New bikie gang drama Sons of Anarchy provides grim pickings for Deborah Hill Cone.
I'm sorry to say that the first major problem with TV3's new Wednesday drama series Sons of Anarchy is that their hair is too nice. It is very difficult to buy into a tough-ass outlaw motorcycle gang dude who has a swishy blonde bob.
Lead character Jax Teller is played by Charlie Hunnam, an English actor who simply seems like he's modelling Pantene rather than acting like a bikie. What, no helmet hair?
The Sons of Anarchy (known by the acronym Samcro) are a very "designer" kind of motorcycle gang and seem to conform to all the tidy rules of American television. They are gangsters with hearts of gold who look like they got their leather patches at Armani. This gang keep meth traffickers and drug dealers out of their town. Gritty realism, huh?
Sons of Anarchy is shooting its fourth season in the United States but here, TV3 are considerately starting it from the pilot episode which begins with the torching of a Samcro gun-assembly warehouse and the theft of guns by a rival club, the Mayans.
We are introduced to the main characters, Jax, who is the vice-president of the club but is questioning their direction, and his mother, Gemma, (played by Katey Segal, best known as Peggy from Married with Children). She is the Lady Macbeth, the power behind the throne and a very nasty piece of work.
Meanwhile, Jax's estranged girlfriend is a grisly pregnant meth addict. (It doesn't pay to delve deeply into the sexual politics of a show which makes the male bikies shiny-haired family men and female bikies baby-killing sluts.) I wonder what it says about the show's creator, Kurt Sutter, that he wrote the role of evil mamma Gemma for Segal, his real-life wife, who is 14 years older than him. Psychologists would have a field day: "Thanks for that, darling."
Apart from the coiffure issues, Sons of Anarchy is also unremittingly grim. It got some good reviews by critics who mainly raved about Segal's "pedal to the metal" performance but I'm with Robert Bianco in USA Today who said, as with The Sopranos, we are once again digging into a criminal underground society that operates under its own rules and considers itself a family apart. "The question Sons fails to answer is why we would want to do that."
It is really hard to connect with characters who have no sense of humour. I don't know anything about bikie gangs, but my impression of New Zealand ones is that they are hard case and like a laugh when they're not out raping and pillaging.
My view is if you're going to take on really dark, grimy subject matter you can't do it by halves. Sons of Anarchy tries to ride a middle line - gritty but nice. There is no sex or humour but the darkness is tempered with silly feyness: for example, the town it is set in is called Charming. Sons of Anarchy isn't.
Sons of Anarchy debuts on TV3, Wednesday at 9.30pm.
Read Linda Herrick's opinion on Sons Of Anarchy here.
-Herald On Sunday / View