Back in the day, they used to call them ‘water cooler’ shows: those TV programmes that had people talking about them in their tea break at work the next day, obsessed with the latest plot twist, the most hated characters, the will-they-won’t-theys and the haves-versus-the-have-nots.
We lived for those shows, gossiping over who shot J.R., or when David and Maddie would get together. We still do - we just do it in short bursts on social media, and we don’t have to wait the next day to find likeminded people to natter to.
Of course, in all that excitement it’s easy to lose track of your critical faculties… because many of these fun, exciting, shows don’t actually make a whole lot of sense.
Perhaps the high concept is nonsense, or the central plot arc has one major, inescapable hole in it that wrecks everything. Perhaps the show doesn’t actually work in the way that everyone thinks it does.
Maybe the protagonist (or the antagonist) acts in an utterly baffling, nonsensical way… or maybe it’s just that the whole show is so irredeemably stupid that you want to pick it up and shake it to see if a toy car falls out from where its brain should be.
Like an angry Santa, I'm here to present you with a gift of ten recent well known, popular TV shows that, when you think about it a little, don’t really work. No, no. Don’t say anything. You’re welcome.
Oh, and here be spoilers...
10. Sons Of Anarchy Is About A Tragic Fall From Grace
FX’s late, lamented biker melodrama Sons Of Anarchy was a wild ride: a grimly violent Grand Guignol with lashings of black humour.
Except perhaps for the slack, self-indulgent final season, Kurt Sutter’s tragic magnum opus kept its audience on the edge of their seats every episode. It detailed the gradual slide of the protagonist, Sons Of Anarchy motorcycle club (SAMCRO) lifer Jackson ‘Jax’ Teller from principled outlaw with a code of honour to murderous, scheming criminal… right?
Well, no. Not really. Sons Of Anarchy isn’t about a fall from grace, and Jackson is no kind of hero.
Raised in SAMCRO by his father and mother, and then by his step-father, Jax is a violent killer from the pilot episode - he’s spent time in prison for smuggling and gun-running and wears the ‘Men Of Mayhem’ patch on his cut confirming that he’s killed for the club.
Although the birth of his sons, the rekindling of his relationship with his childhood sweetheart Tara and the discovery of his father’s original, less nefarious plans for the club are supposed to change him as a person, they don’t: he just gets worse as the show goes on.
There’s a lot of tragedy in Jackson Teller’s life, but a significant proportion of it is a direct consequence of his own decisions and actions, and the rest is the by-product of a life spent as a murderous criminal. In other words, he’s responsible - directly or indirectly - for every bad thing that happens to him and the people he loves, and that pendulum increasingly swings more towards direct blame as the series progresses.
Committing more and more murders to supposedly end the violence, making more and more criminal deals to eventually end all illegal trade: the fact is that Jax is off the reservation very, very quickly. Tara’s death in the season six finale isn’t the catalyst for his descent downhill - it just takes off the brakes.
By the series finale, Jackson has so much blood on his hands that his death is the final piece of justice he gets to serve.