NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- "I'll bet you don't even hear it coming," - The Soprano's Bobby Bacala, when talking about death. The great thing about this job is that I get to write really interesting stories, and express my thoughts and sentiments on the Web for all to see. Tony Soprano wasn't a tech revolutionary, but the way he changed television history is on par with some of the greats.
James Gandolfini, better known to the world as Tony Soprano, died yesterday at the age of 51, from a heart attack, while vacationing in Rome. I remember being a kid, every Sunday night, with my prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, roasted peppers and mayo sandwich (my mouth is watering right now), sitting down in front of the television, and waiting to see his latest exploits on The Sopranos. It was not only must-see TV in my house, but millions across the country, as we waited with baited breath to see who was going to get "whacked," or if Tony would finally get his comeuppance. The Sopranos was much more than a television show. It helped turn HBO, a division of Time Warner ( TWX), into the network powerhouse it is today, and Gandolfini was at the very forefront of that. Sure, the show had alluring, powerful characters such as Tony's wife Carmella, his consigliere Silvio, and his half-witted captain Paulie, but Tony was the glue to it all. Without his larger-than-life presence on screen, it just wasn't the same. That is solely attributed to the notion that Gandolfini was a brilliant actor, and could become this larger-than-life presence and capture the minds and memories of millions of viewers. There isn't a character in recent modern television history that could evoke an emotional range from pure joy to depression to anger and rage as quickly or as seamlessly as Gandolfini. "He was a genius," said David Chase, the creator of the show in a statement after the passing last night. "Anyone who saw him in the smallest of his performances, knows that. He is one of the greatest actors of this or any time." Antics such as cheating on Carmella, lying to Meadow about being in the mob, and his general disdain for certain members of his family, made you hate the character. Yet, actions such as being the protective father over AJ, helping Meadow with relationship issues and being a friend to Silvio, Paulie and even Artie showed you the range of Gandolfini's talents, that few, if any have ever possessed on the small screen. I don't remember the last time I bought a newspaper, but I bought one this morning to read what the columnists, actors, and other cast members had to say about Gandolfini. He was an incredible actor, and playing the role of Tony Soprano fit him like a well-worn glove.
I've connected with few, if any characters the way I connected with Tony Soprano. Judging by the reaction on social media and through conversations with a variety of people, I'm clearly not alone. It's rare for a character to be both so loved and hated at the same time that everyone who was a fan of the show. Everyone has their favorite Sopranos moments. Eating at Vesuvio's. The Pine Barrens episode. Sitting in front of Satriale's discussing business. It was all a blast for 86 episodes, even if the 86th episode did fade to black. Gandolfini was present for almost all of those moments, fixating television viewers in front of their screens every Sunday night. The Sopranos is still the most popular show HBO has ever had, when factoring in ratings, and Tony was the primary driver of that. You woke up this morning Got yourself a gun, Your mama always said you'd be The Chosen One.- A3, Woke Up This Morning Truer words were never sang about a character or an actor the likes of Soprano/Gandolifini. Everything about the show, the actor and the character just seemed so perfect, like it was destiny. May New Jersey's favorite TV mob boss rest in peace. Here's to hoping they have prosciutto, provolone and vinegar pepper sandwiches in Heaven. -- Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York >Contact by Email. Follow @Chris_Ciaccia