The runaway hit television series about an outlaw biker gang with a heart, Sons of Anarchy, begins its fifth season tonight (Sept. 11) on FX at 10:00 p.m. EST/PST, and will air regularly on Tuesdays at 10:00 p.m.

Judging by the raw, unfettered material in this season’s first episode that premiered at the Westwood Village Theater in Westwood, Calif., this past Saturday evening, Sons of Anarchy (SoA) shows no signs of throttling back its intensity in season five. According to series executive producer/director, Paris Barclay, viewers can expect as much mayhem as ever, with a lot of “character killoffs” this year.

Charlie Hunnam plays lead character, Jackson “Jax” Teller, the recently promoted president of SAMCRO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Originals). Photo: Frank Micelotta/FX/PictureGroup

Scenes in the season premiere that testify to the continued unabashed earthiness of the series include a very revealing sex scene featuring Gemma Morrow Teller (Katey Sagal) and the owner of an exclusive escort service, Nero Padilla, (Jimmy Smitts) at the “tail end” of a ménage-a-trois, while in a later scene Tig (Kim Coates) watches helplessly as his daughter burns to death as retaliation by crime lord Pope (Harold Perrineau) for his own daughter’s (accidental) death at Tig’s hands.

Other scenes full of emotional grit feature gunshot wound-recovering Clay (Ron Pearlman) make a pale attempt of an apology to Gemma for the severe beating he gave her in seasons four, and also admit to the SoA during a club meeting that he killed a member. These are just snippets of the complex, fast-moving story line that demand a viewer’s continual concentration in order to put together the pieces of the numerous subplots that seem to happen simultaneously.


Sons of Anarchy series executive producer and sometimes-director, Paris Barclay sits astride a 2013 Harley-Davidson Street Glide on the red carpet at the season five premiere event held Saturday, Sept. 8, in Westwood, Calif. Photo: Frank Micelotta/FX/PictureGroup

SoA is now developed enough in season five that the titillating look into the ostensibly fast-paced life of an outlaw biker gang may hook the casual viewer initially. However, the rapid evolution and complexity of the stories almost demand new viewers watch previous seasons to stay on track or otherwise risk losing interest out of sheer exhaustion from trying to assemble on the fly the show’s mythology. asked Barclay what he believes is the singular element of SoA that’s given it continued success, and what it is about SoA that resonates with fans. “I think it’s the characters’ loyalty [to one another],” said Barclay.

Barclay said despite the illicit activities portrayed, and oft unsavory nature of many of the characters, he believes that it’s the “strong family bond” between the members of SoA, and the characters in their orbit, that viewers identify most with in this “modern-day western developed around a Shakespearian model.”

Series creator, executive producer, and writer, Kurt Sutter with wife Katey Sagal who plays Gemma Teller Morrow. Photo: Frank Micelotta/FX/PictureGroup

Busting stereotypes

No one can deny the decades-old association often made between Harley-Davidson motorcycles and biker gangs; it’s a stereotype Harley has long since learned to accept. What could the company do? Restrict sales to business execs only?

As underwriter of the event – and maker of the machines ridden in the series ­– Harley-Davidson’s presence at the premiere only made sense. Yet our curiosity was piqued by H-D’s implied endorsement of SoA, despite the backdrop of a criminal enterprise motorcycle gang, as this was the first time Harley had partnered with FX specifically for SoA.

Regardless of the obvious (yet unsolicited) promotional benefits of having its product and brand routinely featured in a hit T.V. show, Harley rep Jen Hoyer informed us that the season premiere will serve as the perfect opportunity for the company to launch the second phase of its Dark Custom campaign called United By Independents.

Series creator Kurt Sutter (left) with Ron Perlman who plays Clay Morrow. Photo: Frank Micelotta/FX/PictureGroup

Utilizing the low-cost but extremely powerful marketing concept known as crowd sourcing, H-D started its Facebook app, Fan Machine, earlier this year to grow its massive, even legendary, following of Harley lovers. The current campaign, featuring #StereotypicalHarley riders, was first developed on Fan Machine by fan Harold Chase, and was then cast on Twitter.

Harley loved the fan-created concept of real Harley riders busting the myth of what a typical Harley rider is according to Hoyer. The concept eventually became the 60-second commercial featuring 18 genuine Harley-Davidson riders and Twitter followers from around the world that will make its national advertising debut during the season five premiere of Sons of Anarchy.

The campaign runs through November 2012 and will continue with a promotion through Harley and SoA that gives fans an opportunity to express their individuality and defy stereotypes by customizing a new Street Bob motorcycle online with H-D1 Bike Builder. H-D’s online bike-building tool now offers the most expressive paint sets, accessories and apparel than ever before with the all-new Hard Candy Custom. One lucky winner will win a personally customized Harley-Davidson Street Bob motorcycle, and a trip to Los Angeles to visit the set of Sons of Anarchy to hang out with cast members.


Kim Coates plays Alex “Tig” Trager. Photo: Frank Micelotta/FX/PictureGroup

 The partnership with FX and SoA also includes exclusive online promotional videos from the creator of SoA, Kurt Sutter, along with key cast members who share their stories about what it means to ride, featuring their own personal customized Harley-Davison motorcycles.

United by Independents is as much a rally cry to discover your ultimate self-expression and personal freedom as it is a celebration of fans and riders that continue to defy stereotypes of what it means to be a Harley-Davidson enthusiast,” said Dino Bernacchi, Harley-Davidson Director of North American Marketing Operations. “The campaign is cast entirely through social media with real riders from across the globe and from all walks of life who are united by their shared passion for the brand and their love of riding.”

Earlier this year, Harley-Davidson asked its more than 4 million Facebook and Twitter fans to share how they defy stereotypes by posting their photos using the hashtag #StereotypicalHarley. From the thousands of responses received, Harley-Davidson created the first installment of the United by Independents campaign, which debuted in February 2012 as part of the launch the Sportster Seventy-Two.

Seasoned actor, Jimmy Smitts, plays Nero Padilla, a high-end pimp, in season five of Sons of Anarchy. Photo: Frank Micelotta/FX/PictureGroup

To enter to win the Ultimate Sons of Anarchy Experience and access the exclusive video content, fans should visit from Sept. 11 through Nov. 19, 2012, and tell Harley-Davidson which SoA actor they want to ride with, where they would go and what they would do. Then participants can use the H-D1 Bike Builder to design their dream Street Bob, and as noted above receive the grand prize which includes their customized Street Bob and a trip with a friend to Los Angeles to visit the set of Sons of Anarchy.