Pay Cable’s Race to the Bottom

Good news for pay cable viewers who like their sex scenes graphic, bloody and spiked with an unhealthy dose of violence. HBO’s original series “True Blood” is set to begin its fifth season on June 10.  

While it remains to be seen if “True Blood” can top a scene from a previous season in which a male vampire twists a female’s head around 180 degrees during a bout of blood-drenched “hate sex,” the promos make clear that the season won’t skimp on the sex and violence.  

Unfortunately, as a pay cable show, “True Blood” is unique only in its vampire theme. Since the premium channels began to produce their own original series. HBO, Showtime and Starz churn out shows laden with wretched characters and repulsive dialogue, all with a heavy dose of pornography and blood-soaked drama. And, as critics have pointed out, as goes pay cable, so eventually will go broadcast programming. 

So HBO’s “Game of Thrones” featured a savage, sexual torture scene, and specializes in “sexposition” – characters doing monologues that advance the plot while they are engaged in a variety of sex acts. “Spartacus” a popular series on Starz, drew praise from Huffington Post for “generous helpings of graphic violence, orgiastic nudity, and racy sex.” Showtime’s sex-laden historical drama, “The Borgias” hints at incest, and a porn industry editor said of the network’s reality show “Gigolos,” “Please, it’s porn! [T]hey’re showing hardcore sex.” 

The MRC’s Culture and Media Institute analyzed the original series of HBO, Showtime and Starz and concluded:

  • Pornographic sex and bloody violence are found in the majority of premium content, and producers seek to add more in the future.

  • Broadcast TV is sinking to pay cable’s lack of standards as free network channels include more soft-core sex scenes and violent drama in their original series. 

While the FCC has precise regulations against indecency and obscenity in broadcast TV these provisions do not apply to pay cable channels, since the viewer chooses to pay extra for them. 

According to Dan Isett of Parents Television Council, the series “Sex and the City” and “The Sopranos” were the catalyst for pay cable’s dark turn, and premium content jumps joyfully into the abyss with each new show. 

“Pay cable defines deviancy for everyone. It is essentially the porning up of popular culture,” Benjamin Shapiro, Editor-at-large, said. 

‘True Blood’ and ‘Game of Thrones’ – Porn With A Better Script 

HBO hits regularly feature pornographic scenes. “True Blood” has featured characters engaged in orgies, glorified drug-induced sexual encounters, regularly mixed blood and sex and subjected audiences to the scene described above –  television’s goriest sex scene yet.. Two vampires (Bill and Lorena) had gruesome hate sex in a blood-bathed bed, with Bill strangling Lorena and twisting her head 180 degrees during sex. Bones crunched when Bill buried his fangs in the Lorena’s neck, and he arose with a bloody face and demonic scream. 

HBO’s actors aren’t bothered by it, or at all circumspect about nude scenes. Anna Paquin who plays Sookie Stackhouse on “True Blood” said in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, “I don’t pretend to think that on the 18th hour of shooting anyone on set gives two flying whatevers that I have my tits out.” 

Paquin appeared with fellow cast-mates Stephen Moyer and Alexander Skarsgard on a smutty Rolling Stone , which featured all three stars naked and covered in blood, with Paquin posing seductively between the two men. 

Chillingly, this show was nominated for the 2012 Teen Choice Awards, an awards show where the nominees and winners are hand-picked by teenagers. That’s right; children who are probably too young to watch an R-rated film are viewing the violent, sexual mess that is “True Blood.” 

Producer Alan Ball told Rolling Stone that he believed vampires are sex. “I don’t get a vampire story about abstinence. I don’t care about high school students. I find them irritating and uniformed,” Ball said

Stephen Moyer, who plays Southern vampire Bill Compton lavished explicit and gory praise for “True Blood” and its undead cast. 

“It's a de-virginization — breaking the hymen, creating blood and then drinking the virginal blood. And there's something sharp, the fang, which is probing and penetrating and moving into it. So that's pretty sexy. I think that makes vampires attractive," Moyer said in an interview. 

Rolling Stone gleefully devoted an entire spread to "True Blood's" sexual deviancy. “On [True Blood] every available orifice is used for intercourse: gay straight, between humans and supernatural beings, and supernatural being on supernatural being, whether he be werewolf, dog, or an enormous Minotaur-looking being called a maenad.” 

“True Blood” is a twisted mess, they won’t be surprised to discover the actors are as demented as the morally bankrupt characters the play. Moyer admitted he enjoyed the show's sexual fetishes

“It’s about taking things to the point of where normal frames of society wouldn’t think was an okay thing for a young, Southern girl to do. It’s interesting to think about sex as the search for a moment together which is a glorious combination of orgasm and sexual oneness that might lead to death,” Moyer said. 

The new Season 5 poster touts the slogan “Stake 5” with five wooden stakes dripping blood. The fifth season trailer(video below) overflows with blood and violence giving audiences a glimpse of mutilated bodies and characters bathed in blood, and highlights a character saying, “Humans should be farmed like cattle.” 


 The wild popularity of “True Blood” paved the way for HBO’s next original show, “Game of Thrones.” The series is a medieval drama, based on George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” book series, and while the plot drastically differs from “True Blood,” it too features ridiculous amount of graphic sex. 

“Game of Thrones” has been criticized even by left-leaning critics at Huffington Post and The Washington Post for its appalling amounts of sex and nudity; specifically for a savage, sexual torture scene where child-king Joffrey forced prostitute Ros to beat another prostitute, Daisy, with a spiked bronze scepter. Joffrey held the two at crossbow-point, and a sadistic smile played on his face as Daisy’s screams echoed across the walls of his bedroom. 

“The show’s relentless use of nudity has become so outlandish,” said Anna Holmes of The Washington Post, “that it often overshadows or distracts from the natural story.” 

HuffPo’s Lorraine Wilke commented, “Apparently the writers and show-runners holding the reins at premiere cable land are bursting to expose every sexual anecdote they’ve ever heard, witnessed, or experienced.” 

“Game of Thrones” relies heavily on “sexposition,” the technique of pairing plot exposition with sex. Lefty entertainment website Vulture tallied the "greatest sexposition moments" in “Thrones,” complete with pictures.  

At the Daily Beast, writer Jace Jacob observed:

While frank sex in HBO shows is common (just look at True Blood), Game of Thrones appears to be placing it front and center … There's been a litany of such scenes: Harry Lloyd's Viserys recounts his family's sordid history to a pleasure slave astride him in the bathtub; Alfie Allen's Theon offers a full-frontal view of his manhood after having sex with a prostitute; there's Peter Dinklage's Tyrion, abed with multiple whores in the series opener; and a scene between Emilia Clarke's Daenerys and her handmaiden turns into a steamy lesbian-tinged sex training sequence.  

Esme Bianco, who played the prostitute Ros starred in her own provocative lesbian sex scene, as an audition for brothel owner Petyr Baelish.  Baelish then delivered a monologue while the two prostitutes graphically pleasured each other. This scene was created for television, and didn’t appear in the books. 

“The [above scene] came out of left field,” commented Ben Shapiro. “To write this scene in, it was obvious HBO thought they needed to add more graphic sex.” 

“Thrones” wrapped up its second season on June 3 and will begin a third season next year.  

HBO’s Original Series – Birthed in Immorality 

HBO’s rush for the gutter began to accelerate with series like “Entourage,” and “Big Love.”  

The LA Times gushed about “Big Love,” saying, “For three seasons, the HBO drama about a polygamist family was astonishing in its narrative agility, able to persuade increasingly devoted audiences that the Henrickson clan — one husband, three wives — was not all that different from their non-polygamous counterparts.” 

“Entourage” happily held up a mirror to Hollywood’s debauchery. The Hollywood Reporter described “Entourage” as “The concoction: fame, money, sex, drugs, parties, more parties, more sex, more fame, more money and then a bunch of detours for everyone else in the entourage to have either a lower-level semblance of the same happen to them or, to prove a point, not happen to them at all.” 

The newest addition to HBO’s sex-obsessed lineup is “Girls,” a comedy written by Lena Dunham and Judd Apatow. In the first episode viewers were treated to a demoralizing BDSM sex scene, as Dunham’s character Hannah was used like a play-thing by her boyfriend, Adam. described the scene as “borderline date rape,” but the awful sex doesn’t stop there. Allison Williams, daughter of NBC anchor Brian Williams, was featured in an explicit masturbation scene. Fellow characters Jessa and Shoshanna regularly have sex and perform oral sex on the show. 

Sex Sells on Showtime 

Showtime loves prostitutes. Two of its original series focus on the trade. “Gigolos” is a reality show which follows five male escorts who service women in Las Vegas, while “Secret Diary of a Call Girl” focused on a female prostitute. called “Gigolo’s” sexual content a “graphic sign of our times.” Explicit sex scenes are inserted between reality TV-like confessional interviews and Mark Kernes of Adult Video news said “Gigolos” falls into the pornography genre. “Please, it’s porn! If they’re showing hardcore sex, and the theme of the show is sexually oriented, it could hardly be anything else,” he said. 

Historical dramas like “The Borgias” and “The Tudors” trade facts for foreplay, and are laden with gratuitous sex. “The Borgias” chronicles the life of the corrupt Borgia family who rose to power in the Catholic Church and is fraught with bed-hopping and rumored incest. 

“Brother-sister duo Cesare and Lucrezia look like they are mere seconds from making out with each other,” said Morgan Glennon of Huffington Post.

“The Tudors” included a bounty of sex scenes and bordered on a "soft-core skin flick" in most episodes, and “The Borgias” is following suit. 

 “Californicaton” takes pride in showcasing the graphic sexual escapades of failed writer Hank Duchovny. His immoral landslide included sleeping with a violent 16-year-old girl.  

The moral standards of pay cable are non-existant, and Showtime producers take pride in how far the network can push any boundary. Ten of its original series are fixated on explicit sex and often descend into violence-porn. 

Showtime’s most depraved series is “Dexter,” which glorifies murder and violence, and (of course) boasts lots of casual sex. Dexter is described as television’s “anti-hero,” a man who at a young age discovered joy in murdering humans. But to Showtime that’s just fine if the victim is a criminal. 

“Our leading man is a serial killer. He constantly obsesses and dialogues with his dead adoptive father. He keeps blood slides and murder weapons and consistently deceives the people around him in order to rack up body counts. The show's very premise inspired protests from groups such as the Parents Television Council. We see Dexter's mania manifesting virtually every week,” "The Atlantic" reported.   

The friendly serial killer next-door even tells his child bedtime stories. In one episode Dexter told his son a story about monsters being slain and chopped up into pieces so small no one will ever find them.

Other sordid Showtime offerings include “Nurse Jackie” and “Weeds.”  

“Nurse Jackie” follows the life of adultering, painkiller addict Jackie, who spends most of her lunch breaks having sex with her lover, the hospital pharmacist who supplies her with drugs. 

New York Magazine described the character: “Double shifts and 80-hour weeks have left her with a bad back, and that has led her to grind Percocet into her coffee sweetener and snort lines of Aderall in the ladies’ room.” 

As befits late night premium cable, “Weeds” dialed up the raunch. Character speech is laced with profanity, and the heroine is a dysfunctional suburban mom who turned to dealing pot so she could support her extravagant lifestyle. Casual sex and nudity are common. 

Newcomer “House of Lies” is described by actress Kristen Bell. “This show is for fans of sophisticated filth, which I think really sums it up. I was looking for something daring – that’s a better way to put it than provocative and raunch. It’s relevant in the current zeitgest with the whole Occupy movement. All of these characters are wheeling and dealing, showing you behind-the-scenes dirty business. I think it’s attractive, sophisticated filth,” Bell told Huffington Post

Liberal Media Rewards Debauchery 

The media loves to highlight the filth of pay cable television. “True Blood” has a long list of awards, including nominations for 12 Emmys and three Golden Globes. Both “Game of Thrones” and “Dexter” were nominated for Emmys in their respective categories. 

“Game of Thrones” and “True Blood” regularly receive positive reviews from both The Washington Post and The New York Times. 

Sarah Anne Hughes, a blogger for the Post, seemed very emotional about the “Game of Thrones” second season closer, “Take a moment. Exhale. Wipe away any remaining tears. It’s not goodbye, just see you later,” she wrote

The New York Times’ Gina Bellefante couldn’t get enough of True Blood’s gritty sex. Bellefante wrote, “The sex is served in such luridly voluptuous, viewer-satiation-guaranteed portions that the show feels like nothing else on television, by which I mean television that isn’t available exclusively on $15.99 hotel-room pay-per-view.”

 New York Magazine  raved about the abhorrent plot of “Girls.” “As a person who has followed, for more than twenty years, recurrent, maddening ­debates about the lives of young women, the series felt to me like a gift. Girls was a bold defense (and a searing critique) of the so-called Millennial Generation by a person still in her twenties. It was a sex comedy from the female POV, taking on subjects like STDs and abortion with a radical savoir-faire as well as a visual grubbiness that was a statement in itself,” wrote Emily Nussbaum. 

The Danger of Pay Cable

“Pay cable can deliver content no one else allows you to have because they make the big bucks in debauchery,” Shapiro told CMI. “The liberalism is obvious. They are happy to be pushing boundaries and take great pride in degrading American discourse. From now on the entertainment industry will be competing at the lowest common denominator.”  

The lack of standards in pay cable is giving audiences a glimpse into the nasty future of broadcast television. Regular cable networks regularly feature ribald behavior and vile rhetoric.  FOX’s “Glee” is a series geared toward kids ages 12-17, but the dark agenda of the show is masked behind a peppy, musical world.   

“To me, ‘Glee’ is more dangerous than ‘Game of Thrones.’ It has a specifically designed political and adult agenda set in a high-school musical world,” Shapiro said.  

A recent episode of “Glee” centered around teenagers losing their virginity and featured a gay sex scene.  

FX’s “American Horror Story” and “Nip/Tuck” were so horrifying that even the cast was shocked at the content, and questioned whether it was appropriate for broadcast TV.    

American Horror Story” featured voyeurism, dual masturbation, and a masochistic minute-and-a-half long sexual encounter between characters. Even the opening credits for the series were set to make the average audience gag in horror, with shots of mutilated body parts and the heads of infants preserved in jars. 

“Nip/Tuck” aired scenes of slutty plastic surgeons engaged in graphic sex. In one episode an incestuous mother/daughter threesome occurred.

The licentiousness and perversion of premium content is no longer contained to pay channels only. In fact, Ryan Murphy, creator of “Nip/Tuck,” “American Horror Story” and “Glee,” famously stated it is his goal to “remove every barrier to the depiction of explicit sex on TV.” Slowly but surely, he’s succeeding.  

“Pay cable shows like “The Sopranos” and “Sex and the City” both air on broadcast television channels,” PTC’s Isett said. While they’re edited they’re still extremely adult. They are bundled into your channels and appear in your TV guide. The problem is how these raunchy, filthy shows are marketed more widely than only on premium cable.”