Cable programming seems to have a trend other than sex going on. Yes, cable dramas are more violent and vulgar than anything that's found on the standard network lineup. However, cable also seem to love the dynamics that center on families.
The newest offering from the desperately controversial FX is Sons of Anarchy
, a show about a biker gang in Charming, California. The series follows Jackson "Jax" Teller (Charlie Hunnam
), the future leader of the biker gang and stepson to the current leader Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman
Jax is still close to his mother Gemma (Katey Sagal
) and trying to deal with both his ex wife Wendy and his high school sweetheart Tara. Jax starts to question the way the gang works after he finds his father's manuscript appropriately titled, "How the Sons of Anarchy Lost Their Way." Struggling with the realization that this isn't the life his father wanted for him, Jax starts to see violence in a way that's worrying to his mother. His son's premature birth only helps to confuse his belief system. Although the entire biker gang could be seen as his family, it's the relationship between his mother, stepfather and Jax that will move the story forward week to week.
L-R: Charlie Hunnam as "Jax" and Ron Perlman as Clay Morrow. CR: Ray Mickshaw / FX
The similarities between "Sons of Anarchy" and shows like The Sopranos
, Six Feet Under
and Big Love
aren't just limited to a questioning of values. The power struggles and grudges in these various households are not something that can be seen anywhere. These families are believable because they can take something as simple as a mother not approving of her grandchild's mother, like on "Sons of Anarchy," and take it to the extreme. Gemma brings her ex-daughter-in-law drugs, leading her to overdose. Bill, father on the series Big Love
, suffers from sexual impotency in the first season. The difference between him and another man of his age is that he's trying to satisfy three women equally.
These families are as alike as they are different. Families often come together in a crisis, but many of these crises are brought on by the actions of other family members. Who can forget Tony Soprano's mother scheming to have him killed? Shaky relationships between parents and children are nothing unusual, but these series are excellent at showing how far families will go to hurt each other. Six Feet Under's
Nate and David never tried to have each other killed, but the bitterness over their shared funeral home only fully died when one of them did.
Strong mothers are also deeply explored on cable dramas. The matriarch of "Sons" is all about ensuring her future in the way that she believes is right. Nip/Tuck's
Julia did not start out as a strong character, but finally leaving her husband and former lover to live on the other side of the country freed her. Even the main three women of "Big Love," who are all sharing one husband, have each managed to learn to control him in their own ways by providing what the other women can't.
Shows like Brothers and Sisters
and Dirty Sexy Money
are trying, but there is nothing original being done on basic TV. By allowing themselves to push the envelopes, maybe they can hope to establish characters and families as strong as those on cable.
Story by Lauren Attaway
Starpulse contributing writer