Move over Joss, there's a new sheriff in town

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As we've discussed, I have a bit of a thing about TV. And this thing peaks and wanes and I get obsessed with this show or that show, but basically, I love the medium. There are a lot of things I like about it, but the most pressing is serial writing. I love watching characters, plots, sub-plots, thematic arcs, relationships, and everything else develop over the course of a season (or, ideally, several seasons). I like living with the characters, having them in my head day-to-day.

Usually, after I get involved in a show, I start getting obsessed with the creator(s) of said show. More so than the actors, who, no matter how good they are, are just using the material they've been given, I fall in love with the brains behind the characters. The minds from which they came, and through which they exist.

My first and, to this date, most extreme TV producer love was for Joss Whedon. This is hardly surprising--Joss Whedon is a genius. He creates worlds. He populates them with people (and other various creatures) we recognize, no matter how fantastical they get. He makes them talk in ways we wish we could. He's amazing. He's also, from what I can tell, done with television. And it's hard to maintain an affair with someone who is gone. I can only re-watch Buffy so many times.

There have been other, more minor, flings. David Simon (The Wire, Treme) is extremely talented. Nancy Miller (Saving Grace, The Closer) is great. I wasn't a big fan of NYPD Blue, but David Milch blew me away with Deadwood. I have only good things to say about Shawn Ryan (The Shield, Lie to Me). There are a pretty good handful of people making good TV. But I've never had another Joss.

Until now. It has happened again, my people. I am in love with a man's ideas.

And that man is Kurt Sutter.

Sutter, for those not in the know, is the creative force behind Sons of Anarchy, a show I have proclaimed my love for on this blog before. What I didn't know, until this recent bout of obsession, is that SOA is his first show of his own. He worked on The Shield, but previous to that has no other TV (or film) writing credits. It's dude's first go-round, and it's epic. If you haven't watched it, you should. There are two seasons on DVD, another coming out in August, and a fourth season starting on FX in September. Do it.

A few people have laughed at me and said I only like SOA because of the man candy. I am not gonna lie--it's got a smoking hot cast (Charlie Hunnam, Tommy Flanagan, Kim Coates, Ryan Hurst, David Labrava--and Sutter himself, who plays a small role on the show, isn't bad to look at either). However, that's not really the point. It's just a great show. It has Shakespearean overtones (undertones?), but doesn't follow Shakespearean plot-lines in that narcoleptic remake way. It has operatically (or at least soap operatically) large plots, but they take place in this microscopically detailed little world. The dialog is fantastic. It's funny. And there guns, bikes, and explosions. Hell yes.

In the past few years, as I have watched more and more TV and paid more and more attention to the TV I watch, I've felt myself moving towards something. When I was immersed in Whedon's work, I really thought I wanted to become some sort of cultural academic, doing textual analysis of these great shows, relating them back to the times and places in which they existed. With this show, though, I finally realized that being a critic, in any sense, is not at all what I'm drawn to. Sons of Anarchy isn't just the kind of show I want to watch. It's the kind of show I want to write. I've been struggling for years to figure out how I fit into the world of writing, where my ideal place is. I've tried a couple of novels, a lot of short stories, magazine articles, personal essays, political essays...but now I get it. I want to write for TV.

I realize that reads a little bit like, "I want to fly to the moon." It's not like you can just start writing for TV one day. But knowing that's the place I think I'd fit is a tremendous relief for me. There is nothing that says I can't write TV shows. Nobody can stop me. I can't promise they'd ever get made, of course, but I can definitely write them.

In the meantime, though, I'm really enjoying the peek into the making of SOA, and particularly into his process, that Kurt Sutter is making available on his YouTube channel in this weekly feature he's calling "WTF Sutter?" People email in questions about the show and he answers them--it's really interesting. There is also a little interview with a couple of the staff writers (here) which I found particularly fascinating. I could be those guys, right?

(All of this was, by the way, my long-winded and only partially on-topic response to Genie's Living Out Loud 29: On Writing).

3 Comments

You can do it, Grace!

SOA also has a fuck-ton of complicated versions of gender roles. The show kinda bores me, but I watched it and was like, "this show is all about Men and Women".

It's probably about some other stuff, too.

Thanks for this post. I never really thought about the people writing the shows and giving them the credit. The credit usually goes to the actors but you're right. They are only using the material that the writers created. Great post!

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