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Censored: The CW axes sexual 'Reign' scene
It seems that, even with a show that could be called nothing other than a guilty pleasure, exciting yourself is off-limits.
To be fair to the CW, it's their choice. If they want to cut the now-kind-of-infamous "masturbation" scene from their new show Reign (I say "kind of infamous" because, really, how many people are going to watch this thing?), they have full right to cut it. They decide what goes on their network and what's acceptable, and they can decide whether a fap or two will sour their reputation as the channel of One Tree Hill, Seventh Heaven, and any other early-2000 adolescent soap opera they've made money on over 20 years. (Although, it would be my advice to evolve that reputation into something relevant.)
But, if the CW really wanted to broadcast Reign – which it has, starting with last Thursday's series premiere and continuing with episode two tonight – then it needs to ask itself, "Why?"
How can you sell sex and steam without sex or steam?
This show has been promo'd as a Gossip Girl-meets-Game of Thrones, but if the CW thinks a few make-outs and a (I'm guessing?) girl-on-girl plotline – a staple of every teenage dramedy in between The O.C. and Pretty Little Liars – are what its viewers are watching it for, it doesn't understand its own content.
Game of Thrones isn't loved because it hints at sex or violence. It's loved because it shows sex and violence.
Gossip Girl, for its part, was a big deal in 2008, but you only needed a subscription to FX and a knowledge of when Californication was on before the adventures of Blair Waldorf seemed too PG to stimulate anything.
"It might have been the most risqué scene in The CW’s history had it aired uncut," wrote EW online, referring to Reign's axed depiction of manual labour. "The moment went from a clear 'I can’t believe they're actually showing this' to 'Was she doing what I think she was doing?'"
Essentially, they chickened out, but at the behest of advertisers and others who were uncomfortable with the pilot as it was originally edited. But TV's job is not to always make you feel comfortable. Ask the folks behind Boardwalk Empire.
How many times do you hear people saying the book is better than the movie, or something to that effect? (They say it about TV, too.) It's not because Hollywood can't tell a better story. It's because, when the writer pens that novel, he's doing it himself. It makes sense to him. He's holding himself accountable to put forth the best written work he's got, and his focus is on the craft, not the process.
When a studio gets involved – hey, when a publishing house gets involved – the mix is muddled. The final product isn't as pure. TV – especially TV from the CW – is cowardly.
Only the best shows turn the tides, and they do it for their own benefit. Mad Men was never threatened by copycats like The Playboy Club or Pan-Am, because Mad Men was for grown-ups and those shows were for children. Same goes for Boardwalk, which made Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby look like a Saturday morning cartoon.
Without the edge it's been advertising, there's no reason to watch Reign. There's no reason to read about it or even leave it running on MUTE while you're cooking dinner. Without an edge, Reign is no better than Underemployed – an MTV series that, in 2012, tried to wow audiences with plot lines that haven't been shocking since Jason Priestly was on a magazine cover. MTV quickly discovered its audience was a lot smarter than it thought, and Underemployed is on sabbatical.
Sure, cut the masturbation. It's cool. It's up to the CW.
But if the network thinks anyone's watching Reign for the dialogue, it should surrender its badge and satellite dish.