I was having dinner at a friend’s house the other night when the subject of marriage and morality came up. Yeah, it was that kind of dinner party. At one point the conversation turned to media representations of marital bliss and the man next to me said, “you know the single most detrimental media influence on the American marriage?”
Dramatic pause…\”Married With Children\”.
At the time I thought that was a bit of an exaggeration (and still do) but I was reminded of just how popular the show was. The sitcom debuted in 1987 on the nascent FOX network at a time when the highly touted Cosby show topped the Nielsen charts and set the tone for the American TV family. By 1989 the show’s cult following had blossomed into a national obsession and MWC consistently won it’s time slot in the ratings game prompting FOX to charge the same amount for commercials that CBS charged for Sixty Minutes. Just recently, the show made Time Magazine’s list of Best 100 TV Shows of All Time.
What struck me as ironic is that the same actress I admire for her grounded performance as the tough-as-nails matriarch of a motorcycle gang in the gritty drama Sons of Anarchy was also the bouffant, bon-bon stuffing matriarch of the dysfunctional Bundy clan, the versatile Katey Sagal.
When I delved a little further I discovered a multi-talented woman who, despite a very successful film and television career, counts music as her first love. Sagal’s musical career includes stints as a backup singer for Bob Dylan, Etta James and she was one of Better Midler’s “Harlettes” in the late seventies and early eighties. She’s also released a couple of CDs of her own including the well reviewed 2004 release from Valley Entertainment, \”Room\”.
But it’s her portrayal of the resilient Gemma Morrow that really resonates with me, a pitch perfect blend of flint and vulnerability. When so many female roles are still confined to “girlfriend”, “wife” or “detective” it’s refreshing to find a character so complex, flawed and imminently watchable. Thanks to the show’s creator Kurt Sutter (also Sagal’s husband) for writing such a great role and to Sagal for tackling it with relish.
Check out the following links for interviews with Sagal on her portrayal of Gemma Morrow…
Check out Sons of Anarchy Tuesday nights at 10PM on FX.