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The Sopranos Error That Has Fans Confused

If there's one show your TV-obsessed friends have described as perfect more often than any other, it's probably The Sopranos. And if you are the TV-obsessed friend, it's the show you've been trying to convince other people to watch since 1999.

HBO's saga of an Italian American mobster family not only made your own dysfunctional clan look relatively sane (and tame), but it also changed the world's perception of what TV could do. The Sopranos paved the way (construction pun intended) for shows like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and rival HBO prestige drama The Wire. The show is responsible, either directly or indirectly, for multiple TV episodes that are practically flawless.

We say "practically" because even The Sopranos wasn't immune from making a few mistakes — and we don't mean giving not-so-wise guy Christopher (Michael Imperioli) chance after chance. Even though the series has been off the air for over a decade, fans are still revisiting, theorizing, and occasionally nitpicking. And it turns out even perfect shows lose track of small details from time to time. This is the Sopranos error that has fans confused — and why we could still get a definitive explanation.

How old is Junior Soprano?

The ironically named Junior (Dominic Chianese) is one of the oldest members of the Soprano family — and the soon-to-be boss of the DiMeo crime family — at the start of the series. Exactly how old Junior is — that's causing controversy amongst Sopranos fans. 

Reddit user SC_Ravel recently pointed out that Junior's precise year of birth is revealed on the third season to be 1929, which would make him around 70 when the show starts. However, on The Sopranos season 5, the headstone of Junior's younger brother Johnny Boy (played in flashbacks by Joseph Siravo) shows the deceased mob captain's birthdate as 1924. Unless there's some time travel or number fudging going on here, that's clearly impossible.

This isn't the only instance when Junior's given birth year seems suspiciously late. On the second season, Junior's lawyer Harold Melvoin (Richard Portnow) tells a judge that his client is a World War II veteran. But if Junior was born in 1929, he was only 16 — at the oldest — by the end of the war on September 2, 1945. He would have had to be 18 to enlist for military service.

Given that Melvoin is also trying to convince the judge that his client is considerably sicker than he actually is, it's not impossible that he's lying about Junior's service record, or at least exaggerating. But the discrepancy raises questions about which date is wrong — and why.

Could the Sopranos prequel film answer this question?

If we assume that these birth year discrepancies were intentional (and not one of those unforgivable errors caught by fans), there are a few possible explanations. 

Firstly, Melvoin could, in fact, be lying. Junior shoots him a little side-eye when he makes the claim about his veteran status, which could be read as anxiety about the barefaced fib his lawyer is telling. Secondly, Junior could have lied earlier in his life: approximately 200,000 Americans under 18 lied about their age in order to enlist in the military during World War II. But Junior doesn't exactly seem like the type of person who'd want to spend his teen years taking orders from authority figures. So maybe Johnny Boy's headstone is wrong, and he was born after 1929. But then again, we know how his son Tony (James Gandolfini) feels about incorrect headstones — it's unlikely he'd let his father rest in peace under the wrong dates.

As frustrating as this mystery is, there's a chance we'll might some clarity on the brothers' ages. In March 2018, we learned that The Sopranos would be revived with a prequel movie entitled The Many Saints of Newark, which will focus on New Jersey mobsters in the 1960s and 1970s. We already know that young versions of many Sopranos characters will appear, including Paulie "Walnuts" Gaultieri (to be played by Billy Magnussen) and oft-remembered but never seen Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola). James Gandolfini's son Michael Gandolfini has been cast as young Tony, so it seems almost impossible that Junior and Johnny Boy won't play a part. 

However, we know Tony Soprano was born in 1959, and with The Many Saints of Newark opening in 1967 and moving through the early 1970s, there's another issue of age. If the film honors the timeline, young Tony would be a child at the time The Many Saints of Newark begins. Gandolfini, on the other hand, was born in 1999 — making him 19 or 20 years old during the filming of the prequel movie, which wrapped in June 2019. Will Gandolfini appear as young Tony only in the 1970s? Will the movie mess with the Sopranos' canon? Or do birthdates like Tony and Junior's simply not matter in the property's world?

It's a mystery for now — and it'll be a while before we learn the truth (if we ever do at all), as The Many Saints of Newark has been pushed back to March 12, 2021.