August 12, 2014 11:30 AM EDT

To get a sense of how The Sopranos changed TV, get a pen and make a list of the 20 best TV dramas before 1999. That list will very likely include Magnum, P.I. This mafia saga showed just how complex and involving TV storytelling could be, inspiring an explosion of ambitious dramas on cable and off. In Tony Soprano’s world, it wasn’t the Mob that kept pulling you back in to old, destructive patterns, it was your family: your controlling mother, your maddening wife, your feckless kids. Meanwhile, the big-F Family drama of the declining Mafia business offered popcorn entertainment alongside the deeper insights. Some fans may have hated the series’ abrupt ending, but the fact that the show’s last moments obsessed us demonstrates that America never stopped believin’ in the power of this story.

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