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What to Do When Your Pandemic TV Shows Infiltrate Your Daily Life

I hate guns and toxic masculinity. So why am I dressing like a Made Man on ‘The Sopranos’?

I knew The Sopranos had taken over my life when Ally, my childhood best friend and fellow Chicagoland Italian-American, texted me one night. She’d seen yet another Instagram selfie of me in a Dago tee, gold chain and vintage Nike track jacket calling myself “Christopher Moltisanti but not homophobic.” 

“It’s late, and I can’t dive into this now, but we need to discuss how you are resonating with Christopher Moltisanti’s image on The Sopranos,” she said. We never discussed it. Ally fell asleep, and I continued my new voyage along New Jersey’s Christopher Columbus Highway. 

This year, Sopranos actualized my identity. Since March, I’ve holed up in my apartment bingeing a show about questionable aughts-era haircuts and noxious family loyalty. I resonated with Moltisanti’s Italian penchant for speaking loudly, yearning for power and reckoning with Catholic guilt. 

During the pandemic year where in-person gatherings are low and content binges are high, TV shows became our friend groups. We lust for the Bridgerton hots, reassess our assets (and sometimes our guts) on Industry, tour houses with Selling Sunset’s Oppenheim brothers and sing Christmas carols with Dash & Lily

Sometimes the line between entertainment obsession and personal perspective blurs. It surely did when I ventured into Hoboken for the first time in November to live my Made Man fantasy. I hate guns, ill-fitting pants and toxic masculinity. So why am I obsessed with a show about all three? I should probably talk about TV affecting my personal life with my therapist, but they left me for a better job at a different company. Good for them, but bad for my (mental health) game. 

So, instead, I’m standing my ground. I asked a slew of entertainment journalists, TV podcasters and pop culture obsessives about the shows that bleed into their personal life — and how they deal with it. As Tony Soprano once said, “We’re soldiers.” Soldiers to the silver screen. 

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Kate Casey, host of the podcast Reality Life

I think The Bachelor has affected the way I communicate about relationships. My phraseology now includes questions about whether they are in a “good place” and if their “connection” is strong enough. I wonder about their “journey” and note if you can’t fall in love in [name of city], then what hope does anyone else have in the world?

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Yolanda Machado, TV critic and journalist

My husband is a cook, so Chopped has become our new SVU, really. We started looking at certain food items we have, and I try to egg him into making Chopped creations. Sometimes I say “Geoffrey [Zakarian] would chop you” just to get a reaction, cause he hates him! In the end, I get a good meal, so really this is a very good thing for me.

Scott Oak, owner of Twitter account The Sopranos Club

The Sopranos made me more distrusting of people for a short period of time. All the backstabbing and constant lying made me question how genuine people are. But I reminded myself that, even though the show is very realistic to human nature, the writing was a lot more focused on the more dysfunctional side of society. 

After getting a good performance review at work — I was in property management — I thought it was a total lie. I was called into a meeting with the owner the next day, and I was sure they were going to discipline me [or] something. The meeting was just a chat about analog signals being switched off, lol.

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Meg Zukin, senior social media editor/writer for Variety

“When my boyfriend and I were watching The Sopranos, we changed our home Wi-Fi network name to Satriale’s Pork Store. We’ve since moved. But when we got a new network, we still decided to name it that. My grocery habits were also affected. Whenever I saw capicola (pronounced gabagool) at the grocery store, I’d buy it and bring it home even though I had never had it in my life. My dog (Bowser) was this close to being named Uncle Junior.”

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Andy Herren, winner of Big Brother

So my time on Big Brother showed me that I am good at lying and getting away with it — to the point where sometimes when I’m drunk at bars with friends I’ll test the limits of what I can lie about. Roughly a year ago, my roommate (who is a platonic friend) and I were out, met a girl and just went into the wildest lie about how we are husbands and are not open whatsoever. Cut to a few hours later: I left the bar with a gentleman who ended up being the roommate of the girl my roommate and I lied to. When I walked in, she was like, “He’s married, and they’re not open! He’s cheating!” I had to just leave because I couldn’t be like, “Well, I’m not married, but I was just lying to you for sport!” I looked bad/crazy to all parties involved. Lying went very well for me in the Big Brother house but not in real life!

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Derek, noted Timothée Chalamet stan and new NXIVM addict on Twitter

I’ve been quite infatuated with the NXIVM case. The podcasts, the HBO and Starz series. I’ve even written a proposed miniseries about it (I’m literally insane I know). I can’t stop talking about it with all my friends and family. It’s 100 percent changed my thinking on cults. 

I’m more cautious of self-help groups and have become suspect of the [messaging], “You need this class to make yourself better.” Trying to find therapists who aren’t into bizarre treatment. Like I feel a lot of people think, “Oh, this will never happen to me,” but you can be the smartest person — richest, poorest, etc. — and get sucked into one! It’s quite scary! I’m way too trusting of people!

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Joey Nolfi, staff writer for Entertainment Weekly

RuPaul’s Drag Race has embedded itself into my brain in ways that are both deeply comforting and alarming — not so much the dynamics of the competition itself, but the infectious digital culture around the show. Drag Race-isms, quotes, and even facial expressions from the show have become interchangeable reactions to everyday scenarios in my subconscious. A famous actor’s wife pretends she’s Spanish? My mind’s best Kennedy Davenport says: “They’re going to me-me your ass to death, bitch.” My longtime IG crush just posted a party photo from Puerto Vallarta during a pandemic? My brain cells are doing the same “not impressed” tongue pop Alyssa Edwards did when the Season 10 girls practiced their choreography in front of her. And I have no plans to exorcise those demons. It keeps my internal monologue light and colorful.

Also, while Drag Race certainly didn’t invent a bulk of the queer lingo it has popularized in the mainstream, it’s still fun to blur the line between jolly flamboyance and insufferability by referring to things as “the tea, sis” or giving a friend’s questionable decision a sharp “Oh, hoooney.” Drag Race has made those things — and other catchphrases — accessible (note: I didn’t say “acceptable”) across multiple demographics. So, for all of us, there’s no escaping the way this series has shaped modern vocabulary!