When the show opens with Tony Soprano driving from New York City to his home in suburban New Jersey, a panoramic view of lower Manhattan shows the World Trade Center's twin towers still standing.
That first season with a young and still thin James Gandolfini shows a vanished world.
The mobsters still use pay phones. No burner cellphones, as in "The Wire."
CDs were the dominant music technology; People watched VHS movies at home.
The Y2K panic remained in the future. Bush and his neo-con thugs had not yet taken charge. Sept. 11 had not happened, nor the disastrous Iraq war.
The first Internet economy bubbled with exuberant optimism.
Although the anxiety-ridden Tony complains to Dr. Melfi that he fears America's best days are over, the the show's atmosphere glows with unlimited possibility.
As the show stretches out for eight more years, the FBI tightens its investigations of the mob, a metaphor for what happened to America at large after Sept. 11. The Patriot Act. Airport security lines. Phone snooping. Hacking.
The Internet has not yet crushed the newspaper industry - Tony religiously picks up his Newark Star Ledger from the driveway and gives it a quick read.
Nearly 20 years later, the show's comic moments don't quite soften its message of lost freedom. Now the oppressive forces take total control.