Review: Sons of Anarchy 1×1

Toenail painters

Sons of Anarchy

In the US: Wednesdays, 10pm, FX

FX has backed itself into something of a corner. With a reputation for being a manly channel for manly men who like programmes about even manlier men, pretty much everything they do now has to fit this remit.

I imagine that much like a war of escalation, each new FX show’s going to have be manlier than the previous ones. There’s going to come up a point where it commissions a show about ex-marine lumberjack bodybuilders on steroids who have John Woo shoot-outs and punch-ups during bank heists, before returning home to drink 17 kegs of beer each in front of cable porn – all without saying more than five, four-letter words each.

Sons of Anarchy isn’t that show, but it’s the closest yet. Set in a fake motorcycle gang chapter in California, it traces the fortunes of a family of bikers who are involved in guns, drugs, murder, robbery, and book-writing. Really.


FX Network’s new original series, Sons of Anarchy, is an adrenalized drama with darkly comedic undertones that explores a notorious outlaw motorcycle club’s (MC) desire to protect its livelihood while ensuring that their simple, sheltered town of Charming, California remains exactly that. Charming. The MC must confront threats from drug dealers, corporate developers and overzealous law officers. Behind the MC’s familial lifestyle and legally thriving automotive shop is a ruthless and illegally thriving arms business. The seduction of money, power, and blood.

Is it any good?

You know the way some blokes act really, really hard, so hard that you know that they’re really overcompensating and that secretly they’re painting their toenails and quaffing sherry at home? Sons of Anarchy feels like it’s really leafing through back issues of New Woman when we’re not watching.

It’s not that it’s bad or stupid or crass. It’s just trying a little too hard to show how manly these bikers are, 24/7, as they enjoy the rugged life of freedom and doing manly things that the open road and really slow motorbikes affords you.

There’s barely of a frame of the show that isn’t dedicated to testosterone, whether it’s the bare-knuckle boxing, the guns, or the retribution beatings. Miraculously, there have been no signs yet of the otherwise usual mandatory dramatic code for endorsing characters’ masculinity – lapdancers – but it’s probably just a matter of time, unless the producers are worried that all that oestrogen might get airborne and turn these manly men into girly girls. Much better to spend all your time with other men, then.

Okay, there are some women in the show, although Drea De Matteo as the druggie ex-wife of Jax (Byker Grove‘s beautifully coiffured Charlie Hunnam) is pretty much kept in quarantine for the whole show and Katey Sagel’s Gemma is a Hell’s AngelsSons of Anarchy matriarch who tries to keep everyone on the truth path of manliness. Even the local she-doctor turns out to be an ex-biker, flaunting her back tattoo from inside her scrubs.

Worries about whether the Sons are being true to their charter are a reasonable attempt to add some thought to the process. The darkness of just about everything will put some people off, but will make it attractive to others.

But there’s not really much to cling on to in terms of likeable characters. Promises of dark comedy that might relieve the interminable grisliness of it all are somewhat empty. It’s not actually very enjoyable to watch and it doesn’t really tell us anything we didn’t know already.

I just can’t help but think that it’s trying a little too hard, if you know what I mean. Probably not one to stick with, despite the quality of the cast and the ex-The Shield production team behind it.

Here’s a YouTube promo, but there are plenty more to be found if you want even greater exposure


Charlie Hunnam (Jackson “Jax” Teller)

Ron Perlman (Clarence “Clay” Morrow)

Katey Sagal (Gemma Teller-Morrow)

Mark Boone Jr. (Robert “Bobby” Munson)

Kim Coates (Alex “Tig” Trager)

Tommy Flanagan (Filip “Chibs” Telford)

Johnny Lewis (Kip “Half-Sack” Epps)

Maggie Siff (Tara Knowles)


  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.