[youtube 7K6YqpbRmdE nolink]
Itâ€™s almost becoming a genre unto itself. Hunter S. Thompson famously befriended and wrote about the lives of â€™60s motorcycle gang members in his now-classic Hellâ€™s Angels. Bill Buford ran with Englandâ€™s football hooligans in the early â€™80s and described the game-day mob mentality that brought pandemonium to Britainâ€™s streets and elsewhere in his book Among the Thugs. Now along come two series devoted to exploring the modern-day outlaw culture, both from Discovery Channel: The Devils Ride, premiering May 8 at 10pm ET/PT and Kurt Sutterâ€™s Outlaw Empires, premiering May 14 at 10pm ET/PT.
Both series aim to get inside Americaâ€™s subcultures to explore the lifestyles and motivations of the individuals who have chosen to live on or over the edge of everyday society. Kurt Sutter, creator of FXâ€™s hit series Sons of Anarchy, has the broader scope of the two series in Kurt Sutterâ€™s Outlaw Empires, but that should surprise anybody, really. â€śIâ€™ve made a career writing about fictitious anti-heroes,â€ť Sutter explains. â€śTo create these worlds, Iâ€™ve spent a lot of time with active members on both sides of the law. And if I had to pick the most interesting of the two, the choice is obvious â€” we love the guys in black.â€ť
For Sutter, itâ€™s important that viewers know that heâ€™s not trying to exploit his subjects as examples of evil. â€śThis isnâ€™t about making a judgment call on whoâ€™s good or bad,â€ť he insists. â€śAs a storyteller, Iâ€™m drawn to these personal, intimate accounts of why these men made the choices they made, and what itâ€™s like to be a member of an outlaw organization.â€ť
The first episode of Outlaw Empires goes right to the heart of it all. â€śCripsâ€ť profiles the notorious L.A. gang, from their beginnings as a group of young boys maintaining their claim to their turf and building up their pride to their eventual growth and corruption. Subsequent episodes will include â€śOutlaw Bikersâ€ť (of course), â€śIrish Mob,â€ť â€śNuestra Familiaâ€ť â€” about the group of Latin gang members forged within the California prison system that legendarily employs ultraviolence as a means of control â€” â€śItalian Mafiaâ€ť and â€śAryan Brotherhood.â€ť
[youtube 5NTgk-7j1qo nolink]
The Devils Ride, on the other hand, is more akin to Thompsonâ€™s mission with the Hellâ€™s Angels, but instead going deep inside the world of San Diegoâ€™s Laffing Devils, meeting its members and seeing what a modern motorcycle club is all about. For Gipsy, the clubâ€™s president and an Iraq War veteran, the Laffing Devils has been a balm for the emotional scars left over from his combat days. Itâ€™s his responsibility as head of the group to maintain a balance between the clubâ€™s ever-joining ranks and the wishes of its older members to keep things as theyâ€™ve always been. Itâ€™s a tough job, and one that the clubâ€™s vice president, Billy the Kid, wouldnâ€™t mind having.
Some of the action in The Devils Ride would be surprisingly mundane if it werenâ€™t for the fact that itâ€™s part of the biker lifestyle. In one episode, the Laffing Devils cope with the potential loss of their clubhouse, an auto body shop owned by member Hawkster, when the police put pressure on them to find a new place to congregate. But moving takes money, obviously, so to finance the move, Gipsy finds the Devils security work guarding a liquor store in a tough neighborhood, and the new responsibility doesnâ€™t go down well with everyone in the club.
Both series take viewers into worlds that most would rather not enter, offering a titillating bit of the dark side of Americaâ€™s subcultures. Whether the creators of both series will end up being beaten and kicked as a result of their investigations the way Thompson and Buford were remains to be seen.