HBO to Take the Skin Out of Cinemax

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pdspmc.jte6tr.nn5z4In news that will bring a tear to the eye of fans of erotic thrillers, Shannon Tweed and any movie with the words ‘Bikini’ or ‘Car Wash’ in the title, Variety is reporting that HBO has slowly started to take the skin out of Cinemax.

Yes, those golden days of busty women boobing around with their boobs all hither and thither will soon be replaced with “higher quality” original programming. “The hope is that I don’t hear ‘Skinemax’ any time after our…primetime originals…start to really take over the (lineup),” as HBO’s president of programming, Michael Lombardo told Variety.

In spite of the fact that Cinemax, “continued to perform well…in the absence of any kind of…specific marketing identity,” HBO believes that giving the channel a slate of original programming, “could represent an untapped opportunity and give cable, satellite and telco distributors a new tactic to use in convincing their customers to subscribe.” Which isn’t exactly true. Cinemax did have an identity. It was the naked boob channel and if you didn’t think that helped convince customers to subscribe you’re crazy.

One of the original programs that will be destroying the one-sided sex lives of lonely 14 year olds without internet access will be Steven Soderburgh’s Knick which will premiere sometime in 2014 and be set in a “Manhattan hospital, circa 1900, when surgeons must push boundaries without the aid of antibiotics while facing high mortality rates.” Variety also reports that Strike Back is quickly becoming the network’s “signature show” and “its third season has nearly doubled the audience of its first”. Incidentally, this is the first time I’ve ever heard of Strike Back. Can you call something your signature show when it’s so obscure?

Ironically, as Cinemax sheds its soft-core identity, the pay cable landscape around it is starting push back against sexual boundaries. From the simulated ejaculation scene from that Girls episode last season to Showtime’s Masters of Sex, it’s clear that pay cable content has definitely come of age. However, as Variety points out, most of that sexual content is merely exploitive. There’s still a notable absence of full-frontal male nudity and as Los Angeles Times critic Mary McNamara, notes shows like Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire have a tendency to set scenes in brothels simply because they can.

Obviously it would be unfair to compare the high production values and top notch writing of HBO’s original programming with the cable-ready oeuvre of Beverly Lynn. But whether you’re masturbating to “Bikini Escort Company” or masturbating to the latest episode of Game of Thrones, you’re still masturbating. And in a perfect world films about eager young women who want to save their Uncle’s failing car wash with a can-do, topless attitude would always have a home at Cinemax.

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