Life in Hollywood, below-the-line

Life in Hollywood, below-the-line
Work gloves at the end of the 2006/2007 television season (photo by Richard Blair)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Father of "Anarchy"

Kurt Sutter

Always on the hunt for new and interesting Industry blogs, I recently stumbled across something special: a loud, clear, decidely no-bullshit voice from above-the-line -- a showrunner, believe it or not -– who isn’t afraid to tell it as he sees it.

And Lordy me to glory be, as grandma used to say, Kurt Sutter is in a position to see a lot.

Fans of FX’s The Shield have long known about Sutter, as does the growing fan base for his own follow-up show Sons of Anarchy, now completing its second broadcast season. Whatever your feelings about “The Shield” or “Sons,” there’s no denying Sutter knows how to put together dynamic character-driven dramas laced with lots of hard-hitting action on and off the mean streets, be they in gritty downtown LA or the bucolic (and highly fictional) town of Charming, somewhere in the green woods of Northern California. The signature mark of both shows -- and a true blessing to casual viewers and hardcore fans -- has been the consistently terrific acting. Sutter & Company really do know how to cast a show.

I’ve been watching “Sons” from the beginning. The show has improved a lot from Season One, with a very strong run down the stretch towards the Season Two finale. I may be occasionally disappointed by some too-convenient happenstance in service of the plot, but the show’s dramatic strengths and truly superb acting carry it safely over these potholes. I had a similar reaction to “Mad Men” at first – the oddly stilted, distanced mannerisms of Matt Weiner’s characters smacked to me of David Lynch Lite – and I have very little tolerance for the work of Mr. Lynch.* But after missing most of the first season and half of the second, I finally got hooked on “Mad Men,” and am similarly in for the long haul on “Sons of Anarchy.”

But this post isn’t about any of Kurt Sutter’s shows – it’s about his blog. With Season Three in the distance, and a movie still in the wings, Sutter has a little time on his hands right now. Enter the blog, where he holds forth on everything from the horde of human locusts who swarm towards the bright lights of every successful show (holding out their greedy little claws and claiming it was their idea in the first place), to what it really means to be a showrunner. Throughout, Sutter is blunt in expressing his unvarnished opinions and assessments of Hollywood and our industry. His blog is a highly entertaining read, and a real education for those of us who will never make it upstairs to the executive suites.

Really, this isn’t a blog so much as a first-person graduate course on the ins-and-outs of navigating the minefield that is above-the-line Hollywood. But most of all, it’s a great read and a real breath of fresh air -- and one you’ll have to read to believe.

* Then again, I have yet to see Blue Velvet, and thus can’t fairly judge the man’s work...

More Sutter stuff:

For a fascinating in-depth podcast interview of Sutter by Tim Goodman (SF Chronicle TV critic), click here. (Warning: the sound is a bit choppy, so bear with it.) If you don’t have a full half hour+ to spare, try this excellent twenty minute interview from KCRW's “The Business.” And finally, for a smart and sassy -- if not entirely favorable -- view of “Sons,” click here.

Agree with her on not, Heather Havrilesky is always worth reading.


rhys said...

I love the fact that you trumpet all the blogs I already avidly read and love. Mo Ryan, Sepinwall, Poniewozik, Goodman, and now Sutter. I just started reading Sutter's blog too, just about a month ago I think. Amazing stuff. Ken Levine is also good, not sure if you've mentioned him, but wouldn't be surprised if you were all over it. Also, considering our mutual tastes, I highly recommend the show "Infomania" if you've never caught it. It's a show on Current TV, Al Gore's network, that skewers the media on a weekly basis. You can watch all the episodes at or

Michael Taylor said...

rhys --

I had the pleasure of working on a sit-com featuring Ken Levine as guest director for three episodes way back in the last century. Very nice guy -- very funny, too. I stumbled across his blog a few months before launching my own. I've been reading Goodman since he took over from John Carmen at the SF Chron seven or eight years ago. Truth be told, this blog is pretty much all Tim Goodman's fault -- it never would have happened (for better or worse) without his prodding.

You're way ahead of me on Ryan, Sepinwall, and Poniewozik, though -- I'll check 'em out. Thanks for the tip on "infomania."

And as always, thanks for tuning in and sharing your thoughts.