Would you agree 'The Sopranos' is up there "with the works of Shakespeare... and the Bible"?

John Fardy has some very, very positive words about this week's choice for the Cultural Toolbox...

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Image: STUART RAMSON / AP/Press Association Images

When talking about the 'Golden Age' of modern television, few conversations could take place without prominent mentions of The Sopranos.

While it was preceded by plenty of influential and important shows, the gangster epic solidified the model that network HBO and others would follow with other productions - boasting cinematic production values, intelligent & considered storytelling, mature content and exceptional acting.

Having finished up eight years ago, there might be a whole new audience waiting to discover The Sopranos - and enough time has passed for some existing fans to perhaps consider a revisit.

Pat Leahy - who was filling in for Shane Coleman on this week's Sunday Show - and John Fardy discussed why the show is still very much worth your time.

John wasted little time expressing his enthusiasm for the programme, which was created by David Chase. "To me, this would be my desert island thing, if I could take one cultural artefact," he gushed.

"I mean that even above - on a personal levels - the works of Shakespeare, dare I even say the Bible. For me, this is the greatest thing ever produced on TV - and for me personally possibly the greatest thing ever produced. I adore it," he continued.

Pat asked if that was perhaps a particularly high accolade, but John suggested "people rave about The Wire, Breaking Bad and all those kind of things - I think The Sopranos ushered that in".

John pointed out that one of the great successes of the show is that it is like one 'mega movie' - now a commonplace model, but something that wasn't quite as prevalent in the more 'episodic' style of television storytelling that dominated before the 2000s.

"Things happen in The Sopranos in episode one that are referenced in the final episode of series six," he added. "It was this painting that became more apparent the more that happened... Nothing is wasted... from camera angles, to music used, to an expression on a character's face. There's no baggage to it whatsoever".

John explained that there are three core dimensions to the show - Tony Soprano's (played by the late, great James Gandolfini) relationships with his immediate family members, his dealings with his extended gangster family, and his sessions with his therapist Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco).

Mr Fardy took time to address what exactly made Gandolfini's portrayal of the lead character so special. "There were scenes in The Sopranos, and it would last for a minute and it would be just his face. His face could convey a thousand emotions".

Pat and John went on to discuss how the show explored the "decline of the American male" and the "decline of the masculine male, the Gary Cooper type who doesn't cry."

John did acknowledge the show is possibly more for men than women. "I do think it probably has more male concerns," he observed. "It would be great if TV was for everybody - maybe that's a criticism of it, I'm not sure".

He did highlight how there are some very strong female characters - such as Tony's wife Carmela (Edie Falco) and his mother Livia (Nancy Marchand) - although often seen through the perspective of Tony himself.

Some particularly strong words about this week's Cultural Toolbox choice from John, then, but there's certainly a strong case to be made that The Sopranos is one of the most important and influential cultural works of the two decades. Whether it's up to Shakespeare quality, well we'll leave that one up to all of your own judgements...