Episode eight of The Sopranos, “The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti,” premiered on February 28th, 1999. More than 20 years later, we’re discussing it with El-P, rap veteran and one half of Run The Jewels. And, as it turns out, a huge Sopranos fan. This episode is that perfect combination of great guest and great episode to discuss.
Perhaps remembered as “the one where Christopher tries to write a screenplay,” episode eight is one of the best episodes of season one and certainly one that hits on all cylinders — comedy, drama, character psychology, and moving the story forward. It has the best dream sequence of any Sopranos thus far, the funniest AJ moments, amazing malapropism, delightful racism against the Irish from Livia, and takedowns of intellectuals and stand-up comics as brutal as any comment on the mafia.
Some of the firsts in this episode include our first glimpses of Dr. Melfi’s family, including her self-hating Italian ex-husband and her insufferable son, who “just moved into a smoke-free dorm room at Bard.” In a show full of vicious thieves and murderers, Melfi’s son manages to stand out as the least likable. It’s also the first time we see Joseph R. Gannascoli as Gino, later to be recast as Vito Spatafore, who starred in one of the all-time great Sopranos episodes, “Johnnycakes,” which was incidentally directed by the same director as this episode, Tim Van Patten, brother of Dick.