Saturday, July 23, 2016

Five Reasons I Loved Sons of Anarchy (streaming now on Netflix)

When I first broke into the publishing industry, ebooks were just becoming popular and I learned a fast truth about them. Ebooks don't have to go away. Print books (excluding the classics) don't stay in bookstores forever. (Can you even find a bookstore, these days? Two in my town have closed or will be closing by the end of the year.) The books I write are available in digital format and some are also available in print, by request if you can find a bookstore or at the ever-available Amazon and other online retailers.

Netflix and digital streaming do the same thing for television. Shows we may have missed are now available to watch and the good news is it's not one episode per week. In the case of older series, the whole shooting match is available. I was intrigued by Sons of Anarchy when it came out in 2008 but my schedule was busy and after I'd missed a few episodes, I didn't want to dive in. Fast forward to 2016 and I was looking for a series to binge-watch this summer with my (adult) son. We both thought this would be a good one, and were we ever right.

Let me start by saying this isn't a show for sensitive people who don't like to see nudity, sex and violence. My boys and I are Game of Thrones and Walking Dead fans, so we thought we'd pretty much seen it all in those departments. And SOA was on 'regular' TV originally, so how bad could it be? Believe me, the producers pushed the limits on this one and excluding the F-bomb, just about any other swear word can be heard. There's a YouTube gag real which addresses that very same issue, and trust me when I say this is funny, but NSFW.

Having said all that, while SOA may not have been a new show it was new to me this summer, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. We blew through seven seasons in three weeks, and that included some long nights of 'just one more episode'. After a few days mulling it around in my head, I've come up with five reasons I loved Sons of Anarchy.

5.  The Music
With a mix of old, familiar songs and new, edgy stuff, the soundtrack was amazing. I discovered halfway through that one of the stars, Katey Sagal, is also a singer and has released numerous songs and albums. Since her real life husband, Kurt Sutter, was the creator and producer of SOA, it only makes sense her singing could be heard throughout. She did a great job, and I've since downloaded a bunch of tunes to my Amazon playlist. Love her renditions of To Sir With Love and Son of a Preacher Man. There were many, many more great songs on the show. Admittedly, while binge-watching, the long music montages toward the end of most episodes got a little repetitive, but the music was always top notch.  

4. The Cast

The stars were a mix of familiar and new-to-me, and the later seasons featured a series of guest stars in smaller roles. Stephen King even appeared in an episode. I used to love Ron Perlman in Beauty and the Beast, and he's aged well. Katey Sagal has had a fruitful acting career but most people remember her as Peg Bundy in Married With Children. (There were several other cast and crew members named Sagal in the credits and I think it's great that Katey and Kurt gave those opportunities to their family members.) I didn't know Charlie Hunnam before he came to my attention in the Fifty Shades flurry a few years back. He declined that role but we get to see enough of his butt in SOA, trust me. I've enjoyed Jimmy Smits for years and Ryan Hurst was a favorite as Gary Bertier in Remember the Titans. Too many more to name, but each time someone new appeared my son would say "He's on Deadwood" or "She's on The Shield" so there were plenty of familiar faces and lots of great acting. Kurt Sutter even starred in an uncredited appearance, and what happened to his poor, hapless character by the end leads me to my next category.

3.  The Humor

In the midst of the violence and horrors, there was just enough humor to lighten the mood and keep you tuning back in. Watch the gag real and you'll see what I mean. These actors are good...and funny.

2.  The Relationships

People who ask me about one of my other favorite TV shows, Friday Night Lights, usually want to know if it's all about football. I'm not lying when I say it's not, it's more about relationships. Sons of Anarchy is about a motorcyle club, of course, but it's the relationships that make the show. Seeing the characters interact, seeing how they can say "I love you" one minute and punch each other the next, is a whole new world to me. Not one that I'd particularly like to experience, but on TV it's a safe guilty pleasure. It's not really a spoiler to say this series doesn't end happily for all the characters, and when it first ended I was stunned and irritated and pretty pissed off. But after some reflection I realized that it ended how it had to. These guys are admitted outlaws, and in our society crime doesn't--or dare I say shouldn't-- pay.

1.  Tommy Flanagan

I know, I know, Jax Teller was the star of the show and everyone's heartthrob. I've always gone against the grain in this regard. As a kid I chose Mickey Dolenz to marry because everyone else wanted Davy Jones, so I figured I had a better shot with Mickey. 

Tommy Flanagan as Filip "Chibs" Telford was one of the true-blue club members, and except for the fact that I couldn't understand some of what he said because of his thick Scottish brogue, he was my favorite. (Thank you closed-captioning.) The scars on his face are real, he was jumped in an alley twenty years ago and give a 'Glasgow Grin'. He says he doesn't notice the scars anymore, and after a short while I didn't either. I enjoyed him immensely, and will look for other shows to watch him in.

If you like action and aren't afraid of rough language and lots of good old fashioned rough and tumble violence, give Sons of Anarchy a try. All seven seasons are now streaming on Netflix.

Coming Soon:  My review of The Newsroom on Amazon Prime.