Last month, I signed the Scroogy family up for Netflix. Best/worst decision ever. Best because there has been a lot to keep the twins and I entertained as my back recovers. Worst because, OMG, Peeps! Ya know how they say pot is a gateway drug to LSD or cocaine? I really think TV is the gateway drug to Netflix. First you dabble in TV, soon becoming dependent on some Must See TV shows. Then you move up to a DVR and you can watch whatever, whenever. Then you hit the hard stuff- Netflix. I now can sample any drug, any time, anywhere.
I’d always heard about these shows that were either critically acclaimed or cult hits or both and I always lamented that I didn’t get in on the ground floor. Now I can catch up with them! Holy couch potato pancakes, Batman!
First, I chose to immerse myself in the universes of the new Doctor Who. I watched all 6 previous seasons in about 2.5 weeks. It’s funny, scary, exciting, charming, irritating, inspiring. It’s just good TV. I’m hooked. I’m a Whovian. I am proud.
Now I’m 2 seasons into Sons of Anarchy. Wow. SoA is doing for California motorcycle clubs what The Wire did for Baltimore drug gangs. It’s a world within the world that most of us will never know, but one that looks so familiar in its angst. I see why people love this one so much too. SAMCRO fo’ life!
In honor of my first two Netflix addictions, I want to do a compare/contrast essay on these two gems in the gilded crown of this Golden Age of Television. Good television is good entertainment, regardless of fan base and genre. I’ll prove it to ya!
Lead characters. Jackson “Jax” Teller is the lead character of SoA. His main motivator is to preserve the integrity of the Club, the only real family he’s known. He’ll protect it with his life, all the while searching his soul for ways to change it for the better. Led by the wisdom he finds in his late father’s manuscript, Jax struggles with politics, enemies, and his inner demons in his quest to make SAMCRO whole and right again. In these first two seasons, we see him become a father (I just watched the kidnapping of baby Abel and I was reduced to tears. Seeing Jax collapse on that dock? Lawdy!), rediscover true love (I think the pairing of a biker gang member and a medical doctor is genius), challenge his father figure (The tension between Jax and Clay is palpable. Great acting!), protect the sanity of a brother (I cannot imagine how he kept the truth about Donna’s death from Opie for so long. Every time I looked at Ope, I just wanted to scream it!), and seek vengeance for his mother (Has Katey Sagal won an Emmy for this role? If not, how come? She’s a-mah-zing). We see everything in Jax that makes a man, all wrapped up in a crusty, greasy, leather-clad package. We see us in a new way.
The Doctor, duh, is the lead of his series. His main impetus is to travel the universe, the only place he can call home, saving the day along the way when needed. He’ll protect humanity with his life, all the while using all the tools at his command to change it for the better. Led by centuries of experience across the galaxies, harboring the guilt of so many lost worlds, including the destruction of his own, The Doctor struggles to maintain peace, keep his companions safe, and redeem himself for his past deeds. In the past 6+ seasons, through 3 different regenerations, we see The Doctor become a father (Albeit for a little while- whatever happened to Jenny? Bring Back Jenny!), deny a forbidden love (Rose finally got her Doctor, but he never got his Rose), get married (The pairing of River Song and The Doctor makes as little sense as Jax & Tara, but it’s even more brilliant and über entertaining!), survive incredible loss (His leaving Donna and taking away her memories probably stung me the most. I mean, I’ll miss The Pond-Williamses, but they got to live out their lives together and remember everything.) The Doctor isn’t even an Earthling, but the glimpses we get into his two hearts really shows us what it means to be Human.
So, at their core, what makes these characters tick isn’t so different. Well… I could go into their capacities for violence and weapons of choice, but instead….
Wardrobe. These guys couldn’t be more different. Jax is never without his cut. Yeah, I never knew what that meant either. It’s his leather vest with his club patches. It identifies him as the (as of Season 2) Vice President of the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Original. Even in the nude (hubba-hubba), he sports the reaper tattoo on his back. He is Jax Teller, biker dude through and through. I can’t imagine him in anything else except for a prison jumpsuit. (Well, right now I’m picturing him nude. Give me a minute.)
The Doctor’s style changes with each regeneration. Nine wore something Jax would almost approve of with his leather jacket and v-neck tee shirt. He was definitely less, um, fussy, than subsequent regenerations, and his wardrobe reflected it. Ten changed it up to a classic suit and tie and long overcoat. It made all the running more dramatic with that coat flapping behind. Ten was a genius, a touch sociopathic, took himself too seriously, and was incredibly snarky. The suit fit. Our most recent, and my favorite Doctor, Eleven, brought back tweed and bow ties. (And briefly wore a Fez. Fez’s are cool.). Eleven is still smart, still can be dark and dangerous, but he’s goofy and awkward and just more endearing and cute. I think it’s the bow tie.
My point is that in both of these series, the clothes make the man. I could show you a black leather vest and a skull cap, and you’d immediately say, “Jax”. Same goes for you Whovians- an overcoat and a pair of Converse? You’d immediately picture Ten. Right? See, Peeps, sooo much thought goes into TV. I can’t imagine how it could ever not receive the respect it deserves as an art form. But, moving on…
Accessories. I’ll keep it short and sweet here. Jax isn’t Jax without his Harley Super Glide Sport. And The Doctor without his TARDIS is just, just, well… a disaster in the making.
Companions. Jax calls his The Club and his Old Lady. And of course, Gemma, his dear ol’ Mom. His best friend is Opie, who has absolutely the worst luck in the universe. I seriously want to give that guy a hug. Tara is a doctor and Jax’s girlfriend. She tried to leave Charming, but just couldn’t stay away from Jax or the Sons forever. She’s really quite kick-ass, in a reluctant kind of way. But she always has this put-upon look on her face. Kind of annoying. His step-father Clay is sometimes his worst enemy and sometimes his hero. That relationship is so much more complex than the Shakespearean one to which it’s often compared. Hamlet and Claudius got nothin on Jax and Clay. And while on the subject of Shakespeare (whom The Doctor has met, btw), we can’t not talk about Gemma. She’s so much more integral, more calculating, more dramatic and tragic than Hamlet’s mother Gertrude. I see shades of Lady Macbeth (“But screw your courage to the sticking place and we’ll not fail.” or “Yet do I fear thy nature, It is too full o’ th’ milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way.” seem right out of Gemma’s playbook.) I can even see her channel Lady Capulet in her need for revenge and payback- “Romeo slew Tybalt! Romeo must not live!”. Really, Gemma is one of my favorite characters on TV. So juicy.
The Doctor’s companions have been Rose, Martha, Donna, Wilf (briefly), Amy, Rory, and (also briefly) Rory’s dad, Brian. Then there’s River. I really love River. Rose was probably my least favorite of his Companions. She just seemed kind of there. Meh. I really only felt anything for her at the end when she ended up with her own Doctor, and I saw the look of loss and envy in Ten’s eyes… Martha was awesome. A doctor herself, she was capable and fierce and the only thing that drove me bloody bonkers about Martha was how googly-eyed she was over The Doctor. I absolutely LOVED that she ended up with Mickey. Finally! Those two crazy kids have their happy ending. Fighting alien invaders side by side. Donna Noble was also one of my favorite characters on TV. I should just write her a separate blog post. She was snarky, clever, strong, independent, silly, determined, a dreamer and a doer. Love. Of course, because of the crack in Amy Pond’s bedroom wall, I’m pretty sure none of those people still exist. Ah, Amelia Pond. A name out of a fairy tale. The girl who waited. She really sounds a lot more exciting than she is. (Sorry Amy lovers…). I mean, she had moments of tremendous bad-assery (She fought Pirates. C’mon. That’s cool. And the episode with her and Vincent Van Gogh was incredibly moving and lovely.) Amy certainly wasn’t as “just there” as Rose. But she was made so much better by her Rory and her Melody. Rory Williams really was the most romantic character on TV ever. I’m not exaggerating. He waited 2000 years for his love. Awake. For 2000 years. Just… swoon! That scene in the most recent episode where he jumps off the building in Amy’s arms was just so adorable. Rory rules. That brings us to Melody Pond or as she’s currently known River Song. River is Rory & Amy’s daughter (See, Jax, they had a kid stolen too and theirs was taken far away through time and space. Nanny nanny boo boo). She was trained and groomed as a psychopath hell-bent on killing The Doctor. Instead she fell in love. Since they are both time travelers, their meetings are out of sync and order. The more he knows her, the less she knows him. Even though we’ve already seen his first/her “last” meeting and her first meeting, that wasn’t his last for some wibbly wobbly timey wimey reason, I hope that there really is never a real last meeting and River’s and The Doctor’s story can continue on and on.
And finally, for now, Enemies. Jax’s enemies (besides himself and his demons), up to Season 3 are the Mayans, Deputy Chief Hale, Zobelle and the Aryan Brotherhood, and, as I mentioned before, Clay. For my fellow Whovians, let me compare them. Mayans = Cybermen (Well armed-muscle used many times as weapons by greater enemies). Deputy Chief Hale = Slitheens (Power hungry interlopers wanting Charming/Earth as their own domain). Zobelle & the AB = Daleks (Exterminate! Exterminate! Violent felons with hatred of all different life forms).
So, in conclusion, good TV is good TV. Many shows of different genres with vastly different fan bases still cover the same basic themes and have the same character types. I can’t believe neither of these shows have won awards. Emmy voters need to read my blog.
Holy cow, Peeps. This post is almost 1900 words! I think I should write about SoA and The Doctor for NaNoWriMo. Maybe a fanfic crossover episode!! The Doctor and River visit Charming!!!