TV Review: Sons of Anarchy (2008-2014)

Also known as: Forever Sam Crow (working title)
Original Run: September 3rd, 2008-December 9th, 2014
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Bob Thiele, Dave Kushner, Curtis Stigers
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Junior, Kim Coates, Tommy Flanagan, Johnny Lewis, Maggie Siff, Ron Perlman, Ryan Hurst, William Lucking, Theo Rossi, Dayton Callie, Jimmy Smits, Drea De Matteo, David Labrava, Niko Nicotera, Glenn Plummer, Taryn Manning, Emilio Rivera, Ally Walker, Mitch Pileggi, Kenneth Choi, Kurt Sutter, Titus Welliver, Walton Goggins, Henry Rollins, Hal Holbrook, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Marilyn Manson, Kim Dickens, Chuck Zito, Ray McKinnon, Jeff Kober

Linson The Company, Sutter Ink, Fox 21, FX, 92 Episodes, 41-81 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2015.

This is one of those reviews that will probably turn a lot of my friends against me. I care not. I must tell it like it is from my point-of-view.

Sons of Anarchy is a show that I have developed a like/hate relationship with. I don’t say “love” because I’m not that enthralled with the positive aspects of it. It does however, have some positives amidst a sea of negatives. And I guess that makes me go against the popular opinion, as nearly everyone that I have talked to, has loved this show.

But I guess this isn’t a show for me. Where I expected something more like The Sopranos on motorcycles, this was more like a mindless action flick full of an overabundance of violence, bad CGI, bad acting, bad writing, bad music and really stupid and unlikable characters. Sons of Anarchy is geared more towards the male millennial crowd than it is for people who want good and groundbreaking television or at the very least, some sort of coherent plot.

This show is a mess. It is a moderately enjoyable mess at times but it is a show that constantly tries too hard and falls short. Yes, there are shocking and intense moments but they lose their meaning and significance almost immediately. For one, it is hard to care about any of these horrible characters. Also, with the show trying to constantly outdo itself and escalating further and further from episode to episode, things eventually get so over the top that it becomes unintentionally ludicrous.

The premise of the show also changes as it goes on and it loses sight of itself just a few seasons in. Maybe this is intentional but it really just feels like the weight of this ratings beast forced the showrunners to make quick, big decisions, which may have increased ratings further but sacrificed whatever integrity and soul the show may have had early on.

For instance, the show’s main drive in the beginning is the main character Jax’s obsession with his dead father’s writings. The writings talked about what the motorcycle club was supposed to be, how it got away from itself and how butt hurt Jax’s dad was about it. Jax then makes it his mission to right the wrongs and make the motorcycle club respectable. Maybe he would’ve been more inspired and followed through had he actually read more than two paragraphs of his father’s writings at a time. Maybe Jax has a bad attention span. Maybe that is why he couldn’t follow through because he got distracted by doing really stupid shit every episode.

In any event, the show evolves away from the club’s redemption through Jax’s leadership and instead shows the club fall on hard times and then even harder times. It just gets worse and worse, Jax stops reading his dad’s journals and pretty much turns into the asshole his stepfather Clay is. He actually turns out worse than Clay by the end of it all.

I could write a book about how much of an idiot Jax is but I’m not going to waste my time. I could also write a book about how much of an idiot his mother Gemma is.

All the characters really suck and all of them, for the most part, are stupid morons. They are the dumbest criminals I’ve ever seen. Darkwing Duck had smarter bad guys than the members of the Sons of Anarchy.

As far as likable characters, there are really only five. There is Wayne, who is on a tragic journey that ultimately ends up sucking really bad for him. Also, he had terminal cancer “eating away” at him in season one but somehow survived seven seasons. There is Jax’s ex-heroin addict wife who goes on to redeem herself and she’s about the only character you are happy for in the end. Then we have Nero, the pimp and tragic lover of Gemma. I really liked Nero but Jimmy Smits is awesome in every role. There’s Piney, who saw the bullshit for what it was and tried to hold everyone accountable. Since he was the voice of reason in a sea of shitty people, he was killed off. This brings me to my favorite character: Juice.

Juice is most likely the most tragic character in television history. Juice was a positive on this show even though his end was horrible. You couldn’t not like Juice and feel for him every step of the way. He truly cared about the club and doing the right thing but continually got fucked (literally) and lost his life and stature because the people he invested his love and loyalty in were pieces of garbage. Juice’s journey is one of the redeeming factors of this show. I don’t like how it ended but this show is one big tragedy.

In regards to the show’s music, it is terrible. The main theme is awful but somehow was nominated for an Emmy by some tone deaf Hollywood types. The songs throughout the show are even worse. More often than not, we are treated to some poor slowed down roots rock cover song of a known pop hit. It always feels bizarre, out of place and makes the show come off as generic and cheesy. At least once per season, we get some crappy song sung by Katey Sagal, who probably shouldn’t sing but is most likely encouraged by her husband, who is the show’s creator. That’s probably also why she was cast as Gemma. Lastly, the music selections are almost racist. When the biker gang fights another biker gang there is rock music. When they fight Mexicans: Spanish language gangsta rap. When they fight blacks: generic crappy English language gangsta rap. Asians: make sure to add in some Asian stringed instruments and gongs in over the soundtrack. Irish: Celtic shit. Persians: grab the sitar – hey wait, that’s Hindi you racist bastards! It’s sad and predictable and becomes a distraction.

This show was not The Sopranos on motorcycles, it was a Shakespearean tragedy on motorcycles. Which is perfectly fine. The problem is that the execution was shit and it tried to convince the viewer that it was clever while beating you over the head with its Shakespeareanism. After the tragic, pointless and retarded ending of the show, it even gives the viewer a Shakespeare quote before rolling its final credits. I’m sure dumb ass college students for years to come will write papers about how fantastic this modern Shakespearean saga is after just skimming over the Cliff Notes of Shakespeare’s work to make them feel the connection.

I don’t hate this show, even though it probably comes across like that. I had a hard time getting through segments of it but I enjoyed it enough to finish it. Granted, the ending was one of the worst in television history but really crappy endings to long-running shows is the trend lately. And maybe that ending just enhanced whatever bitterness I’m feeling.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: The SopranosBreaking BadFear the Walking Dead and Justified but these are all better shows. Well, maybe not Justified, I’ll post my review for that soon.

TV Review: Orange Is the New Black (2013-2019)

Release Date: July 11th, 2013 – current
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Orange Is the New Black: My Year In a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman
Music by: Regina Spektor (theme), Scott Doherty, Brandon Jay, Gwendolyn Sanford
Cast: Taylor Schilling, Laura Prepon, Michael Harney, Michelle Hurst, Kate Mulgrew, Jason Biggs, Uzo Aduba, Danielle Brooks, Natasha Lyonne, Taryn Manning, Selenis Leyva, Adrienne C. Moore, Dascha Polanco, Nick Sandow, Yael Stone, Lauren Lapkus, Samira Wiley, Jackie Cruz, Diane Guerrero, Lea DeLaria, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Jessica Pimentel, Mary Steenburgen, Ruby Rose, Lori Petty, Asia Kate Dillon

Lionsgate Television, Tilted Productions, Netflix, 65 Episodes (so far), 51-92 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2014.

I finally got around to watching Orange Is the New Black. I’m really glad that I did. I am on a mission to watch all the Netflix shows, in order to rank them for a future countdown post and finally I got to this one, which just may be the cream of the crop.

I had heard nothing but good things about this show and had planned on watching it for a while. Time passed, I was busy and all of a sudden, the second season was out and I hadn’t yet watched the first.

This show is pretty remarkable. The plots aren’t overly complex but they are well thought out and pretty layered, which is probably due to what I hear is great source material, which was the memoir Orange Is the New Black: My Year In a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman. I’m not sure how closely the show follows the biographical account but the characters and plots feel incredibly real. Which is a testament to the creators, producers, directors, writers and most importantly, the actors.

In fact, the acting is stellar. Taylor Schilling (who plays the lead character, Piper) is really good and I can’t say anything bad about her work here but she is often times overshadowed by the brilliance of those around her. Kate Mulgrew, who was amazing as the lead on Star Trek: Voyager, is even more amazing on this show. Uzo Aduba, who plays Crazy Eyes, may be one of the best actresses I have ever seen and that is something I don’t just throw around. Laura Prepon, who starred on That ’70s Show, is a welcome addition to the cast and gives her best performance to date. Other spectacular presences on this show are Natasha Lyonne, Jason Biggs, Taryn Manning, Lea DeLaria, Laverne Cox, Danielle Brooks, Samira Wiley and Vicky Jeudy. Yael Stone is also fantastic and incredibly adorable as Lorna. Then there is Michael Healy, who brings a great dynamic to the show, as he goes from a caring sort of father figure to a complete tyrannical douchebag.

There are few, if any shows, as well acted as Orange Is the New Black. In fact, the only thing right now that comes to mind is Netflix’s other big hit House of Cards and AMC’s Mad Men.

Now I don’t know if this is a show that can sustain beyond a few seasons but while the ride is good, I will certainly stay on. I know that a third season is coming and I can imagine that several people on this show are now getting good work elsewhere. It’ll be interesting to see how long this lasts and if they can get the cast to stick around, assuming this stays a hit and goes on well into the future. Then again, prison is a revolving door of characters, so why should this show be any different.

And to make a point, I have often times heard this described as the female Oz. While both shows take place in a prison, this is no lady Oz. It is a great balance of comedy, drama and just life. It brings a charm to the table that the extremely hard-edged Oz didn’t have with its brutal and gritty ambiance. I would also go on to say that Orange Is the New Black is the superior show out of the two.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: WeedsOz… simply because of similar themes but there is real contrast in the tones of these two shows.