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‘Community,”Sons of Anarchy’ roll through town

They don’t get together much.

Critics’ top 10 lists. Maybe one day at the Emmys — if the voters ever start bothering to actually watch TV.

The slackers and goofballs of NBC’s “Community” (8 p.m. Thursdays, KSNV-TV, Channel 3) and the badass bikers of FX’s “Sons of Anarchy” (returning this fall) go together like night and day. Cats and dogs. Oil and whatever would steal oil’s lunch money.

But there they were, two of the most daring series you’ll find, with back-to-back panels at last week’s National Association of Broadcasters Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center.


Series creator Dan Harmon, who was supposed to headline the “Community” conversation, was stuck in Los Angeles, cutting down more than 150 hours of footage for the much-anticipated hourlong season finale — a Sergio Leone-inspired sequel of sorts to last season’s game-changing paintball episode.

But Joe Russo — who along with his brother, Anthony, serves as executive producer and director of the comedy — was on-hand with an indirect message: If you don’t like “Community,” it’s pretty much your own fault.

Harmon is “a Twitter fiend,” Russo said. “He’s also sort of attached to his iPad. And he’s constantly absorbing information, whether it be from a review of the show or a chat room. He’s always collecting information.

“It’s great, because you sort of get an immediate response from the audience in a way that you’d never been able to in the past. You can watch a Twitter feed while your episode’s airing and see how people respond to the episode. … And you learn from that stuff. And it helps us build a better show.”

The outpouring of good will after “Modern Warfare,” the paintball episode that spoofed an entire generation of action movies, helped steer the series away from its roots as a fairly typical comedy.

“Season two just became a much bigger mandate to experiment more,” Russo acknowledged, “and we’ve attacked every genre we can think of this season.”

But being on the cutting edge — this season’s themed episodes have sent up everything from Dungeons & Dragons to stop-motion Christmas specials, zombie movies to “My Dinner with Andre” — has its drawbacks, as well.

“You’re giving yourself a new set of production problems every week,” Russo explained. “Every week, we need a new way to execute the show. We need a different kind of camera to execute it. It’s a different style. It’s different costumes. It’s different sets.

“There’s always something difficult and complicated,” he added. “You know, besides the fact that we all work with Chevy Chase on a daily basis.”


Thankfully, “Sons of Anarchy” mastermind Kurt Sutter made it to town.

With Aaron Sorkin and Joss Whedon between series, he’s my favorite current showrunner — and I’m not just saying that because he intimidates the hell out of me.

Sutter turns up, believably, at least once a season as Otto, the imprisoned Sons of Anarchy biker who’s missing one eye and most of the other. And he’s quick to curse out critics and viewers alike on his freewheeling blog and Twitter feed.

Moderator Lynette Rice of Entertainment Weekly asked him what dark place he was in when he created the grim, uber-violent drama. His response? “Home.”

Later, when the audio cut out during a clip from “Sons,” Rice called out for someone named Bud to fix it. “Maybe you should narrate this,” Rice suggested to Sutter. “Maybe,” he offered, “I should slap Bud.”

Sutter’s no hoodlum. He’s an intelligent, thoughtful guy, and he was joking in both cases. But being immersed in the subculture of motorcycle clubs can rub off on a guy.

“I think it can’t help but influence you, and I’m not immune to that either,” he admitted. “It’s a seductive world to play in, and I think some of our guys have been seduced by that. They’ve all learned to ride and really love to ride.”

Charlie Hunnam, who stars as Jax, as well as Ryan Hurst (Opie) and Theo Rossi (Juice) have really taken to the life, Sutter said.

“Whenever I see them in town, they’re on their bikes. They’re not out wearing a three-patch cut” — the leather club vests their characters wear — “or kicking (expletive) up, but I definitely think it influences you. And when all those guys get together in that environment, the swagger just happens. It’s fun to watch.”

But while Hunnam and others have become friends with their real-life counterparts, and they’ve all been around the bikers who’ve served as technical advisers on the series, no one’s gone overboard.

“We’re sort of exposed to the edges of it,” Sutter said of the outlaw lifestyle, “but in the end, we’re all very delicate creative types.”

Christopher Lawrence’s Life on the Couch column appears on Sundays. Email him at clawrence@reviewjournal.com.

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