Emmys Flashback: 'The Sopranos' 2004 Drama Win Was a Cable First

Jean-Paul Aussenard/WireImage
From left: 'Sopranos' producers Matthew Weiner, Mitchell Burgess, Robin Green, Brad Grey, Chase, Martin Bruestle, Ilene S. Landress and Terence Winter.

The show went on to win the award again in 2007 and by the end of its run had won 21 Emmys out of 111  nominations — the HBO record until 'Game of Thrones' entered the picture.

During its first four years of eligibility, The Sopranos was not getting a big embrace from the TV Academy. Beginning in 1999, it was winning in some categories but lost four times — first to The Practice and then three times to The West Wing — for outstanding drama series.

"We had won Emmys for acting, writing, several other categories," recalls series creator David Chase. "But the show 
had never won for outstanding drama, so there was kind of a disconnect for me with all that."

The big change came in 2004, when the show won outstanding drama, making HBO the first 
cable network to do so. When Helen Mirren presented the evening's last statuette to Chase, he gave an unexpected acceptance speech. He praised the cast but then went out of his way to thank the musicians "who licensed us their music. It started with our own Little Steven, who introduced us to some other musicians in New Jersey he's worked with." That got a laugh; Steven Van Zandt (the show's Silvio) played in the E Street Band with Bruce Springsteen. Chase continued: "The Rolling Stones, Elvis Costello, Kasey Chambers. We've ridden 
on their coattails. I've always wanted to say that."

The Sopranos went on to win the drama award again in 2007 and by the end of its 
run had won 21 Emmys out of 111 nominations. (This was the HBO record until Game of Thrones entered the picture; the show has 38 wins out of 132 nominations.)

Chase says that after finally winning the top prize he had "a lot of 
mixed emotions. Of course I felt pleased that we won. Yet I also had 
this belief that The Sopranos didn't belong in the hall of Emmy winners — that the show was a maverick and not at all what usually took home the trophy. A lot of my favorite shows had never won the Emmy, and I kept thinking 
about that."

Still, there's nothing 
quite like taking home the biggest award on TV's biggest night. "How did I feel?" Chase says. "Pretty fucking good."

This story first appeared in an August stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.