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For seven seasons, FX's Sons of Anarchy told the tragic and violence-heavy story of Jax Teller and his brotherhood of take-no-shit bikers. But viewers might have gotten something completely different had creator Kurt Sutter went along with what FX was initially looking for, rather than sticking to his guns with his ideas. The channel wanted Sons of Anarchy to deliver more traditional episodes that provided proper plot-capping endings, and it was apparently a glut of Sutter's emails that convinced all involved that serialization was key. Here's how Sutter explained his outspoken methods.
I sent everyone angry emails, that pretty much set the tone for my entire career. It was trial and error, some ideas worked and some didn't. I tried to surround myself with people who knew more than I did. I don't think we found the rhythm of the show 'til halfway through the first season.
Ini the scheme of things, there are far worse tones to set for one's career than being "the guy who sends the angry emails." Granted, Kurt Sutter's gung-ho rants are likely among the most boisterously scathing and pointed emails that TV execs can get, so I'd imagine that they incite a hefty breath from recipients. But of anything that can be said about them, the biggest claim is probably, "They totally worked." Because after all, we got to watch Sons of Anarchy for seven years, not Law & Order: Charming. (Having said that, I would love to see Wayne Unser working with Fin and Stabler on SVU.)
FX was fully aware of what Kurt Sutter's talents were, as his voice was heard loud and clear on the channel's breakout hit The Shield. But Shield's critical acclaim didn't always equal massive viewerships, and it's easy to forget that many felt like The Sopranos and its prestige proteges were more of an anomaly than the start of the Peak TV era, so it's understandable that FX wasn't exactly enthused with throwing a bunch of money at a hyper-violent drama that required viewer dedication to become a success.
But once Kurt Sutter was able to provide the evidence that Sons of Anarchy worked as a sprawling narrative without weekly denouements, then the series was able to fall into its viewer-wooing patterns. Here's when Sutter told Variety he felt S.O.A. really came into its own.
Serialized dramas were struggling and there was a mandate to do standalone episodes. All I knew how to do was a serialized drama. It was difficult. Then the serialization got so deep by episode five or six, they took the handcuffs off and I got to do what I wanted to do. . . . In Episode 7, there was no turning back for Jax and Tara. That's the fairest estimation of when the show locked in.
Admittedly, I was locked in right from the get-go, with Ron Perlman and Katey Sagal instantly winning me over and making up for any shortcomings elsewhere. But again, it's not difficult to grasp how _Sons _wouldn't be the most surefire concept for success a decade ago. Thank goodness for the power of angry emails, right? Now if only I'd penned one to Sutter about bringing Opie back to life...
Sons of Anarchy may not be around anymore in its original form -- it's on Netflix, to be sure -- but FX is currently putting together the pilot episode of the biker spinoff Sons of Anarchy: Mayans MC, so we'll hopefully get back on the open road in the near future. In the meantime, though, head to our summer premiere schedule to see everything else headed to TV in the coming months.