Last Night's Television: Sons of Anarchy, Bravo
Find me a Family, Channel 4

"Thank you for visiting Charming", reads a road sign at the beginning of Sons of Anarchy, a new Bravo import from the US that arrives with a mild buzz of success and a very noisy rasp of motorcycle engines. The point about Charming, population 14,679, is that quite a few of its citizens aren't, since this small California town is deep in the greasy pocket of the local biker gang, a fraternal brotherhood that makes its living by dealing guns to drug dealers, and does well enough out of this trade to pay the sheriff and the local fire department to look the other way. And though there was a time when these boys would have been the unequivocal black hats – a problem to be solved by a clean-jawed lawman – we live in an age of anti-heroes now, when it's the problems of society's problems that we're expected to empathise with. How tough it is when your crank-addicted partner prematurely gives birth to your son, for example, or the infuriating blockage in your supply chain that occurs when another crew torches one of your secret warehouses. Sons of Anarchy, in other words, is The Sopranos with a throbbing Harley between its legs.

It is also, and this is a mild surprise when it first dawns on you, Hamlet in black leather, with Charlie Hunnam playing the troubled prince, Jax, a young man who has a vigorous way with a pool cue, but is troubled by his father's early death and his mother's relationship with the gang's subsequent leader, Clay (Ron Perlman, unnervingly revealing just how little make-up he needed to play Hellboy). The ghost, should you be curious, takes the form of a box of memorabilia that Jax unearths in the family garage, a collection that includes his father's memoir, a document that reveals that dealing assault rifles to LA gangs did not lay at the heart of his vision of fraternal and essentially equable rebellion. As a gloss on Shakespeare's great work, though, Sons of Anarchy is not slavishly hung up on point-for-point correspondence. It's a bit hard to see Jax's ex-sweetheart (a paediatrician with a Sons of Anarchy tramp stamp concealed beneath her surgical scrubs) as any kind of Ophelia and Jax's mother seems to owe more to Lady Macbeth than to Gertrude, encouraging her second husband to get more malevolent and crowning her first episode by slipping a fatal overdose to her son's ex-wife.

You also sense that the line in Hamlet the scriptwriters really loved was the last one of all: "Go, bid the soldiers shoot". Because although Jax's twinges of longing for a kinder, less brutal life are a central part of the dynamic, the drama is hopelessly susceptible itself to the glamour of extreme violence. When Jax tooled up to recover the gang's missing guns – a sequence that was played as pathology in Scorsese's Taxi Driver gets an encore as the pornography of professional armament, a combat knife clicking into its sheath and the Velcro of the body armour slapped home in a crisp montage of manly preparation. And though Jax agonises over putting a bullet in his Latino business rivals, the drama itself plays violence for a sickly gleeful comedy. Among the things this drama counts as uncomplicatedly funny are an Asian Elvis impersonator moaning in character as he's savagely beaten up, and the mutilation of a dead body by pushing a stick of dynamite between its buttocks. Bravo may well feel that such touches fit its viewer demographic perfectly, but midlife crisis, fantasy bikers lured from terrestrial channels by the promise of heavy blues-rock and motorcycles might find it a touch too gamey.

Channel 4 has been behaving this week like a rich man who's just been told he's got days to live, abandoning thoughts of worldly things like ratings and turning its mind to higher matters, such as Find Me a Family, a three-part series about the plight of hard-to-place children in care. In last night's programme, the prejudice was running in two directions because the prospective adopters were a gay couple, John and Anthony, and even the most open-minded viewer might have started with some uncertainty about their suitability as parents, given that every hour of their day already seemed fully occupied with their dogs and horses. A shrewd young man on a panel of adopted children who interviewed them raised the possibility that they might be looking for a new and more elaborate pet.

In fact, they coped with touching tenderness when a disabled child came to stay for the weekend – an experience that successfully expanded their own notions of what they would be capable of taking on – and David Akinsanya's film ended with their decision to sell off some of their horses to make room for an adoptive child they had. If all birth parents were as thoughtful about their responsibilities we'd need a lot less adopters.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all