Fall TV:: The Sopranos on hogs -- FX's Sons of Anarchy spins tales of crooked bikers
09/03/08 10:11 AM
Premiering: Wednesday, Sept. 3rd at 9 p.m. (central) on FX
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Ron Perlman, Katey Sagal, Mitch Pileggi, Drea De Matteo, Mark Boone, Jr., Kim Coates, Johnny Lewis, Maggie Siff, Theo Rossi, Taylor Sheridan
Created by: Kurt Sutter
Warning: the opening sentence of this review includes a four-letter expletive used repeatedly in Sons of Anarchy.
By ED BARK
Very bluntly put, FX's new Sons of Anarchy is full of shit.
So much so that it easily could be sponsored by a laxative.
This once taboo four-letter word is carpet-bombed throughout the first two episodes of a thoroughly vile and violent drama series about an outlaw motorcycle club's iron-fisted rule over the tiny fictional town of Charming, CA.
Yes, comparisons to The Sopranos are inevitable and warranted. These guys also maim, kill, curse, run guns and have big "family" dinners for accredited members of the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Original (SAMCRO). Only they get around on energy-efficent choppers while Tony Soprano and his underlings preferred gas-guzzling SUVs.
Advertiser-supported cable networks still can't get away with dropping the f-bomb. So FX compensates with what must be a world record barrage of s-words that once used to merely drip on its groundbreaking signature series, The Shield.
Wednesday's premiere also includes rotting Mexican corpses; savage beatings of both a drug-dealer and an Asian Elvis; the point-blank face-shooting of a rival Mayan motorcycle gang member; another dead Mayan with a stick of dynamite protruding from his rear end; and the not-so-gentle twitting of a SAMCRO "prospect" known as Kip "Half-Sack" Epps.
"Jesus Christ, put that deformed nut bag away, willya?" SAMCRO boss Clarence "Clay" Morrow (Ron Perlman) orders him. Haw-haw, that's rich.
Perlman used to hide his notably protruding jaw behind copious hair and latex on CBS' old Beauty and the Beast series. Now he really is a beast, running SAMCRO with an iron will while his wife, Gemma (Katey Sagal from Married . . . with Children), connives, cooks and performs regular upkeep on hubby's piston.
Gemma also is the mother of young SAMCRO vice president Jackson "Jax" Teller (Charlie Hunnam), whose long-dead dad was a hippie biker before the rough stuff kicked in and apparently led to his death.
Jax is described as "sensitive and reflective," but with a trigger temper and a pretty much busted moral compass. He also made a pretty bad choice in impregnating Wendy Case (Drea De Matteo from The Sopranos) before she became his ex-wife. Her drunken junkie lifestyle is bad news for their unborn son, Abel, who's delivered prematurely with half a stomach and a hole in his heart after mom collapses in a bloody heap. Nice.
Sons of Anarchy has a wide variety of other scummy characters. But at least one Charming resident, Jax's former high school sweetheart Tara (Maggie Siff), is trying to keep hope alive. She's returned to her hometown as a pediatrician who retains a thing for Jax, but not for his outlaw ways. Tara still has a big ol' tattoo, though, covering the small of her back and territory further south.
Watching all of this unfold seems voyeuristic for the most part. FX has an out-of-the-box "brand" to sell, and this is its darkest drama yet. But the overall coarseness of Sons of Anarchy comes off as forced and distasteful. Does the network really need to go to these extremes? And is an audience served in any meaningful way by watching a group of hog-riding pigs at work and play?
Sometimes you just have to say, "Enough of this stuff." FX won't be doing its version of Touched By An Angel anytime soon. Still, it'd be nice to take the edge off for a change with a series that actually aspires to be life-affirming without all the attendant dirty laundry of The Shield, Nip/Tuck or Rescue Me.
Maybe it's time for at least a semblance of a clean break?