1st Edition

The New Audience for Old TV Considering the Resurgent Popularity of The Sopranos

By Alexander H. Beare Copyright 2025
    152 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    In 2020-21, the classic HBO show The Sopranos (1999-2007) saw a rapid increase in viewership and was proclaimed to be one of the “hottest shows of lockdown” by outlets like The Guardian and GQ.  This resurgent popularity of The Sopranos raises important analytical questions for media scholars—how do audiences understand a complex text like The Sopranos in a radically different televisual and cultural context? Did they adapt the show to fit the particularities of the present moment or was it simply a nostalgic escape from the bleak conditions of the pandemic? Perhaps most importantly though, did the distinct televisual environment of the 2020s bring with it markedly new ways for audiences to understand ‘old’ shows?

    The New Audience for Old TV is the first book to investigate how audiences re-read and re-interpret resurgent shows when watching in new cultural contexts. Based on a series of original research interviews with young fans, it considers how new contexts of interpretation, including the COVID-19 pandemic, Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD), and post #MeToo gender politics, informed the unique experience of watching. Using the metaphor of the anamorphic painting, it introduces the analytical framework of a ‘retrospective reading’ to reveal the new meanings that are being made available for ‘old’ TV.

    Ultimately, The New Audience for Old TV uncovers fresh insights into audiences’ experiences with ‘prestige’ TV and the new avenues of meaning-making in the age of streaming. 

    1. What’s With All the Tony Soprano Memes? The Sopranos Experience in 2020 2. ‘It’s Called Streaming T’: Shifting Interpretive Contexts and The Sopranos as a ‘New’ Text 3. The Sopranos as a Slow-moving Apocalypse During the COVID-19 Pandemic 4. ‘Adriana Reminds Me So Much of Fergie’: Nostalgia, Pandemic and No Tony 5. ‘Let Them Tear Each Other’s Throats Out’: Reconsidering the Feminist Cultural Work of The Sopranos 6.  ‘It’s Like a Fight Club Situation’: Audience Understandings of Gender in The Sopranos 7. Conclusion


    Alexander H. Beare is a media studies scholar at The University of Adelaide. His work specialises in the dynamic relationship between televisual technologies and audience cultures. He has written about the industry logics underpinning Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD) programming imperatives and TV series such as The Sopranos, Ted Lasso, and Yellowjackets. Beare’s work has been published in academic journals including Television and New Media, Critical Studies in Television and Critical Studies in Media Communication.