HBO goes for drama with ‘The Sopranos’

Contemporary Mob drama, post-Gotti style

HBO has committed to its second-ever episodic drama series, “The Sopranos,” a Mob-themed hour for which the Time Warner cabler has purchased 12 episodes, plus the completed pilot, for a total of 13 installments.

Show, created and co-executive produced by David Chase (a former “Northern Exposure” writer-producer who wrote and directed the “Sopranos” pilot), stars James Gandolfini as the head of a Mafia family in New Jersey and Lorraine Bracco (“Goodfellas”) as his psychotherapist.

Also cast are Edie Falco as the wife of Gandolfini’s character, Anthony Soprano, as well as Steve Van Zandt — the onetime lead guitarist in Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street Band, known then as “Miami Steve.” Van Zandt will make his acting debut in the recurring part of mobster Silvio Dante. Michael Imperioli will also have a regular role in the Brillstein Grey Entertainment production. Ilene Landress is attached as producer.

Chase, who notes that he comes from an Italian family whose family name was DeCesare, described “The Sopranos” as “a family drama that takes place within the context of the Mob as it is today, in the post-John Gotti era. It’s about a couple with two teenagers experiencing trouble in their marriage. It’s a typical American story — except that (the husband/father) is a Mobster.”

Lensing on the series is expected to commence in late spring or early summer on the East Coast. It will carry a broadcast network-level budget in the $1.5 million-per-hour range, according to sources.

HBO’s first drama series, the gritty, prison-themed “Oz,” kicks off its second season on the pay-cabler this year.

Chase is repped by UTA.

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