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(photo credit: Courtesy)
Odd but true, the story of a California motorcycle gang that runs the small town of Charming works on so many levels. Sons of Anarchy, created by Kurt Sutter (one of the creators of another outstanding FX series The Shield), has so much going for it, it's not for biker fans alone.
A cross of The Sopranos and Dynasty on devil wheels, the show weaves the tale of men and women - some evil, some not - bound by a pact of friendship and deeds, all in the name of the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original, or SAMCRO for short. Created by US paratroopers in 1967 following their return home from Vietnam, its members all have legitimate jobs. But when club duty calls, they come running.
Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman, a.k.a. Hellboy and also seen in Beauty and the Beast) runs the club. Riding along with him are a series of characters, chief among them is the young Jackson "Jax" Teller, son of John Teller, a club founder. Jax (Charlie Hunnam of Queer as Folk and Undeclared) is the heartthrob. Every day he discovers more about his dad and SAMCRO, even as he watches his first child, Abel, battle for his life after his drug addict girlfriend Wendy (Drea de Matteo of The Sopranos and Joey) gives birth prematurely.
Run like a business, the club's even got a Jew, Bobby "Elvis" Munson (Mark Boone Junior of Memento and Batman Begins). Bobby wears a chai, moonlights as an Elvis impersonator and, you guessed it, keeps the books.
Jax has close ties to his mother, Gemma (the great Katey Segal from Married With Children and Futurama), the toughest woman in town. Now married to Clay, she worries that her son isn't tough enough to run the club when his time comes.
Clay's motto is, "Nothing happens in Charming that we don't control or get a piece of." So, when rival gangs get ideas to cut into the club's operations, things get hairy. When some guns the club meant to sell are swiped, the troops are rallied. That includes Opie, who's just returned after serving five years in prison, whose wife is having none of it. "You leave a woman for five years with two kids, the only thing she knows is that she doesn't want it to happen again," he muses.
Jax struggles with balancing between being a new dad, the legacy his real dad left behind and the role his mother would have him assume. Turns out, the more he reads of his dad's writings, the more he learns of the "Harley hippie-commune" his father describes as his original vision for the club.
"Your father would be proud of the man you've become," says Piney, who helped create the club with Jax's dad. But he isn't completely sold and Gemma's worried. "I don't want the ghost of John Teller ruining him, ruining everything we've built," she tells Clay as they bed down for the night.
The acting is superb throughout, with Perlman tough as nails and the rest of the cast right on the money. A person could do a lot worse than to ride with the Sons of Anarchy Saturday nights, a series that stands out among the many duds that clog our screens.
Sons of Anarchy airs on HOT's Channel 3 on Friday at 10:50 p.m. and Saturday at 10 p.m.