A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Claws is a dark dramedy about women who work in a nail salon that launders money for a criminal enterprise. Drug use is common: characters snort cocaine, drink liquor, and smoke cigarettes. A shady doctor provides illicit pain prescriptions to addicts, an enterprise we're repeatedly told is very lucrative. Guns are brandished and fired; a man is killed suddenly and floats in a pool with blood oozing from his wound. Women try to hide a dead body by dumping it in the ocean. Strong sexual content includes several different characters having sex with thrusting and moaning; men are visible at length from behind, and women glimpsed nude from the waist down and from the side. Oral sex is depicted in several scenes including a same-sex scene; a man chokes a woman during sex (she is rescued by another woman). Frank topics in the nail salon include stripping, sex work, body parts, and various profane sex acts. Cursing and strong language includes "ass," "bitch," "hell," "s--t," "c--ksucker," "titties," "turd," "dick," "faggot."
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What's the story?
Set in a South Florida nail salon, CLAWS centers on Desna (Niecy Nash), salon owner who lives with her developmentally disabled twin brother, Dean (Harold Perrineau) and has dreams of owning a classier salon in a better neighborhood. Desna's staff includes her shakily sober good-times best friend Jen (Jenn Lyon), mild-mannered recent felon Polly (Carrie Preston), mysterious driver and security guard Quiet Ann (Judy Reyes), and snotty and duplicitous manicurist Virginia (Karrueche Tran). Complicating matters are Desna's treacherous bohunk boyfriend Roller (Jack Kesy), who's using Desna's salon to launder the ridiculous profits he makes with the illicit prescription pill-mill owned by his unstable father, Uncle Daddy (Dean Norris). With both Roller and Uncle Daddy fighting to keep Desna right where she is, even as she struggles to get away, it's a sure bet that a clash is coming -- and Desna will use any means at her disposal to get what she wants.
Is it any good?
Dramedies set in a criminal underworld are nothing new in TV's golden age, but this show's focus on a unique crew of fiercely ambitious and compelling women sets it apart. The first notice that we're about to see something unusual comes in the first few moments of Claws' first episode, when a remarkable scene depicts three women of unconventional beauty -- each performs a solo strut walk to show how they intend to take charge of a room. Not an important moment, plotwise, but massive in terms of what it means: These women who are of an age to be relegated to the sidelines, are instead confidently taking center stage, each one struggling in her one way towards self-actualization and happiness.
The fact that Desna's path to happiness seems to lead directly through a criminal enterprise doesn't detract from her appeal. As we soon see, she's juggling several different concerns, chiefly her unfaithful lug of a boyfriend (the scion of a local Florida crime boss), her developmentally disabled adult brother, and her desperate desire to run her own salon, free from the obligations her unsavory friends impose on her. This is a woman who is desperate, not just to survive, but to thrive, and each of the woman buffing and polishing beside her have their own dreams, struggles, and dark pasts. It's a strange kind of sisterhood to know your girlfriends would lie, steal, and killl for you, but it sure makes for a fantastic TV show.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about dysfunctional characters in Claws and discuss why writers so often turn to them for good material. Why is a person with serious problems a more compelling character than one with a calm, "normal" life?
Is the audience supposed to sympathize with Desna? How can you tell? How are we supposed to regard her many transgressions? How is a sympathetic character presented, and how is that different from an unsympathetic character?
Criminal enterprises are often the setting for dark dramas. What other examples can you name? How does the show keep you invested in characters who do bad things?