TNT Drama Begs Question: What Won't They Show On Basic Cable?

Basic cable becomes more like porno every day.

The latest example: A new drama premiering Sunday night on TNT called “Claws” that quite possibly contains the most graphic sex scene ever seen on basic cable. 

Niecy Nash is the recipient of this long, sustained dose of pleasure, which is provided by a tattooed hoodlum. “Claws” is an ensemble drama, but Nash (seen at right in the photo above with one of the show’s co-stars, Carrie Preston) is the obvious star of the show.

The show’s principal storyline is all about her character, a Florida manicurist who aspires to own her own business. She’s raising the money to buy her own nail salon (hence the title “Claws”) by working for a local crime organization in the business of selling various prescription opiates. Nash’s character, Desna Sims, helps this organization launder its cash.

It’s a colorful environment for a new TV drama series, and one with great potential. But back to that sex scene for a moment.

It occurs barely six minutes into the show in a backroom at the nail salon where Desna now works. She either owns this shop or manages it. The advantage of buying the new shop she covets seems to be its location in a better part of town.

In any case, Desna and her hoodlum boyfriend, who is nominally her boss in the crime organization, do the nasty on a desk -- and do it and do it and keep doing it until you begin to wonder if this show’s editors were so mesmerized by this guy’s rhythmic thrusting that they forgot to cut the scene and make it shorter.

I wish I could tell you whether or not this scene made a contribution to the advancement of the plot, but for some reason I forgot what was going on just before these two entered the back office.

Other graphic sex scenes occurring later in the premiere episode of “Claws” (which I watched this week) had the hoodlum doing it with someone else on the floor of his house, and two lesbians engaged in oral sex in the back seat of a car.

Please let me state at this point in this blog that when I contemplated becoming a journalist and writer years ago, this was not the kind of writing I had in mind. Sorry.

With these sex scenes, “Claws” represents another step in TNT’s apparent strategy to push the envelope and smash various taboos in an effort perhaps to better compete with all the dramas on pay cable and on the streaming services. They traffic in the kind of content generally not seen traditionally on advertiser-supported television.

Those days are apparently over. With shows such as “Claws” and “Animal Kingdom,” which started its second season recently, TNT seems to aspire to be more like FX.

In fact, TNT and TBS President Kevin Reilly was once the head of programming at FX in the early 2000s when that network was making its bones with shows such as “The Shield” and “Nip/Tuck.” It is not unreasonable to conclude that he is applying the same strategy here.

The problem is that much of the taboo-shattering material in a show like “Claws” comes across as gratuitous and unnecessary, such as one scene in which Desna is seen sitting on the toilet and urinating. The scene is ostensibly about the lack of privacy she has in her private life.

Well, as a “Claws” viewer, I say give this woman her privacy and try and refrain from scenes showing her on the toilet. 

Fans of “Breaking Bad” will be interested to know that one of the standout stars of that show, Dean Norris, is also in “Claws.” He plays the southern-fried and very obnoxious kingpin of this opioid crime syndicate. He tears into the role too -- a little too much, truth be told, as if he’s hellbent on making everyone forget he ever played a good guy in “Breaking Bad.”

Believe it or not, aspects of the storytelling in “Claws” keep the show moving right along, and you do wind up rooting for Desna. But on the whole, the experience of watching “Claws” is ugly, unpleasant and, at least in part, wholly loathsome. It is not a way most of us would choose to spend our summer.

“Claws” premieres Sunday night (June 11) at 9 Eastern on TNT.

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