2000. | Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

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While the New York Times and other publications were hailing The Sopranos season 1 as a masterpiece, the show notched 16 Emmy nominations. And when the event came in 1999 The Sopranos won in four categories (including Outstanding Casting). The series also won four Golden Globes on five nominations that year.

At that point, the crew started feeling the pressure to match season 1. “In the second season we were so terrified,” Chase told Bogdanovich. “There was such a big hoopla that we were petrified.” “[In other words] How do you top it?” Bogdanovich noted. “Yeah,” Chase said.

Chase delivered again in season 2, of course. Between “The Knight in White Satin Armor” (the death of Richie Aprile) and the finale, “Funhouse,” season 2 might have outdone the opening year. After all, season 2 concluded with the death of Sal “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero (Vincent Pastore). As TV goes, those episodes remain hard to top.

‘The Sopranos’ Season 2 received 18 Emmy nominations

'Sopranos' cast
Tony Sirico, Steven Van Zandt, James Gandolfini, Michael Imperioli & Vincent Pastore in ‘The Sopranos’ | Anthony Neste/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images

If Chase and his team were terrified, they didn’t let it affect their work. And awards voters rewarded them for their effort. The show racked up an incredible 18 Emmy nominations for season 2. (Only James Gandolfini won, for Outstanding Lead Actor.) And four more Golden Globe nods came with that haul.

Looking back, Chase might have had more of a challenge in season 3. With the killing of Richie and Pussy, the show lost David Proval in addition to Pastore. But the crew kept at it, and the arrival of Joe Pantoliano (Ralph Cifaretto) kept the cast in solid shape.

These days, critics and TV writers continue ranking The Sopranos among the greatest shows to ever land on the small screen. Did it need six long seasons (including that double season 6)? Probably not, but the writers delivered every time out during its 86-episode run.