The only thing wrong with The Sopranos is that it has a tendency to ruin you for so many other shows. Even TV's greatest dramas can feel a little lacking if they don't have Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) and his ducks or Carmela (Edie Falco) visiting Paris or Paulie (Tony Sirico) and Christopher (Michael Imperioli) getting lost in Jersey's Pine Barrens. There just aren't enough tracksuits on television these days.
Still, it's important to branch out. If you've worn out your remote rewinding the final seconds of David Chase's groundbreaking HBO drama and are looking to dive into a new challenge, there are plenty of great series that capture elements of The Sopranos' appeal, whether you're looking for more layered antiheroes, brutal criminal dramas, or nuclear families with big problems.
If you haven't already chased The Sopranos with Mad Men, let this be your sign. Sopranos writer-producer Matthew Weiner's glossy golden-age drama about 1960s advertising is as good as advertised — and, like The Sopranos, a lot funnier than its serious reputation might suggest. Mad Men pulls back the curtain on a high-rolling world that's almost as insular as the mafia, and its careful chronicling of a tumultuous decade makes it better than any show out there at capturing what it feels like to live through history. For all his allure, Don Draper (Jon Hamm) is also just a guy in a suit watching the times change around him. He's not a Tony Soprano-type antihero because he has less control over his world. The magic of Mad Men comes from watching him charm the world into thinking otherwise. [Watch on AMC+, free with ads on IMDb TV]
Another dazzling period drama on The Sopranos' family tree, Boardwalk Empire rewinds New Jersey's criminal history back to the Prohibition era. Created by Sopranos writer-producer Terence Winter (and executive produced by Martin Scorsese, who also directed the pilot), the series stars Sopranos alum Steve Buscemi as Nucky Thompson, a corrupt politician loosely based on historical crime boss Enoch L. "Nucky" Johnson. Inspired by the stories of real-life gangsters and other kingpins, Boardwalk Empire paints a rich portrait of Atlantic City's most infamous era. It's tempting to boil it down to The Sopranos with flappers; the show is more than that, but isn't that more than enough? [Watch on HBO Max, Amazon with HBO add-on, Hulu with HBO Max add-on]
As Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan put it, "There would be no Walter White without Tony Soprano." The Sopranos paved the way for Gilligan's propulsive thriller about another one of TV's great, loathsome antiheroes, a chemistry teacher who unlocks his capacity for brutality when he gets into the meth trade. Breaking Bad is a gripping ride with some of the best dramatic payoff since The Sopranos, and it strikes a similar balance between Walt's (Bryan Cranston) underworld dealings and his fracturing family. But don't skip Breaking Bad's spin-off, Better Call Saul, a quieter, tighter, and, yes, even better series about the transformation of scrappy lawyer Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) into the crooked criminal ally known as Saul Goodman. In a TV landscape that makes it too easy to worship bad guys, Saul will make you feel the moral weight of every bad decision. (Plus, Rhea Seehorn's Kim Wexler is the best character on TV.) [Watch both on Netflix, Better Call Saul Season 5 available for purchase on Amazon]
Forget the weekly question of who might get whacked; The Sopranos is really a family drama about the rotten core of the American dream. In that sense, its best successor is The Americans, Joe Weisberg's exquisite Cold War spy series. Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell are electric as a pair of Russian intelligence officers posing as an American couple, complete with a white picket fence and two kids who are none the wiser. Like The Sopranos, The Americans finds violence behind the closed doors of a picture-perfect home, spinning every global conflict into a metaphor for domestic life. It's the best show of the 2010s. Philip and Elizabeth weaponize their secrets as well as Tony and Carm do. [Watch on Amazon]
If what you really want from The Sopranos is even more darkness (in tone, but also literal, visual darkness), watch Gomorrah. The frighteningly authentic Italian drama follows a crime family in Naples that comes under siege as the head of the family, Pietro (Fortunato Cerlino), feels his power slipping. Gomorrah is bleak compared to The Sopranos' sentimentality; Pietro's ruthless savagery is enough to make Tony Soprano look soft. There are also echoes of The Wire in the way the series expands in scope to explore the networks of corruption in the city. The basic outline of Gomorrah is familiar, but it tells its story so masterfully you still won't be able to look away. [Watch on HBO Max]
Looking for more girlbosses in your criminal drama? USA Network's Queen of the South stars Alice Braga as Teresa Mendoza, a Mexican woman who teams up with a woman from her past (Veronica Falcón), the head of an American cartel, to take down the drug ring that killed her boyfriend and is coming after her. Before long, Teresa is raking in money at the top of her own drug empire. It's a fun, just-gritty-enough series with a soapy telenovela flair. The real standout is Alice Braga's commanding performance, which anchors the show when it's at its wildest. Four seasons are already out, with a fifth on the way. [Watch on Netflix]
Peaky Blinders isn't the first period drama on this list to be set in the decade after World War I, but this time it's British, innit? American viewers might want to brush up on the history of the United Kingdom to follow this lush, bloody gangster drama about a crime family led by the ambitious Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy). The scope of the series widens with Tommy's influence, and what starts in Birmingham spins into a tale of international political intrigue. The cast of Peaky Blinders is just as sprawling, a who's who of workhorse English and Irish actors that includes Helen McCrory, Tom Hardy, Sam Neill, Josh O'Connor, and, by later seasons, Anya Taylor-Joy, Kingsley Ben-Adir, and Aidan Gillen. If The Sopranos starred practically every actor in the British Isles, it would be Peaky Blinders. A sixth and final season is still to come, and creator Steven Knight says he's already planning a movie. [Watch on Netflix]
Anxiety about death hangs over The Sopranos, from Tony's first therapy session to that cut-to-black ending. Death is also the star of Alan Ball's great, somehow still underrated Six Feet Under, which follows the Fisher family as they run the Los Angeles funeral home passed down by their recently deceased father. Led by a strong cast that includes Peter Krause, Michael C. Hall, Frances Conroy, and Lauren Ambrose, the series looks head-on at the mysteries of mortality and grief; every episode starts with a different death, and plenty of them will haunt you. Through the dysfunctional family at its center, Six Feet Under also wrestles with the legacies people inherit from their parents in a way that should resonate with fans of the Soprano family's most messed-up interactions. It's a heavy show, but it's well worth the pain — especially since it all leads to a stunning series finale. [Watch on HBO Max, Amazon with HBO add-on, Hulu with HBO Max add-on]