From Out of the Pen for the Penultimate 'Sopranos' Season (washingtonpost.com):
"Mobsters let out of the slammer after paying their debt to society are the 'taking-off point' for the fifth and penultimate season of HBO's 'The Sopranos,' creator David Chase told eager critics at Winter TV Press Tour 2004 Thursday. "
"The show begins with what we call the Mafia Class of 2004 hitting the streets," Chase told critics via satellite from in front of the Arc de Triomphe. He got the idea after reading an article in the Newark Star-Ledger about the highly publicized RICO cases of the '80s, which put away a lot of mobsters who've now served their time.
Steve Buscemi, who has directed episodes of the series, has joined the cast as one such mobster, a cousin of Tony Soprano.