For a summer lark, when it is a hot late night, pour a tumbler of Pinot Grigio on the rocks and binge watch some of TNT’s audacious summer series Claws. It is a dark, smartly funny examination of female bad-ass-ness set in a nail salon in a South Florida strip mall that also includes a trailer with a sign that reads “We Sell Big Shrimps”, and the “Messianic Jewish Cafeteria And Internet Center” which hosts weekday square dancing events.
Like Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black, Claws is notable for how it brings fully drawn women characters of different sizes, shapes and ethnicities and provides a thoughtful, yet thoroughly entertaining meditation on the disenfranchised underclass of the USA.
Claws follows the rise of five diverse and treacherous manicurists working at the “Nail Artisan Of Manatee County Salon”, where there is a lot more going on than manicures. The salon owner Desna is played by the great Niecy Nash (Reno 911, Scream Queens, HBO’s Getting On), who lives with and cares for her autistic brother, Dean, played by Harold Perrineau. Desna’s staff includes her BFF Jenn (Jenn Lyon), a trying to stay sober ex-party girl raising two children of different races from two ex-boyfriends; and Quiet Ann (Judy Reyes), a butch lesbian with messy cornrows and a guy’s swagger, providing security for the salon with a baseball bat. Quiet Ann’s specialty is getting “straight” women to hook up with her.
Add in Polly, played by the always terrific Carrie Preston (True Blood, The Good Wife), a perky preppy who recently served time in prison for identity theft and who has an ankle bracelet monitoring her movements and likes to invent stories about why she ended up doing time; and Virginia (Karrueche Tran), who makes no effort to hide her boredom and impatience with her new job, but is desperate to fit in despite the racial insults about her ambiguously Asian features.
Creating additional chaos to the Nail Artisan Of Manatee County gang is Roller (Jack Kesy), a hot, but thuggish redneck who runs a barely legal pain clinic and uses Desna’s nail salon to launder his considerable profits; Bryce (Kevin Rankin), Jenn’s husband who is also trying to stay sober and stay legit by working as a life coach; and Dr. Ken (Jason Antoon), a real medical doctor at the decidedly illegitimate clinic. The entire group is under the control of the “She She’s Stripclub” owner Uncle Daddy, perfectly overplayed by Dean Norris (Breaking Bad), who is both very bisexual and very Catholic.
The series focuses on Desna’s frustration at being thwarted by the men in her life who rely on her and leave her out of the financial rewards. She lashes out in anger, with consequences funny and sinister.
Female-centric Claws is co-executive produced by Rashida Jones and Janine Sherman Barrois who also serves as showrunner. Plus, a series of women directors.
The whole thing a bit like Steel Magnolias and Breaking Bad had a baby in The Everglades. I swear, this series could only have been set in Florida. Where else would you see a funereal procession led by flat-bed trucks with strippers on their poles?