He was a brutal but psychologically tortured mob boss, trying to reconcile his work family and his home family; but of course the two worlds were already irreconcilably linked and intertwined. They all shared the same illegal and underworld secrets, trying (usually but not always) to pretend that the morals of what happened in their homes were somehow different than the immoral and bloody realities of their mobster work.
The Sopranos changed the course of dramatic TV, pushing the envelope in so many new directions it's hard to keep exact tabs. And Gandolfini became as well-defined as any other TV actor for a singular and transcendent role, with the possible of exception of Carroll O'Connor as Archie Bunker.
And those clanging forks in the show - where food and eating was such a ritualistic and constant part of both families' lives - seemed to embody so much of the tension and conflict and contradictions and excesses. I don't know why but I was more aware of the sound effects of the forks and plates than I've ever been with any other TV show or movie. And I know the show's creator, David Chase, doesn't usually do anything by accident.
I've been thinking about those fork sounds today, as we remember Gandolfini, who died last night at the way-too-young age of 51.
The outpouring of emotion for this New Jersey native, who had homes in the Garden State and in Manhattan, has been remarkable. He touched people - with his acting skills, and with his humanity off camera.
That's the back story as we prepare tonight's newscast, after tonight's NBA Finals. We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Meteorologist Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Rob Powers with the night's sports. I hope you can join Sade Baderinwa and me, tonight after Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Either the Heat or Spurs will be the new champs, tonight.
One more note: I'll be off tomorrow, so this column will resume on Monday.
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