Originally posted on Variety:
Asked about the trend toward “reprehensible protagonists” — a la “Breaking Bad’s” Walter White, “Boardwalk Empire’s” Nucky Thompson or “Dexter’s” serial killer — Showtime Entertainment chief David Nevins offered a surprisingly frank answer.
“It’s license,” he told reporters at the TV Critics Assn. tour in July. “Pay cable, you take license. Your licenses are sex, violence and bad behavior.”
Nevins omitted the other obvious one — salty language, and those few words (thank you, George Carlin) that still can’t be uttered on most of TV — but otherwise, he was right. There are several less-ostentatious attributes that differentiate pay cable in particular and to some extent basic’s raciest hours from broadcast TV, including the expanded running time of episodes, and nonexistent (or diminished) advertiser scrutiny. But it’s sex, for better or worse, that frequently generates headlines or provokes controversy.