The Sopranos had, undoubtedly, one of TV’s most iconic opening sequences of the early 2000s, with Alabama 3’s bluesy, menacing “Woke Up This Morning” perfectly underscoring a bleak montage of the busy highways, smoke-belching factories, and working class bars that comprised the backdrop of New Jersey mobster Tony Soprano’s violent, eventful life. But as The A.V. Club’s sister site ClickHole points out, things could have been very different for the landmark HBO drama had the series stuck with its original, considerably longer and more avant-garde introduction. “Woke Up This Morning” survived from that radical first draft, but it was initially mere background music.
Front and center in the supposed original introduction was a stocky, middle-aged, dark-suited character actor, directly addressing the camera from what appears to be a very pleasant park with nice walking paths. The man’s brief, cryptic orations, occasionally interrupted by gunshot sounds, largely consist of variations of the name of the main character and the series in which he appears. “The Sopranos are here,” he says at one point, “and leading the way is Tony Soprano himself. Let’s start the show.” In a way, this early introduction gives The Sopranos sort of a classic Muppet Show feel, letting the audience know that the show is about to start and that they should get excited about that. And, in rather a brilliant twist, the introduction provides a seamless transition into the episode’s first scene, with the mysterious man revealed to be a background actor who briefly walks through one shot before vanishing. It’s too bad, then, that HBO lost its nerve and went with the second, more conventional opening sequence.