James Gandolfini's new HBO pilot: The next Sopranos?

James Gandolfini is set to return to the channel that made him a star — but doubts linger about whether he can escape the shadow of Tony Soprano

James Gandolfini
(Image credit: Getty Images)

They say you can't go home again — but apparently you can go back to the Home Box Office. On Wednesday, premium channel HBO ordered a pilot of a new series called Criminal Justice, which will star James Gandolfini in his first TV series since The Sopranos went off the air in 2007. Both HBO and Gandolfini benefited from their Sopranos collaboration, which earned unanimous critical acclaim, a fiercely loyal viewership, and more Emmys than you could shake a cannoli at. But Criminal Justice, based on a hit 2008 BBC series of the same name, sees Gandolfini on the other side of the criminal justice system as a lawyer defending a young man who wakes up next to a corpse after a night of heavy drinking. Will the second collaboration between HBO and Gandolfini be the premium channel's next big thing?

The role is tailor-made for Gandolfini: Ever since The Sopranos went off the air, HBO "has been looking to find a new series vehicle" for Gandolfini, says Nellie Andreeva at Deadline. Though the actor has considered several other projects, including a dramedy set in Antarctica called Big Dead Place and a remake of a French-Canadian series called Taxi-22, this is the first Gandolfini project to make it into production. And if the new HBO series is a success, Gandolfini is committed to a starring role on Criminal Justice for the long haul; even if the series wraps up its case at the end of the season as its BBC counterpart did, Gandolfini's character will carry over into future seasons.

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