TV Dinner: Is Sons of Anarchy A Reality TV Show?

In it’s fifth season Sons Of Anarchy has become more and more uneven. Characters have double crossed each other so many times without real repercussion that at this point the show can do anything to it’s characters and you just have to shrug, accept it and move on to the next insane twist. We have no hit the point where the show has no decided to get rid of characters, I find it better to look at Sons of Anarchy as a reality show from here on out.

When Sons of Anarchy first came out it was supposed to be Hamlet on motorcycles. A simple plot of family deceit, revenge and death(on motorcycles). What we have gotten is an ever winding story and an ever growing rogues gallery of bad guys who only manage to stall the really interesting inter family/club plot. Things are coming to a head with Clay and Jax, steal a baby. Clay has essentially stabbed everyone in the club in the back and the CIA comes out of the woodwork and makes Clay necessary again.

And this is where reality TV comes in. There is always a moment on a reality TV show where you need to get rid of the maniacally evil contestant but instead you keep him around because he serves a short term purpose. That decision always turns out badly and we have seen this logic play out in the fifth season of Sons of Anarchy. Clay should have been killed in season four but creator Kurt Sutter kept him around, ensuring that this dysfunctional club stays dysfunctional.

You are probably getting to the place where you question my sanity in comparing a piece of television fiction to reality tv. I would retort by saying that there is nothing more plotted and constructed than reality tv. We watch reality tv under the illusion that anything can happen that there is an air of uncertainty. It’s the same reason why we like sports*. Sons of Anarchy may be the first ever scripted fictional program that follows the rules of reality tv.

Think of SAMCRO as a tribe which has called an alliance. These are a bunch of psychopaths who have created an artificial societal bond**. Over the first three and a half seasons the show runners have allowed the alliance to exist because they have pitted the alliance against external foes. Finally we have hit the point where this tribe has begun to break apart. The deaths of Piney and Opie are the beginning of the slow degeneration and now the defection of Clay will begin the home stretch for the series.

Most of the great shows of the last decade have done well with knowing when to kill of major characters. How many jams can Vic Mackey and his strike team get into without someone dying. How many biopsies can characters from The Sopranos have done before Jonny or Ritchie bite the big one? How many times can Jax and the boys lay down their bikes, get into shootouts with automatic weapons and piss off every level of law enforcement in the united states before someone of note dies? Clearly four seasons before they start killing off characters.

So what can we expect from SOA from here on out? The club will be split and a character will be eliminated every few episodes until the finale. Hopefully creator Kurt Sutter decides to keep things as off the wall and insane as the Walton Goggins’ portrayal of Venus Van Damme.

*So this weekend The NFL voided Sean Payton’s recently signed contract extension. What are the chances that the former assistant coach jumps ship from New Orleans to Dallas after his suspension? I would bet Jerry Jones is whispering sweet nothings in Payton’s ear as I type this. Have we heard the owner of the Saints tell Roger Goodell to shove the franchise crippling sanctions, suspensions, and hypocritical crusade, up his ass? Why should Payton stick around an owner who didn’t back him? Note to self, write a bountygate article.

**Just like reality TV personalities.