The Greatest HBO Character of All Time: The Final Four Part One

This is it- the Final Four of Giddy Up America’s Greatest HBO Character of All Time Tournament. No Wichita State here. The closest thing we had to it was Daenerys Targaryan making it to the Elite Eight as a sixth seed- beating Christopher Moltisanti (The Sopranos) and Ari Gold (Entourage) before eventually losing to Stringer Bell (The Wire.)

But hey, we managed to avoid having a Final Four consisting of all number one seeds, something I was worried about back when this started. Of the four number one seeds, two have made it this far: Tony Soprano (the overall number 1 seed) and Stringer Bell. Larry David, a number two seed in the Jimmy McNulty bracket and Omar, a number two seed in the Tyrion Lannister bracket round out the Final Four. After spending last week crashing through season two of Game of Thrones, I feel a little bad about Tyrion, who lost in the Elite Eight to Omar. But hey, that’s life. Tough break for him- he gets jobbed in both the tournament and on the show.

Here is what we are looking at in the Final Four:

1. Tony Soprano vs 2. Larry David

1. Stringer Bell vs 2. Omar Little

When this tournament started, before we had new Justin Timberlake music to either hate or love and before any of us knew that Florida Gulf Coast University actually existed, I laid out some ground rules. Characters would be judged on the following:

  • Personal favoritism
  • The character’s role on their show
  • Their length of time on their show
  • Cultural significance
  • Memorable quotes and/or scenes

This weekend, while thinking about how I was going to tackle the Final Four it seemed that the best way to approach this was by keeping it simple. First off, I’m going alone from here on out. Up until this point I’ve taken advice and input from family members, my darling wife, Facebookers, co-workers and the dead bamboo plant on my desk (who is a huge True Blood fan.) It’s time to pull my big boy pants up and finish this jawn solo. Secondly, I’m going to run both match ups through the list above. Whoever scores higher wins.

Let’s do this.

1. Tony Soprano (The Sopranos) vs 2. Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm)

Before I get started with this, it’s Opening Day for baseball and while I’m not making any predictions for the upcoming season- the one thing I feel good about is the Red Sox. I don’t think they’ll win the World Series and they probably won’t make the playoffs. But come on, anything has to be better than last year. No really, anything. Last year felt like this, over and over again.


This year has to be better. Has to.

Okay, back to the subject at hand- Tony Soprano versus Larry David.

Personal Favorite

I have to think about this one, because I want to make sure I answer it rationally. It’s been a few years since we watched Soprano, so it’d be easier to answer Larry David, especially because the last couple of seasons of Curb have been the strongest in my opinion. Late season LD has been unbelievable. So great, so funny, so wrong, so amazing.


Tony on the other hand, well it’s Tony Soprano. Tony was the cats pajamas on HBO before cats even started wearing pajamas. Cats slept naked or with just boxers on. Then Tony came along and just like that, cats are wearing pajamas and it’s so revolutionary and innovative, the phrase cats’ pajamas became a compliment. And who better to bestow such a compliment on other than Tony Soprano.

But full confession, I have not watched every episode of The Sopranos. I haven’t watched every episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm either, but I feel it’s more of statement saying I haven’t watched every episode of The Sopranos. Part of me feels like it makes me less of an American in the same way drinking imported beer does. Yet while I haven’t watched every episode, I have watched quite a few. I feel I’ve watched enough to be able to properly gauge how I feel about Tony in the same way that I’ve watched enough episodes of Curb to properly gauge how I feel about Larry.

The result? Dude, I like Larry better.

Why?

He makes me laugh. And also, in a weird way, he’s easy to relate too. I’ll get into this more when discussing cultural significance, but there’s times when I feel like I am Larry David.


Sadly, I never feel like I am Tony Soprano. And I even live in New Jersey now.

Personal Favorite: Larry David

The Characters Role on the Show

On both shows these characters are the main character. Each show is about their lives. However The Sopranos is a much bigger world and as a result, stories and plots exist that don’t even include Tony. That doesn’t happen as much on Curb Your Enthusiasm. And even when it does, like when Jeff and Suzie’s dog was sick, Larry somehow still gets involved. Curb is the world through Larry’s experiences, The Sopranos is Tony’s experiences in the world. That’s a big difference. Neither show would exist without either one, but you can picture The Sopranos without Tony. You can’t picture Curb without Larry.

More Important Role on Their Show: Larry David

Their Length of Time on the Show

This one is a tie, as both characters have been on their shows from start to finish. So instead of talking about how this is a tie, let’s watch this clip of an man playing with nun-chucks in a grocery store parking lot in Richmond, Virginia.


Who Was on Their Show Longer: Tie

Cultural Significance

Another tough one because basically, it’s neck and neck when it comes to the significance both Tony and Larry have from a cultural stand point. Think about how quotable Larry David (the character, not the person) has become during Curb’s run. Things like the chat & cut and pretty, pretty good have become staples in our daily life. It’s part of the genius of David that he is able to both verbalize and stage situations that we all go through and experience and on top of that, make them so incredibly funny. Larry David is like playing fantasy football. We all think we can run a football team, but we can’t. Playing fantasy football lets us pretend that we can. We run that fantasy through the vehicle of fantasy football. Larry David is such a vehicle. He says what we wish we could and does what we wish we could do. He’s an everyman with carte blanche.

At times Tony Soprano was an everyman, but mostly he wasn’t. There were tidbits we could relate to- mostly the family stuff and if you’ve ever been in charge of anything, managing people. But overall, Tony was larger than life. Yet what makes Tony Soprano so strong from a cultural significance stand point is the general essence of his character. He was one of the very first anti-heroes out there and definitely one of the most popular ones.

A lot of critics point out the fifth episode of The Sopranos‘ first season, “College,” as the one that announced what exactly the show would become. That episode showed both sides of Tony- the family man and the mafia man. But it was also the first time we saw Tony kill someone.


Up until that point, any violence that Tony was involved with was minimal (although he did chase a guy down with his car in the first episode- but come 0n, who hasn’t done that.) With the strangling of Febby, a former wise guy turned snitch, our relationship with Tony became increasingly complex. The dude was a killer. Yet we liked him. We liked a killer. It felt weird, but we went with it.

The Sopranos ended with the famous cut to black- did Tony die or not? We left before he could be arrested. How did his story end? I remember while watching it that I felt conflicted. It seemed like he should go to jail and that made sense. It also seemed like he could be killed and that too made sense. Yet it also seemed his life would continue which both made sense and made me happy. We didn’t want Tony to die and we didn’t want him to go jail. We also didn’t want him to go straight and quit the mafia because what fun is that. Since The Sopranos, HBO has made a cottage industry out of shows that revolve around characters like Tony, shows like Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones, Deadwood, Big Love, Eastbound and Down and more.

He was the first, though. Larry David is funnier, but Tony is more important.

The Character with the Greater Cultural Significance: Tony Soprano

Memorable Quotes and/or Scenes

I’m going to defer to YouTube for this. If you search “Larry David Curb Your Enthusiasm” on YouTube, pages upon pages of clips come up. Each one is hilarious and each one is amazing. That’s not the case with Tony and that’s what this category comes down to- the YouTube Legacy of each character. Tony’s actual legacy might be greater, but not his YouTube legacy.

Better YouTube Legacy: Larry David

Final Score:
Larry David 3 wins, 1 loss, 1 tie
Tony Soprano 1 win, 3 losses, 1 tie

Winner: Larry David

Larry David moves on, Tony Soprano doesn’t. This whole may post may have just been confirmation that an idiot, but I’m sticking to my guns.

Next up: Stringer versus Omar

Photos: HBO

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