“The Sopranos” was always a little controversial, and that controversy made things difficult for Ilene Landress, a producer and production manager for the show. Talking to Michael Imperioli (who played Christopher) and Steve Schirripa (who played Bobby) for their book “Woke Up This Morning: The Definitive Oral History of the Sopranos,” Landress talked about the first time they had trouble securing a filming location for a scene.
The scene in question was one of the show’s many, many funeral scenes, this one taking place in the middle of the penultimate episode of the first season, “Isabella.” It was originally filmed in an Italian funeral home in Little Italy. They didn’t get to finish filming the scene in that funeral home, however, because they were thrown out of the place halfway through. Why? Well, it might’ve had something to do with what Uncle Junior (Dominic Chianese) said in the middle of the funeral. As Landress explained:
“It’s the scene where the guys are paying their respects to some old lady who’s in the coffin. You see Uncle Junior peering into the coffin and he turns to somebody and says, ‘She gave me my first handjob.’ And we got thrown out of the place.”
In fairness to the funeral home, they would not be the last to want anything to do with the show. “The other problem was with shooting in Catholic churches,” Landress admitted. “They don’t like us much either.” Well, it wasn’t the churches themselves, so much as the church’s archdiocese that wouldn’t give them permission. “They want family-friendly. Kind of like Major League Baseball.”
Not Much Baseball In The Sopranos
While it’s easy to see why a church wouldn’t want anything to do with “The Sopranos,” Major League Baseball was a more surprising holdout. In the season 5 episode, “All Happy Families,” there’s a scene where Tony (James Gandolfini) is watching baseball on the TV with a couple of the other characters. Typically in a scene like this, the audience would be given at least a glimpse of what the characters are watching on the TV, but that never happens here. As Ilene Landress explained, “We couldn’t get clearance on using Major League Baseball footage in the show because it’s not a family-friendly show, so to speak.”
It’s a reasoning that sort of makes sense until you remember all the other companies that were okay with being featured on the show. So, the MLB didn’t want “The Sopranos” featuring footage from any of their games, but Nintendo was fine with Tony the mob boss playing Mario Kart with his son? Something’s not right here.
Showrunner David Chase also seemed to think it was unfair because he ended up writing his annoyance with the MLB into his script. “There’s a line in the script where Artie says, ‘F*** Major League Baseball. Let’s watch ballet,'” said Landress. “When David would get pissed off, if we couldn’t clear something we wanted, we kind of worked it right into the dialogue.” It’s the sort of information that makes you wonder if an orange juice company ever snubbed the show too, but we’ll never know for sure.
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