Friday, October 23, 2009


An article by Michael Starr in today's NY Post.  Because of the fans.  Thank you.

Sons of Anarchy," the hardcore series about a gun-running motorcycle club, is starting to leave tire tracks all over the competition.
Without a lot of fanfare, "Sons," now in its second season on cable channel FX, is outdrawing nearly all the competition Tuesdays at 10 p.m. -- even NBC's Jay Leno (in adults 18-49).
It's averaging 4 million viewers each week, making it one of the top-rated shows on cable -- and the surprise hit of the season.
"Sons," in fact, is one of the rarest phenomenons on TV -- a genuine word-of-mouth hit.
"It has a strong voice and a hot look, two elements that resonate on TV," says Todd Gold, who covers pop culture for TV site "It provides an intense look into a sexy subculture."
Sons is about members of the close-knit Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original -- nicknamed SAMCRO -- who more or less run the town of Charming, Calif. (even the cops fear them).
The show's central figure is young Jax (Charlie Hunnam), who questions the club's code and wants to ease SAMCRO into the mainstream.
The gang makes its money mostly by dealing illegal guns -- but they have a strong internal code that has made fans compare the show to "The Sopranos," another show about bad guys you can root for.
"There's a sense of danger, and the illicit, that has an allure," says Gold. "It's the kind of show you watch and then want to talk about the next day at work.
"And people have always been curious about motorcycle gangs."
"Sons" creator Kurt Sutter has watched while his show -- which debuted last year to solid reviews but not much buzz -- has picked up a growing number of loyal and vocal viewers since it returned for a second season in early September.
"What I love is how committed the fans are," says Sutter, who's married to the show's co-star, Katey Sagal. "I get notes on Twitter and on my blog . . . [the fans] are plugged in and really invested in it and I think that can't help but get people to tune in.
"And this was the perfect storm for us," he says. "FX really spent the dough and did a really fabulous job promoting it . . . When people tuned in, there was enough going on that they decided to come back."
Sutter acknowledges the "Sopranos" comparisons -- while at the same time distancing his show from that series.
"Our show is much more of an ensemble piece . . . just by the nature of outlaw clubs . . . 'The Sopranos' was really Tony and everyone else in his orbit," Sutter says.
"I think what really appeals to a lot of viewers is ['Sons' '] sense of camaraderie about a band of guys -- and their dedication, commitment and love for each other."

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Several articles like the one below hit the trades today.  Read it.   My opinions follow.
SAMCRO Defeats Leno: FX Beats NBC, ABC in Ratings
Posted by James Poniewozik Thursday, October 22, 2009 at 12:40 pm
Thump-thump. Thump-thump.
That was the sound of broadcast network television getting run over, twice, by FX's biker drama, Sons of Anarchy, Tuesday night. For the first time, SoA defeated both NBC's Jay Leno Show and ABC's The Forgotten in the 18 to 49 ratings, which, as network programmers will tell you incessantly, is the only rating that matters when it comes to advertising money.
Since all 10 p.m. programming this year must be viewed within the prism of the Great Leno Experiment, what does this mean for Jay?
A mixed bag:
On the one hand, it certainly would not look good for NBC to get beaten by basic cable on a regular basis. In the traditional ratings sense, Jay is getting his chin handed to him.
On the other hand, Jay has company: The Forgotten, an original scripted drama of the kind Jay is replacing, lost out to SoA too. Which raises the valid but unprovable argument that a new NBC drama in the time slot would be getting beat too, but paying much more to do it. (As bad as Jay is doing, some nights he comes close to or beats ABC originals like Eastwick, whereas even NBC only hoped he could take second against reruns.)
Bottom line: I've argued before that the premise behind the Leno show is that network TV is becoming increasingly indistinguishable from large-basic-cable-channel TV. From the vantage point of Leno and The Forgotten—splayed out on the highway with tire tracks across their back, it's sure looking like that.
Let me first say that my opinions are heated and a generalization.  I don't have the time or desire to do the long, detailed, thoughtful version of this essay.  I'm disillusioned and a little lazy.  Having qualified --
It's not an issue of scripted show vs. non-scripted shows.  It's a question of process.  The reason most network scripted dramas suck is because of the process.  For the most part, you have a collection of young, half-bright development executives who wouldn’t know a good story idea if it set itself on fire and fucked their mothers while singing “Cheyenne Anthem” from Leftoverture.  So they do what most chimpanzees do -- they ape and throw shit.  Developing shows based on what they think people want to see.  Churning out clones of semi-successful shows.  Looking for a “hook” to market.  It’s never about the story or characters.  That would demand talent, patience and an open mind.  Commodities that have long up and deserted ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX and the CW. 

(There are some exceptions.  Chuck and Glee are all I can think of right now.  In fact, that might be it... oh, and Lost, I love Lost)

Gone are the days of the TV visionary.  Bochco, Kelley, Fontana, Sorkin, Milch, Wells, Wolf.  These guys had fucking balls.  They stood up to network fears and contradicting marketing strategies and pushed their vision forward.  The result was great TV.  It was great because the networks were smarter, they let the creatives DO THEIR FUCKING JOB.  All those savvy executives have been replaced with accounting personnel.  And when a network is inspired enough to hire a creative leader -- Reilly, Ligori -- they never give them a chance to flourish.  It's a fucked up system that has created hours upon hours of dreck.
I have a director friend, let’s call him… CJ, who says the job of a network executive is to turn everything to shit.  They hire you to stop them from doing that.  Unfortunately, the shit-turners are winning.  Nowadays it’s all about formula.  You get rights, attach a hot writer, develop it into the fucking ground until it’s so middle-of-the-road it has no point-of-view, then attach a waning movie star, throw tens of millions in promotion at it and hope that no one notices that it’s the same old crap repackaged.  But folks always do. 
In recovery, the “definition of insanity” is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  Primetime is an active asylum.
I’m an extremely lucky guy.  I have a network behind me that understands the creator-network relationship.  Yes, FX has its bottom-line.  They are not in the business to make great TV, they are in the business to make money.  They do that by making great TV.  The truth is that Fox didn’t want John Landgraf to make Sons.  They couldn’t imagine anyone tuning in to watch a biker family drama.  It defied all research.  When John said he still wanted to do it, I think Chernin started to prepare his transfer papers.  But FX believed in the show and by proxy they were forced to believe in me.  I was all they had.  Yes, they were completely up my ass during the pilot, pilot reshoot and the first four or five episodes, but then they backed off.  They had to.  They knew that the success or failure of Sons of Anarchy ultimately landed on my shoulders.  When the show hit its stride midway through the first season we settled into our creative process that we still have today.  I get notes, ideas and feedback.  I take the ones that make the show better and discard the ones that don’t.  At the end of the day, the creative decisions are mine.  Sometimes I bend to a note and regret it, sometimes I disregard a note and regret it, but ultimately it comes down to trust. 
FX trusts the storyteller.  Networks trust charts and graphs.   


When I first signed up for Twitter four or five months ago, I tweeted to my friend Rich that I'd probably abuse it for a week, get freaked out and quit.  I did.  Twitter was a ridiculous concept to me.  Self-involved monitoring of daily inanities.  Who the fuck cares where Ashton buys his fucking latte?  

Clearly Twitter survived without my contribution.  A month or so ago, I got a Google alert about SOA and it was a Twitter post by Alan Sepinwall.  Alan is the TV critic for my hometown paper, NJ Star Ledger.  Alan did not seem like the type of guy who would be informing his readers where he was picking up his fucking dry cleaning, so I re-examined twitter.

That's when I got it.  I suddenly saw the power of the tweet.  Yes, it is still filled with millions of folks commenting on the texture of their morning shits, but it is also a brilliant PR tool --

Instant messaging to the masses.  
Instant links to stories.  
Instant images.  
Instant feedback.  
Instant information.  
Instant karma.

I love instant.  I consider myself a spiritual person capable of patience and acceptance, but at the end of the day -- MORE, BETTER, FASTER is still what gets my dick hard.

I have been considerably erect on Twitter ever since.  It is proving to be a great device, not for Kurt Sutter, but for SutterInk.  I feel like I have direct access to fans, critics, biz personelle and everything in-between.  The big lesson I have learned is the reach of Twitter (calling Zucker a buffoon, while accurate on some level, not a very smart career move for Kurt).  I now understand that every character I type from my keyboard or iPhone is essentially a press release.  The opinions of a writer and director for public consumption.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Katey, Charlie and I did press in Paris last March. As I blogged at the time, we had a great day. M6, the French network who bought the show, were very enthusiastic and embraced the show. Season one premiered there this month and it was their most successful premier in four years. Below are some of the publicity shots and press from season one. Katey and I are hoping they want to do some follow up press this fall (read: we'd like a free trip).  Merci beaucoup.

Here's the M6, SOA website.