The drama on "Sons of Anarchy" appears to be continuing off-screen.
Tuesday night's intense season premiere of the hit FX show broke ratings records for the series and had fans buzzing all over Twitter. But a denouncement by the Parents Television Council — which described the episode as "horrifically violent and disturbing material" — has stirred up controversy.
The premiere episode focused on a a young boy entering his school with a semi-automatic gun and firing. The shooting itself was not seen on camera.
The PTC immediately used the opportunity to push its platform of a la carte cable channels wherein consumers would have the ability to pick and choose the cable channels they want to pay for.
"Think about the parents who have been personally affected by real-life school shootings — even they were forced to contribute to FX on their cable bills," said PTC president Tim Winter. "This is an outrage, and the time for consumers to have real choice has come."
"Sons of Anarchy" creator Kurt Sutter has stepped forward to defend the storyline and blasted the PTC for infringing on people's rights.
"Whenever that stuff crosses the line into censorship, it's just scary, on not just a creative level but on a personal level," he said on his YouTube channel.
"I would imagine these are not evil people … but they are just not very intuitive or intelligent individuals," he continued. "It's such a small and simple view of process. The fact that people want to be monitoring what my children watch is terrifying."
That kind of censorship is something Sen. John McCain, who is sponsoring an a la carte cable bill, doesn't believe in. While the PTC wants consumer cable choice to avoid certain kinds of content, McCain does "not agree with that aspect of it."
"I think people make choices. Nobody forces them to watch those shows," he said. "As long as it's not child pornography, those things that are just beyond the pale — I can't blame a television show for causing violence."
Sutter thought long and hard about writing such a disturbing storyline. As he told The Hollywood Reporter, "There's a part of me that really didn't want to do it because I'm opening myself up to being viewed as just doing it to be sensational. But I also felt that I'm not going to not do it because I'm afraid of blowback."
FX Networks CEO John Landgraf stood behind his showrunner, telling TV Guide, "I believe very strongly we did it the right way. I can't honestly worry about people who are going to take things out of context. I believe in context; that's why I'm in the business of telling stories," he said, adding, "People who do want to see the world in a very simple world of black and white, I respectfully recommend they not watch FX's programming because that's not what we do."
Even so, such sensitive imagery was bound to affect some viewers. The superintendent of schools in Newtown, Connecticut — where a devastating school shooting took place at Sandy Hook Elementary nine months ago — sent a letter to parents warning them about the "Sons of Anarchy" episode.
But as he admitted in his YouTube show, Sutter wanted to "have the conversation again" about gun violence.
"Sons of Anarchy" airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.