Monday, August 25, 2014

Orange is the new comedy?

My wife, Sally, and I are finishing up watching Orange Is the New Black on NetFlix. We think it is a great series, but the last thing we would describe it as is a comedy.

But comedy is the niche into which it fits for the benefit of the Emmy Awards.

It’s not that humor isn’t a part of the show, because there are absurdities about life in a women’s prison that make us laugh. But to call it a comedy is a misclassification. Or is it? I look at the publicity picture I took off the Internet for illustration purposes and it certainly looks like it could be a comedy. Those wacky prison gals! A barrel of laughs! That is when they’re not engaged in sex acts or violence, both of which make up other parts of the storyline.

Maybe I’m wrong, but in my mind a comedy is a half hour show where people shout lines at each other, all of them zingers (or they are supposed to be, anyway; some are better than others.) In a comedy there are quips every few seconds, and there are often laugh tracks which describe an audience reaction to hilarity I’m not seeing on my TV screen. In other words, the less funny, the louder the laugh track.

In recent episodes of Orange we have seen inmates trying to seduce other inmates into having sex as part of a game, we have inmates in a plot to smuggle contraband, we have had the main character, Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) transferred to a federal prison in a vain attempt to get her to testify against a drug lord. Before that Piper and another girl got into a bloody brawl that got Piper sent to the SHU (maximum security).  You know, real funny stuff!

Now that I know it is supposed to be a comedy I may actually cut loose with a laugh. If I see anything funny, that is.

On the other hand I didn’t notice any Emmy nominations for another series I watch, Sons of Anarchy, which is played so deadpan and serious that it makes me laugh. What is played as unfunny becomes just as phony as those comedies I describe.

It is in its final season, and god help me, I have watched all of them. I keep watching, hoping to see all of these serious, frowny-faced and murderous bikers meet their ends in the kinds of violent ways they dole out to others. It probably won’t happen, but I can dream.

This is a cast picture. Ron Perlman, whom you may recognize as the gray-haired actor* who played Clay, the leader of the pack, was shot and killed by his stepson, Jax, who is next to him on Clay’s left. Jax is now the president of SAMCRO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Originals). He had the job anyway, even before assassinating Clay, because Clay was in prison. The gang is responsible for all kinds of mayhem. They ran guns too, until they got out of that business.

The fact that they do it under the noses of law enforcement and no one can seem to catch them in the act means the police in this series are Keystone Kops.

In the 1970s I worked with bikers on two separate jobs. They were not that smart. They were interested in getting loaded and riding motorcycles, and not necessarily in that order. They wore a uniform which shouted out to every cop they drove by on the streets that they were outlaws waiting to be shaken down for weapons or drugs. And they often were, as I sometimes reminded my biker colleagues. “Take off the colors (jacket) with your club name on it, and cut your hair so you look like a human being.” No chance of that...they were too proud of their outlaw associations and they paid the price.

Something that makes Sons of Anarchy seem fake to me is Jax himself. Played by actor Charlie Hunnam, his face is in a perpetual frown. Nothing good happens to him: his mom (she was once married to Clay)  is overbearing, his wife is conspiring to take his kids and make for parts unknown,he has enemies all over the place. Oh, and I watched him committing some murders last season, any one of which would get him life w/o parole or even the death penalty. No wonder he is glum. But the other thing can be seen in the picture. He wears white athletic shoes. In all my time spent around bikers I never saw one of them wearing anything but boots; motorcycle boots, heavy, with steel-toes for inflicting maximum damage during a fight. The bikers I knew would have looked at Jax and hoorawed him out of the club.

For me Sons of Anarchy is more like Sons of Absurdity.

*Also Vincent in Beauty and the Beast and Hellboy in two movies.

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