Saturday, 27 November 2010

Sons of Anarchy go Ireland. Hilariously

Last night I was at a loose end and I sat down and watched the four episode chunk of the third season of Sons of Anarchy where the gang goes to Belfast and does things.

I'm an unabashed fan of SOA, which has a lot to recommend it, but the Irish end of things has always left me wondering if anyone involved with the production has done so much as watch the Quiet Man all the way through, let alone meet anyone Irish or ask anyone from east of South Boston whether they were getting things roughly right.

From the outset, I've been fascinated by the notion that the Sons of Anarchy's principal source of finance is running guns from Ireland to the West Coast of the US. I've assumed all along that this was just a matter of trying to find something criminal for the SOA to do without being you know, SO criminal that audiences would just revolt. I'm not sure I agree with the thinking here. It's as though the team behind the Sopranos had decided that they'd make a movie about Italian American criminals but would skip over prostitution, drug running and protection rackets in case it stopped the audience from watching the characters. In real life, bike gangs finance their operations with crystal meth, and AMC have had a good run with Breaking Bad, which is all about making crystal meth. But the team chose to go with gunrunning and now they're stuck with it.

What it's meant in practice is a succession of dodgy Irish accents from American actors who aren't very good at accents even when they're good at everything else. Titus Welliver is GOOD at playing villains. But he gets 100% less frightening every time his accent slips. Now all of this should have been pretty apparent to the team before very long, but it hasn't stopped them from upping the Irish presence as the show has unfolded, and the whole of the third season has been dominated by a confrontation between the SOA and the IRA. And for four episodes, most of the cast were in Belfast and it was just hilarious.

Of course they couldn't afford to send all the cast to Belfast, so all the principal photography was still done in Calfiornia. But they could afford to send a second unit over to Belfast to do pickup and establishing shots. One advantage of making a show about a biker gang is that you can put the cast into helmets a lot, and one helmet looks much like another. So they got all kinds of shots of mobs of bikers prowling Belfast and its environs, and then they'd cut from those shots to close ups of the actual cast doing things in US locations chosen to look not catastophically unlike the locations in Ireland.

If you don't live in Ireland, it probably works, but if you're from these parts it jars. A lot. The light is wrong. The foliage is wrong. I never appreciated until I lived away from Ireland just how much greener it is than anywhere is. It's all a rich deep green that you don't see in warmer climates. Like California. And in Northern Ireland, it's all been very carefully worked over. There are two separate scenes where the SOA get stopped by the Northern Ireland police on tree shaded roads. There are tree shaded roads in Ireland, but they're not that common around Belfast, where there's much more farmland and pasture than people realise. More importantly, the police in Northern Ireland don't stop people in that kind of terrain; it's far too hard to control.

While I'm quibbling about the depiction of the Northern Ireland Police, they don't carry full sized assault rifles any more, even on rural patrol. They don't use ordinary landrovers, and they especially don't use 1 ton landrovers with canvas tilts. Trouble cars in Northern Ireland are uparmoured long wheelbase landrovers. And if you bribed the PSNI to take down an entire biker gang, they'd bring enough men and machinery to do it properly rather than showing up half assed with the wrong vehicles. And of course, if the said biker gang then turned the tables on them, there'd be a manhunt on an epic scale until the bikers were banged up or gunned down.

Outside of the rural scenes, most of the Northern Ireland action takes places around the compound of the Belfast Sons of Anarchy chapter, which is subtly wrong at a lot of different levels. It's too spread out and open; the kind of place in Belfast that they're trying to suggest just doesn't have that much open space. And there's set dressing like wall murals that are just wrong; it's like they were trying to come up with generic bits of nationalism which wouldn't annoy anyone. Trying not to annoy people is - in my experience - the most foolproof way of getting on everyone's nerves. But that draws me into the weird idea of the linkage between the Sons of Anarchy and the IRA. it just doesn't ring true to the reality of life in that part of Northern Ireland. You're in or you're out. There's no halfway points in Northern militancy - collusion between people who hate each other, sure, but there's no half measures when it comes to which side you're notionally on.

The front of the compound is a corner grocery store called Ashby's. Which is completely not a nationalist name, but even if you skated over that (Sands isn't really a Catholic name either, but it's pretty famous now) standalone old-fashioned grocery stores like that have been pretty much obliterated even in the most entrenched traditional communities - a point neatly underlined in the establishing shot of the Europa Hotel with the gaudy Spar across the street from it. On the topic of the Europa, since the second unit crew almost HAD to have stayed in the Europa while they were there (it's so famous as a bomb magnet that every foreign crew is practically obliged by natural law to stay there at least once) it's genuinely weird that they did so little to make sure that the interior shots in California weren't done in some place that at least looked vaguely like it. But if Ashby's had ever existed and hadn't long since been burned out and rubbled, it would be a Spar by now. Everything else is.

And whee, those accents. I know they couldn't fly everyone to Ireland, but how much would it have cost to fly in actual Irish actors to play the Irish roles? It would still have sounded wrong because Irish people can tell the difference between accents, down to neighborhood, and so the Irish cast would still all have sounded like they didn't belong together, but it would still have been a lot less horrible than the Americans doing their best, and with enough Irish people in the local cast, they'd have known not to call a sixty year old Catholic Belfastman Keith.

And back to the gun running because it was so front and centre in all of this. The logistical backbone of this whole show is that Russians smuggle weapons into Ireland and the IRA then smuggles them out to California. It just doesn't make any sense. Private ownership of guns in Ireland - either half - is so tightly regulated that if you gathered up all the legally held weapons on both sides of the border, you'd be able to fit them into a single room. Keeping guns out of the hands of subversives has been a core government preoccupation for so many years that there probably isn't another country on earth which it's more difficult to smuggle guns into. It can still be done, but it's crazy hard. And smuggling guns back out would be only slightly less hard. If you wanted to get guns from A to B, running them though Ireland would be the worst way imaginable. And even the idea that the IRA would have some vast surplus of guns they no longer needed and could sell to the US is kind of dumb. The IRA's full arsenal on its best day was only about a thousand weapons. By the end of season one, the SOA had already moved at least that many guns around California. But that's just niggling at the idea of Ireland as a point of origin for gun smuggling, as opposed to a point of delivery. The really idiotic idea is the notion that the US needs to import illegal guns at all. The US is awash with guns. They're as plentiful as cell phones and the US is one of the world's leading manufacturers of firearms. It's one of the few manufacturing areas where the US still has a significant domestic industry to meet domestic demand, though it still imports a lot of weapons from Brazil and China to meet the demand for cheap knockoffs of the domestic product. There's absolutely no need for the SOA to go to the trouble of bringing in guns from Ireland. So I've suffered through all these terrible accents for no good reason.

62 comments:

vhjk,vbk uhj said...

Woah. That's a wholehearted rebuttal. Well put sir.

The hometown criticisms are valid I'm sure but really, who (outside of Ireland or perhaps Belfast more specifically) cares? Although, as an Australian, I am very sympathetic to the many sleepless nights that are brought by unrealistic accent portrayal.

The guns though. That makes sense. What you're saying I mean. I figured an irish gangster would just go to eastern europe and ship from there, but you're right. Why irish? (oh, I know why, becuase they're about as far from the terrosteriotype as can be)

I guess they're just doing the fan boys a favour by making things so unrealistic. As easily swayed as I am by glamorous imagery, I have a feeling that a black leather vest with patches doesn't actually make the black keys play as you ride into the sunset.

robertcorrie said...

Do you know exactly where in Belfast (?) the Irish scenes were filmed. There was a great scene on a coastal road with a wonderful natural arch and I wondered where it was....what a glorious road for motorcycling...

SUBSIM said...

You hit the nail on the head. Running guns...to whom? Where's the market for hundreds of AKs? Is there a big gamg war going on somewhere in CA we haven't heard of?

Max said...

I gather that rebutting Kurt Sutter is all kinds of dangerous, but thankfully I'm as obscure as hell, and it doesn't seem to have crossed his desk yet.

To some extent, ripping into location work that isn't really location work is one of those minor niggles that doesn't really matter at all, but in the back of it, there's this cranky feeling that one of the biggest problems in the relationship between the USA and the rest of the world is that the USA doesn't realise how different the rest of the world is. So when Ireland - or wherever - looks just like Burbank, it reinforces that lack of understanding. Cultural imperialism has a lot of different ways to work on us. But I wasn't thinking that deeply at the time; I was just ragging on the disconnect.

Gun dealing through Ireland still seems weird, though I've been startled recently to discover just how many privately held shotguns there are in Northern Ireland. Make enough noise near almost any form, and expect to hear a bang and a whistle.

Coastal road with a natural arch is almost certainly the road up along the Antrim Coast past Larne. There's no reason in the world to go along it if you're a visting American gangster, unless you've got a profound aesthetic sensibility. It's on the way to the Giant's Causeway, of which Dr Johnson wonderfully said "Worth seeing, not worth going to see."

Mariano Paniello said...

Very interesting post. I've never been to Ireland, apart from five hours in the Dublin airport. I was wondering though: why wouldn't you call an old Belfast Catholic Keith? Is Keith not a common Catholic name?

Max said...

Five hours in Dublin Airport? You have not seen Ireland at its best.

Keith is not at all a common name for Northern Ireland Catholics. It's a Scots name, and Scots names are characteristic of the Protestant community who are largely descended from Scots settlers who arrived in the early 1600s. There's been a bit of mixing and blending in the succeeding generations, but the communities are still very separate and in many cases you can still guess someone's background just by hearing their full name. It's generally considered that it takes no more than five questions about name, school, work and address to work out what group a person must be from.

Mariano Paniello said...

One thing I find really annoying with the Irish subplot in SOA is that every time they show Irish characters, there's always stereotypical Irish music in the background, as though all anyone listens to over there is Danny Boy. It'd be like having hillbilly banjo music playing every time they showed Americans. I'm from Brooklyn, plenty of Irish here, and I'm pretty sure they listen to all kinds of music, just like everyone else.

Max said...

I have to admit I never even noticed the diddly-idley music (as we call it over here) because they do that on pretty much every American show that rolls out an Irish character. I think I just tune it out. There's a mile of that stuff - the way French characters always get accordion music, or every bit of Paris has a clear line of sight to the Eifel Tower, and you just accept that it's a narrative shorthand.

What would be funny - for us at least - would be if the Irish character walked in and they played U2 or the Boomtown Rats, but presumably that would be too expensive.

Mariano Paniello said...

Thanks for your reply on Irish names, Max. I knew that Keith was Celtic, but didn't know it was specifically Scots.

Yes, five hours in the Dublin airport was a surreal experience for sure! The food court area was so badly manned by a group of disgruntled Eastern Europeans that I walked up, got some fish and chips from the buffet line, walked to my table and sat down, walking right past the abandoned cash register, and ate for free.

Anyway, I would never judge a country by its airports, and I look forward to visiting Ireland properly one of these days.

Max said...

Sounds like Terminal 2 (here's a lovely comment on T2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2tZ62BvFp4).

Ironically, if you do get to Ireland itself, you're still going to find a lot of the staff on counters and restaurants are from elsewhere. When we had our brief flirtation with being rich, we had an equally brief flirtation with immigration, changing the habit of generations. I remember the disorienting experience of taking some visitors to Oliver St John Gogarty's, one of the most self consciously Oirish pubs in Dublin, and being served all night by a mixture of visiting Spaniards and Australians. They were lovely, but the accents didn't go with the decor!

Mariano Paniello said...

Yeah, I'd read a few years back that a lot of Spaniards were heading to Ireland with the tech boom.

Back to accents though: are there any credible portrayals of Irish accents by American actors? Was Jon Voight's in The General any good? Seems that nowadays Irish, British, and Australian actors can do not only basic American, but regional accents too, and do them very well. I didn't know Charlie Hunnam was English till I looked him up; sounds like a total West-Coaster.

Remember Cold Mountain? Seemed like a wet dream for every Brit, Irish, and Aussie actor who ever wanted to play a Southerner! Hardly a true Yank (or reb) in sight. It's embarrassing, really. American actors used to be able to do at least a fairly credible RP, if nothing else.

Max said...

Voight in The General was actually pretty OK. I mean, against the background of such marvels as Tom Cruise's turn in Far and Away. I'd love to see Johnny Depp try an Irish accent; it would either be a disaster or a thing of wonder. I think that the problem with an Irish accent that is that it's something where the long history of tragically poor fakes has created the impression that the classic Oirish fake accent is a real thing that anyone can do - same thing seems to happen to Scottish accents.

Outies doing American; Australians have been the standouts. It used to be just Mel Gibson, but now they're everywhere. Out of the five principal cast members in Without a Trace, two were Australians (Lapaglia and Montgomery) and one a Brit (Baptiste).

Mariano Paniello said...

Oh yeah, Tom Cruise's famous attempt at paying an Irishman: as notorious as Dick Van Dyke's cockney chimney sweep in Mary Poppins. There was also that awful Julia Roberts movie.

I'm surprised that Americans can't do a better job with Irish accents, given the huge influence of Irish English on the American dialect(s).

You're right about the Aussies, though: I couldn't believe that LaPaglia wasn't a genuine Brooklyn guinea (I'm a Brooklyn guinea, so no racism intended). Only complaint I have is Russell Crowe in American Gangster -- my friends and I were asking each other where he was supposed to be from. Heath Ledger as The Joker was incredible: sounded like a totally disgruntled NYC cabbie from the 70s!

Max said...

The awful Julia Roberts movie? Has to be Mary Reilly. She wasn't too bad in Michael Collins, though the weird one in that (for Irish people) was seeing a Ballymena man try a Cork accent (for US ears, that's rather like listening to Appalachians doing N'Awlins).

Lapaglia took to the US with shocking speed. I saw his debut in The Guardian, and his turn in Lantana, but it's pretty hard to find anything else he did in Australia. The other thing is how typecast he's been. I don't think I've ever seen him play anything other than cops and robbers. Mostly cops, these days, but for a while he did a great line in sleazy but useless gangsters.
I think one reason Americans find Irish accents challenging is that Irish people are natural mimics,and their accents tend to blur out into local rhythms very quickly. So what most people in the US hear IN the US is an Americanised version of the original, which doesn't give the right cues.

Mariano Paniello said...

I'm just finishing up season 3 of SOA, and I think that the worst accents I've heard are the Russians: those guys aren't even trying! James Bond Russians have better accents. At least John Malkovich brought a certain flamboyance to Teddy KGB in Rounders, inauthentic as his accent was. I have Russian friends who really like his portrayal and overlook the accent because, well, he's John Malkovich.

I think that American actors' seeming inability to nail other English dialects is the downside of method acting, which seems to have become an excuse for not studying the rudiments of the craft. Don't get me wrong, without method there would have been no Godfather or Apocalypse (or many other splendors), but all those original method actors are/were highly trained and versatile. Nowadays method seems to mean acting pretty much like yourself and mumbling a lot.

One tiny quibble: though I'm a New Yorker, my family has New Orleans and New York branches, and I've spent a lot of time down there. Nobody says N'awlins: they say New Orleans (accent on the Or), pronouncing the r or dropping it depending on one's neighborhood, class, education, etc. There's a great YouTube clip on NO accents:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpFDNTo4DNg

The Ninth Ward Italians sound practically like New Yorkers.

Ok, we're well off topic now, sorry! Interesting discussion though.

Max said...

Russian is more than an accent, it's a state of mind. Though Hollywood seems to think anyone can chance their arm at it. And because there have been far more Russians in movies than Irish, the roll of dishonour is truly prodigious. I wouldn't know where to start...

The ultimate comment on Method still belongs to Olivier "Have you considered ... acting? It's so much easier."

It's not N'Awlins? That was such a cherished delusion of mine.

Mariano Paniello said...

Yes! Didn't Olivier say that to Dustin Hoffman during the filming of Marathon Man?

Hitchcock had another one, don't know any names. A younger actor asked him something smacking of method, along the lines of "What's my character's motivation?" to which Hitchcock replied: "Your paycheck."

And no, there is no N'awlins outside of cinema. As annoying as "Frisco." In fact, this exchange has made me think that perhaps New Orleanians are a close second to the Irish in terms of how misrepresented their respective accents are in media. Sometimes you hear people say Nwawlins, but there's always a gliding vowel of sorts between the N and A. Traditionally, working-clas NO folk are called Yats, from "Where y'at?", which is their version of "Top o' the mornin'." I have quite a few relatives from this group, and they're proud of it!

The other misconception is about Cajuns: if I had a dime for every time someone asked me if I was Cajun because of my La roots, as the saying goes. Cajuns are by definition country folk, from parishes such as Avoyelles, Lafourche, Iberia, Calcasieu, etc. Lumping in Cajuns with New Orleanians would be like lumping in Dubliners with the most rustic Irish from the boonies (wherever your boonies are!).

Max said...

There's a scary thought; Irish boonies. We're all from the bogs if you dig deep enough; you'll struggle to find anyone who can trace back more than four generations of city ancestors. Which does not stop second generation Dubliners ripping into boggers and culchies as though they're barely domesticated.

If anyone ever does greet you with "Top of the morning", it's safe to assume that you've fallen into a movie somehow. No-one in Ireland ever says that unless they're trying to be funny. We all say versions of "How are you?" and then just like everyone else look quite surprised if the other person actually tells us.

Mariano Paniello said...

Oh, I know that top o' the mornin' isn't really used; I didn't express myself clearly. I was trying to say that "Where y'at" is the stereotypical Yat greeting and the origin of the word itself, though it's not very widely used at all any more. Sorry for the confusion.

Max said...

Good point. Mind you "top of the morning" must have been used once, although there's nothing in modern commonplace Irish which feels like the origin for it. (A lot of Irish idiom harks back to Irish, a supple language replete with useful ambiguity but no easy way to say "no".)

In a nice parallel to "Yat", "Howyas" is the collective noun for drunk young Dublin women.

Mariano Paniello said...

Wow, off topic, but I'm watching the latest Coriolanus, with Ralph Fiennes, and there's a character in there who looks a lot like Titus Welliver, James Nesbitt. For a second I thought it was him, and that his accent had improved exponentially!

Max said...

Now that you mention it....
Though funnily enough, James Nesbitt can't really do accents. He got big doing a genial somewhat feckless Northern Ireland character in a long-running show called Cold Feet, and has been manfully struggling against a tendency to cast him as a roguish loveable Paddy ever since. At one point he essayed (Chris Brookmyre's) Jack Parlabane and his Scots accent ... wasn't the strongest part of the performance

Mariano Paniello said...

Now that you mention it, I was wondering if it was unusual that Chibs, a Scot, was in the IRA. Were there Catholic Scots who supported the cause, or is this just a case of American writers taking liberties?

Max said...

Two words; Glasgow Celtic.

Scotland has nearly as troubled a history of division between Catholics and Protestants as Ireland, and on top of that a lot of Irish Catholics wound up there as part of the long history of emigration. So Chibs is a very credible character. One of the scariest conversations I ever had about the Troubles was with a Scots Catholic; she was way out ahead of any Irish person I ever met in terms of supporting the IRA.

Justin McCormick said...

Coast road between Cushendall & Waterfoot. Red Arch. In the Glens of Antrim.

Bl-rog said...

I love the article and the comments. I've been veering from mild excitement to drink spitting hilarity with SOA right from the start of Season 1. The Shield it ain't. Although Sutter's less than subtle hand can now be seen in the more salacious elements of The Barn. That might be unfair.

But honestly, SOA isn't fit to scrub the meth bins of Breaking Bad which is unmitigated genius almost without parallel ( that includes Sopranos, Wire, Deadwood, Mad "yawn" Men, even Game of Thrones my new true love) SOA is crass pantomime with some good performances and flashes of exclellence, but poorly written especially the female characters. How many conversations did we have to endure about Gemma's dried up pussy? Agent Stahl is a poorly drawn "bitch-dyke" cliche.

Even Clay is underwritten. And the usually exemplary Ron Perlman feels like he's coasting through the whole thing. There is no psychological depth to any of the characters. Everything is surface. And the bikers banter is leaden and laboured.

Tig however is good. Unser is very well performed. Henry Rollins was very good delivering a level of intensity not seen in the rest of the cast. But Jax and Tara are boring, both writing and performance wise. I could go on, but you get the picture. It's diverting trash really.

This is why the risible efforts in Belfast came as no surprise. The reason I've stuck with SOA is for want of something better to come along. And its free on UK Netflix. It's fun and easy and weirdly addictive. But it's rather weak IMHO.

My mother's from Belfast and I've spent a bit of time there. SOA are so wide of the mark it's had me in stitches since they've arrived. I'm delighted I've got three more Belfast based episodes of this laughable drivel to enjoy.

Speaking of drivel, I've got the new season of Homeland about to start. I've heard it's full of clunkers and pitiful contrivance so time to savour that before GoT season 3 starts and we can get back to proper TV made by talented people. Then eyes down for the last 8 of Breaking Bad then I will shoot myself for my life will be over.

Max said...

Bl-rog; in the end, it's all about the villains. There has to be someone larger than life, and somehow, the baddies are always more entertaining than the goodies (Tyrion might be the great exception). So your next stop has to be Spartacus, which makes SoA look like Merchant Ivory. It goes right through preposterous and out to someplace worse within minutes, but stick with it; I've never seen anything else with such a high density of charismatic villains.

jonny said...

I agree on the hilarious inaccuracies, it can grate. But: Keith is a perfectly fine name for a Catholic man to have in Belfast by the way. lol! I know this blog post means well, but a lot of your own comments sound like they are just as much based on pastiche and second-hand (probably a generation old) knowledge as SOA. Speaking as someone from (and currently sitting in) Belfast that is. Being able to tell what religion people are from their second names, where they're from etc is broadly true, though no one cares about religion any more except a hard-core minority; like, less than 0.5%. Who are the dregs of society living in social housing with no influence whatsoever. The Belfast you have in mind seems to be the Eighties, height-of-the-Troubles conflict-zone, which simply isn't the case. Ireland both sides of the border is a modern and thriving country, as such it is a mixed and tolerant racial melting pot, and OF COURSE we have a lot of European Immigrants, it's a EU member state! I met Americans a few years ago who came here to study and they were surprised we had internet...

Max said...

Well, you should never argue about a place with someone who lives there, and it's been forty years since I left; when I wrote the post, it had been 38 years. The Belfast I remember is pre-even the 80s. But when I were but a lad scampering around the leafy suburbs of Belfast with not one real clue about what was going on around me, I knew just one kid called Keith, and he was not going to grow up to be in the IRA. Times have changed since, and names aren't as clearcut as they seemed to be when I was four feet tall, but I stand to the notion that a sixty year old NI IRA militant called Keith is unlikely at best. Twenty or thirty - maybe. I don't know that milieu. But from my own time there; really, no, that made me choke every time. It would be like having a turn of the century Klansman and calling him Sherman. I think. I wasn't alive at the turn of the century and I don't know any actual Klansmen....

jonny said...

Speaking of incongruous first names, I knew an Orangeman named Paddy once... Who knows how that came about! On the subject of SOA and accents, did you ever see Charlie Hunnam in Green Street Hooligans? He's English but does a much better job of an American accent in SOA than his horrible attempt at a Cockney one. Then again, I'm sure the situation works in reverse and you'd be a better judge of his attempt at an American accent than I would be?

Max said...

I think Paddy is shared property! Even when I were a nipper you could find Paddies either side of the street. I think the most incongruous Patricks are the French and German ones; there seems to have been a little window in time when Patrick was a chic name in Europe. SOA is the only thing I've ever seen Charlie Hunnam in, but it doesn't surprise me that he can do better Californian than Cockney; we're immersed in "genuine Californian" every time we turn on the TV, but real cockney's a rarity. Doesn't help that everyone seems to think all they need to do is channel their inner Michael Caine... I had a cockney boss once, and a colleague who was a viciously effective mimic, but even with a worked example right beside him, he couldn't get the boss just right.

Ryan Mc Cleave said...

Just to add, that Ashby's is a real shop. Has been there in the New Lodge on Hallidays Road for about 40+ years and still running today. I live a few minutes away from it and the shop next to it is now a tattoo parlour.
I agree with the accent and actor base. They're atrocious and some of the script is bad. The IRA would never refer themselves as 'The Army' or 'Real Provos'. No such thing.
Plus shooting scenes from Carnlough then it's immediately in North Belfast is a load of shit too. And even McGee, SAMBEL president, pronouncing Stranraer (that Ron Perlman pronounced perfectly) StranYer. What the fuck? Lived in Belfast for 25 years and never met anyone called Trinity either, or seen fucking 'Cead Mile Failte' hung up in a bar. Don't even get me started on the whole stereotypical Irish music that's constantly being played too.

I don't know why they didn't use Irish Actors and base the scenes from actual Belfast as well as the real PSNI.

Max said...

Ashby's is real? I was so sure it couldn't be, I didn't even check. There's no substitute for ground truth. Of course, when I wrote that I was still in Mexico...

Dave Hannigan said...

Just read this and loved every line of it.

Conor Lamont said...

Chibbs said he worked as a medic in the British army for a few years, but yet he was in the IRA? Also not very plausable if you are from Northern Ireland

Max said...

Well, Chibbs is a bit of an edge case. He's from Scotland, so it's easier to believe that he could have signed up as a kid and then had second thoughts. I'm never sure how much Sutter has thought the whole Irish angle through, and how much he just needed a supply of guns which kept him clear of more loaded geopolitical issues for a largely US audience.

Sluggh said...

The cinematographer used some kind of filter to make California's "Irish" light seem more muted. So Ireland is now a cool shade of blue, apparently. What a disaster. For a show that's been steadily improving, its production values fell off a cliff during the Ulster episodes.

David King said...

Really you are worried about some Irish scenes in a fake show that takes place in a fake city in California. The lead actor is from England. In fact many of the actors are from different countries playing American bikers.

Adam Hughes said...

Although I'm from Wales originally and not Ireland, the landscape shots were so off I found it as comical as the original poster.

From the moment of the failed road block in the first of these Irish episodes, it was possible to tell that the rest would be absolutely farcical.

lily said...

i think it's worth noting that Paula Malcolmson, who played Maureen, is a Belfast native. i'm american, and i started watching the show with my landlady in london, who always commented on the bad accents. i also pointed out to her the bad accents on the walking dead by british actors, so i suppose we both taught each other something

andrewsmark06 said...

What I find amusing is a biker gang of about 8 people are going to take on the IRA lol

andrewsmark06 said...

The Irish involvement has ruined the whole program IMO its so bad

333supertramp said...

Mate what shite are you talking? The PSNI cant even take care of a bunch of Orange thugs on the 12th, so they would hardly do much better agaist a biker gang armed to the hilt.

333supertramp said...

What shite are you talking mate, trying to make the PSNI out to be badasses. There a bunch of pussies who can't even control a bunch of orange thugs on the 12th July so they would hardly do much better up against a biker gang armed to the hilt!

Joshua Bouher said...

Firstly the gun running sets up the entire back story for the series. John Teller being in Ireland sets in motion everything. Secondly there's the largest population of American gangs and gang members is in California so there's probably quite a large market for illegal Irish smuggled Russian guns.

Keith said...

im called Keith and from Belfast NORTHERN IRELAND.

ive never had too much hassle with my name in regards to religion but I know 5 other Keiths and all are Protestant....ive a dodgy surname which I wont post here but its definitely a name people would class me as being from the catholic community.

in regards to the accents...brutal! I actually loved S.O.A but the Belfast episodes were crap and made me cringe!

and to make it worse, the actors tried to speak with a Belfast accent but it sounded more like a very bad attempt at a southern irish accent! do yanks not realise that Northern Ireland and the Republic is 2 completely different countries with different accents? like Scotland and England... 2 diff countries joined together. you would never get a film based in Canada with a New York accent! lol reminds me of tommy lee jones in blown away, he was supposed to be from Belfast and his accent was like a cork accent.

some of the locations for people who want to know,

- Muldoons Bar in the sailortown area of north Belfast, corporation street.

- the Titanic Dry Dock & Pump house, where the S.O.A bikers had driven past in 1 scene ( that's the place Titanic was actually fitted out before setting sail.....it does not have a main road running through it like in the show )

- Mcmaster street, of the newtownards road, east Belfast ( showed the gang driving up the street in a scene )

- St. Matthews catholic church, short strand / newtownards road area of east Belfast.

- st georges markets, where Jax followed Abel and his 'new' parents... but the scene inside the market are DEFINATELY spain or somewhere else as they had all the usual stalls and football kits ( soccer for the americans ) and they were all fake cheap crap you get on holiday!

- one other scene where it was in the docks area was a stone throw away from where im from. if you go on google street view and type in 9 northern road Belfast. it will bring you up roughly where it was shot.

I hope this is helpful to people wanting locations :)

Wateree said...

Listening to the blonde haired kid do an American accent..he slips many times..and the same head cocked (no pun)…tp the same side to show . "he's really thinking". horrible and funny when not intended.

Now, don't let me lead you astray…(no misspell)..the drinking game of how many times they will purposely throw in the "Shite" the internationally known version of SHIT for Ireland..…leads most of even the Roman Catholics tore up by the end of the seasons episodes. If you try to fund a drinking game when "Jesus Christ" or the gal pronunciation of "Shit..Holy Shit..or Aye are released, well you need to see about the 12 step program.)

This said…the show is evenly talent laden. Who cares if the leaves of Ireland are clearly the burned out golden hills of Sonoma and Solano County.

Danielle Evans said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I found this blog because of that market scene, it had to be filmed in L.A or some other place with a large Mexican population, im Mexican myself and that scene really destroyed the immersion for me, i really cant tell irish accents apart nor am i able to distinguish real locations , but it was odd when i saw a guy on the background with a backwards baseball cap and a bright red jersey (from a team i cant recognize) that has CORONA as a sponsor on the back, also the part where they pan out on the soccer kits, i saw kits of several mexican teams (including Chivas from my hometown Guadalajara) and last but not least a jacket for sale that read mexico on the back, all of those out of place things kinda ruin it for me, cant really believe Las Chivas are fanous enough to have their bootleg jerseys sold in fucking belfast and although i dont believe the irish harbor any bad feelinga towards my country i dont really see them with the need of buying a red white and red jacket spelling Mexico on the back

Unknown said...

I found this blog because of that market scene, it had to be filmed in L.A or some other place with a large Mexican population, im Mexican myself and that scene really destroyed the immersion for me, i really cant tell irish accents apart nor am i able to distinguish real locations , but it was odd when i saw a guy on the background with a backwards baseball cap and a bright red jersey (from a team i cant recognize) that has CORONA as a sponsor on the back, also the part where they pan out on the soccer kits, i saw kits of several mexican teams (including Chivas from my hometown Guadalajara) and last but not least a jacket for sale that read mexico on the back, all of those out of place things kinda ruin it for me, cant really believe Las Chivas are fanous enough to have their bootleg jerseys sold in fucking belfast and although i dont believe the irish harbor any bad feelinga towards my country i dont really see them with the need of buying a red white and red jacket spelling Mexico on the back

Richard Moulds said...

Well Max you certainly nailed it!

As a recent SoA convert (back to back eps on Netflix - my wife has forgotten what I look like) I just had to search to see what everyone else made of the NI story. I'm halfway through S03 and I'm cringing.

The accents!
The PSNI!
The locations!
The rental Harleys!

I don't think anyone has so far said "begorrah" but it's only a matter of time.

You're also pretty spot on with the gun running thing. Enjoying the show I put it to the back of my mind but it never added up. IRA selling to the Americans? Hmm... I don't want to over think all this but I'll be glad when S03 has finished and hopefully I'm still interested.

Patrick o toole said...

First mistake was them going through the arch just outside larne. Unless of course they took a wrong turn in larne. Maybe they were visiting the glens and that was on their way back ;-) terrible accents but I try to but all that to the back and just keep an open mind.

whitney donaldson said...

As an American, its painful to watch charlie hunnam's attempt at a west coast accent. He slips several times in every episode. It just goes to show, only someone from here would notice, just like someone from Ireland notices how horribly american actors butcher their accents. :) however, hunnam is an unusual exception. Most A-list English and Australian actors can typically pass off an undetectable american accent. Hunnam just isn't one of those. Not sure why we struggle so much with getting the hang of different dialects.

robin said...

Wow...you all still get to be Irish, though...accents and all that greenery intact. I can't wait to pick apart your next media venture. Better be spot on.

DJ said...

Not sure why you're so defensive unless you actually wrote the show, but I can absolutely guarantee that if a British or Irish programme portrayed the US in as patronising, cliched & plain wrong a way as American TV regularly portrays us, you'd be able to hear the wailing & gnashing of teeth on bloody IMDB from here. I'm about to start work on my new screenplay - it's about some Essex gangsters who live off smuggling crack from Chelmsford to Chicago, via Norway for some reason. Season 2 will be set in Chicago, where their US allies, the "James Gang", Chicago's notorious Mafia, operate out of Ma James' Little Ol'Down-home Mom'n'Pop Store, in Main St. (filmed in Swansea for budgetary reasons) where together they will confront their enemies, an unholy alliance between the Pinkerton detective agency, FARC, and the Crips. All the Americans will be played by British & irish actors who went on holiday to Florida once, and one of them's got an uncle in Canada, and that's basically the same, right? Also I googled Chicago, but it was TLDR so I'm going to just wing it. Who cares, they're just foreigners, right?

Max said...

DJ. I was thinking all that and you beat me to it.

Whitney Angelie said...

I'm watching SOA on Netflix right now, and I so don't understand why the Irish are even involved at All! I live in Cali (and I grew up in a rough type environment, so I'm aware of all the different gangs, groups, turf wars etc here) and I can say with 100% certainty that there is NO Irish gang, group, presence etc here. We have motorcycle clubs, Norteno's, Surrenos, bloods, crips, different cartels (From Mexico), Russian gangs, Chinese, Korean, and some Italian (Mafia type, mostly in North Beach and Tahoe) and Aryan, and Neo-nazis. All of those are believable. But Irish, and the IRA at that? Ummm, hell no they aren't a presence here and they sure wouldn't be shot calling here lol. I don't understand why the creator of the show decided to put that in because frankly, they're boring, and it's just so fake it's laughable. And selling us guns? No way! Ive never even been to Ireland and even I could tell that the Ireland scenes were filmed in America. I didn't notice the accents, but I do notice how bad Jax's accent is. He sounds ok until he gets emotional and then he starts dropping his "R's" all over the place and sounds like he's from Switzerland or something, lol, his accent is just off. Other than the boring Irish storyline, the rest of the show is good (over the top, but good). I'm into it, I'm just really not feeling them being in "Ireland". They should've gone to Mexico or something instead.

Richard Moulds said...

Does make me smile that this is still going ;) People continue to be sufficiently annoyed to take to Google!

I got past the Irish season and made a start on S04 but unfortunately the damage was done. With an overwhelming feeling of "meh" I turned off after a couple of episodes. Maybe I should have another go. My current Netflix waste of time is Star Trek TNG and S01 is painful!

Mariano Paniello said...

@Whitney Agnelie: I think that's certainly true in terms of gangs -- there aren't really any Irish gangs in Cali along the lines of Crips, Bloods, MS13, etc. But San Francisco in particular has its fair share of Irish immigrants, and back in the 90s I remember reading about a couple of cases of IRA figures wanted by the British authorities laying low in San Francisco, or trying to lay low, since they were caught. But one thing I remember from the article was that San Francisco was one of the places where the IRA had a network for hiding fugitives, so apparently there's some sort of IRA/NoCal connection. But of course it's completely exaggerated by SoA.

Whitney Angelie said...

Are you serious right now?! Hate to break it to you, but I've seen many shows here in America that are produced by the British and sent over here, and they are painfully cliche when it comes to Americans. Not only are the accents atrocious to the point of being laughable, but oftentimes the scenery looks absolutely nothing like America. And they always portray us as overly confident, swaggering, cowboy types. I've seen this especially on PBS shows, plus many shows on the ID channel (they film in England for some reason, cheaper maybe?) and there are a lot of British actors who just do awful American accents to the point of embarrassment (Walking Dead and Turn anyone?) But we don't get all butt hurt about it, we just laugh cuz it's so inaccurate and ridiculous. So your histrionic, "gnashing of teeth" theory is just dumb and very inaccurate. We're just not that insecure

Whitney Angelie said...

I could see them maybe coming here to hide out during the 90's because they were still somewhat active back then. But now, are they even relevant? I thought that movement kinda died out a long time ago... The only Irish "gang" I know of in the US is the Irish mob, which is more Irish-American and is based on the East Coast or New England areas, Not here in Cali. It's just silly to think that the IRA would be calling shots in Cali (lol) as if they're a looming, powerful presence here. Idk, it was just so eye-roll inducing to me that I had to comment (aka rant) xD

Mariano Paniello said...

@Whitney Angelie: No, you're totally right about that, the IRA or Irish mob wouldn't be running buttloads of guns out of anywhere in the States these days, particularly the West Coast given its distance to Ireland, and in spite of some resurgence in Northern Ireland in the last few years, they're not even close to what they used to be in terms of strength or numbers. Whatever Irish mob there is here on the East Coast I'd guess would be more into regular mob stuff like drugs, prostitution, gambling, etc, but ever since the FBI took down Whitey Bulger I don't think they're even much on the map any more.