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Viewing Notes - Sept. 11

By Rich Heldenfels Published: September 11, 2012

Tonight includes the second installment of "The Voice," the time-period premieres of "Go On" and "The New Normal" and the season premiere of "Parenthood," all on NBC. I am far more interested in the new season of "Sons of Anarchy," which begins on FX at 10 tonight.

The drama about a motorcycle gang, its battles not only with the law but with other criminal organizations, and a pulp-meets-Shakespeare family conflict is a show that I tend to lose track of, only to rediscover and think, "Wow,. they are doing some good stuff here." Katey Sagal has been nonstop brilliant on it, and Charlie Hunnam has gotten better year after year; there are great faces (and characters) in the likes of Kim Coates, Ryan Hurst and Tommy Flanagan. And this year includes a couple of guest stars, Jimmy Smits and Harold Perrineau, who make things even more intriguing -- and dangerous.

Perrineau plays Damon Pope, a businessman with a criminal past and a strong reason for coming after SAMCRO. Smits's Nero Padilla is, among other things, a pimp -- he prefers the term "companionator" -- who connects with Gemma (Sagal) after the breakdown of her relationship with Clay (Ron Perlman) at the end of last season. That break came as Jax (Hunnam) learned Clay had played a role in his father's death, and ousted Clay from the presidency of SAMCRO. Now he has to figure out how to run the gang, how to keep the money flowing and the trouble away, and how to hold onto his own tattered soul.

Under peaceful circumstances, that would be a tough trifecta, but on "Sons," there is seldom peace. And the first two episodes of the new season include terrible, violent business, old alliances strained -- and the expecfed doses of humor. (The first scenes of Nero and Gemma talking are terrific.) Indeed, by the end of the second episode, the atmosphere of the show is making it hard to breathe; it feels as if all the likable characters (admittedly a very relative term on "Sons") are under too much pressure to endure.

But I expect  to be back, to see how they handle that -- and all the other things the show will throw at them.


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