Sons of Anarchy Mixes It Up

I’ve warned you, and now it’s coming true — we’re starting in full TV mode today and again Friday. I’ll try to get some movie links in here too, but today is all TV starting off with what continues to be one of the best shows out there.



The plan this week was to hold on to the six TV premieres and finales this week — Sons of Anarchy and Louie last night, Hellcats and Terriers tonight and Nikita and Vampire Diaries on Thursday — and just bundle them into one big blog post Friday.

samcro forever

samcro forever

Then I watched Sons of Anarchy. Now I can’t wait.

For some reason, I wasn’t that enthused about the return of SAMCRO. I completely forgot about it in the Nooner with PopRox last Friday until someone brought it up. I’m not sure how I can forget about it since FX, as only FX can, has been running relentless promos since the start of Rescue Me in June. The network does everything but come to your house and turn the TV on for you.

Plus, I thought I had an idea of how the cliffhanger from last year — Jax having his son kidnapped — would play out this year, and I didn’t like it. After watching FX shows for more than six years, I thought they would just move the timeline ahead a couple months, have Abel sitting in the crib to start the show and everything would start over with veiled allusions to how they got Abel back, something like this:

(EXT: Jax sitting in the nursery, watching Abel sleep. Gemma walks in behind him. He doesn’t turn around.)

Gemma: It’s not your fault. You know that, right?

Jax: The problem is, yes it is. It is my fault. This life … it’s going to kill him. And me. And Tara. (He turns to his mother) And you.

Gemma: I’m still here, aren’t I?

Jax: Yeah, but Abel wasn’t. I’ve got to stop this. I’ve got to stop this all …

poor jax. but at least he gets to go look for his son.

poor jax. but at least he gets to go look for his son.

And then we would have gotten the same Jax-Clay fights we got last year and I get all ticked off that we’re just seeing the same thing over again. If this was Nip/Tuck or Rescue Me, that’s exactly what would have happened.

Only it didn’t. Series creator Kurt Sutter decided to pick up right where the show left off last year, just days after Abel was kidnapped and the Prospect got shived. So we’re over the intensity of the Zobelle stuff, but we’re right back in on the hunt for Abel — and it looks like it’s going to be lasting all year. That’s a good thing, I think.

But wait, we’re not done! Just in case you were one of the people — like me, incidentally — that didn’t care too much for the Abel kidnapping thing in the first place, the show threw in a truly shocking gang hit at Prospect’s funeral that closed the episode and left at least two people dead. New police chief Dave Hale and either Opie’s son or his porn-star girlfriend’s son, not sure which it was yet, appear to be the only two casualties of the hit. And technically, we don’t know either of them are dead, but they both looked pretty darn dead last night.

Hale gave us a hint something would happen that I didn’t even pick up on at first when he was talking about why so many people showed up for Prospect’s funeral. “People don’t like to see SAMCRO vulnerable. It’s not supposed to happen.” So if the town picked up on the club being vulnerable, it easily stands to reason some other podunk gang would see it and want to move in on their territory. It was a reasonable hit that tied the story together, made complete sense and sets up the interesting B-story of the year: Who did the hit? Irish nationals? White supremacists? A rising star in the underworld? When you say it out loud, it sounds pretty stupid, but in the context of the show it makes perfect sense. Trust me.

The Abel search might get boring sometimes this year, but the series has earned our trust. And after last night’s premiere, when it went in a completely different direction than some people (me) would have thought, it’s worth staying with in every way. SEASON PREMIERE GRADE: A-


I can’t always do reviews for every TV show out there, so when I can’t, I always suggest heading over to AV Club to check out reviews of the shows that matter. Here’s their schedule of shows they’ll review this year, and it looks almost exactly like the shows I think are worth watching. There’s plenty in there I don’t think are worth watching — How I Met Your Mother and Big Bang Theory are two — but for the most part, it’s completely by coincidence my viewing schedule. I’d like to see them review The Middle and Vampire Diaries, but other than that, it’s a pretty good list. It’s also a cheat sheet for when these shows are coming back. It’s also interesting they dropped Grey’s Anatomy.

we love amy poehler 'round these parts. just not as the host of the season premiere of snl.

we love amy poehler 'round these parts. just not as the host of the season premiere of snl.

This was probably the first season of Saturday Night Live where I couldn’t make it through a full, single episode without falling asleep, watching a Seinfeld rerun or catching up with my DVR. And I wasn’t the only one. The comedy seemed lazy, the stars pretty boring and the guest stars just weren’t good. I’d go so far as to classify last season’s January Jones appearance as the worst Saturday Night Live guest-hosting gig ever — and I’ve seen the Paris Hilton episode. For as completely boring as it was, you would think they’d come up with a name to really wow the hardcore fans back into the show. The season premiere usually gets the biggest guest of the season, with recent must-tune-in names like Megan Fox and Michael Phelps. Regardless of what you thought of those two or their performances, you were interested in seeing them on the show. Admit it. You were. With those kinds of names, you expect something big, something special. So the big announcement for this year’s show is … Amy Poehler? Who doesn’t have a movie coming out? Whose TV won’t even be coming back until 2011? And whose TV show is watched by about 50 people every week anyway? SNL, you’re better than that. At least you used to be. But wait, maybe they’ll make up for it in the coming weeks with … Jane Lynch? Bryan Cranston? There are going to be millions of people who see Bryan Cranston and say, “Why does Tim Whatley get to host SNL?” Welcome to the 36th season of one of the most revered comedy shows of all time!

There was a time when the new TV season not only meant new network TV shows, but also new local TV schedules with your favorite shows making their way into syndication. This used to be a big deal. Trust me. I feel like an old grandfather telling a group of neighborhood kids, “Gather ’round to hear a story of times gone by!” But back in the 80s, when there were only 20 or so TV stations and only six or seven if you didn’t have cable, and there were no shows on DVD or YouTube, syndication was a huge deal to TV freaks. Family Ties on every day! Growing Pains on as soon as you get home from school! Only the best shows made it to syndication. You had to have 100 episodes in the bank to make sure the same episodes weren’t being played every day, you were competing with every other show out there for very limited daytime and late night time slots and you had to be something that had made some kind of cultural impact. That’s all out the window now. Cable networks will pick up just about anything, no matter how many episodes there have been. I blame USA, which back in the 90s picked up two-season failures like Boston Common, The Single Guy and Ned and Stacy. Now, with cable networks only picking up 13 episodes a season, the regular syndication rules have been blown up like Nakatomi Towers and anything can make it in syndication. Plus, no one really cares about syndication anymore because apparently the only thing anyone watches in reruns in Seinfeld and Family Guy. If you like a show that much, you have it on DVD and don’t need to watch reruns. Syndication used to be the golden goose of TV royalties, but in 10 years, it probably won’t mean much at all.

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