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For many couch potatoes in the pre-online era, HBO was an easy source of nude imagery in the late night hours, where one could stumble upon often thought-provoking unscripted fare like Real Sex or Taxicab Confessions, or a thinly plotted softcore "romance." Those days are over now, and the Internet is only partly to blame. HBO fanatics may have noticed that the network has removed all its sexually motivated adult programming from linear airings and from its streaming services. It's truly the end of an era, although Game of Thrones and Westworld will still be all about those boobs and dongs.
The recent purge of HBO's more illicit shows and movies has been quietly happening through the summer, and while some might put the blame on the Time Warner acquisition putting the network under AT&T's iron thumb, that's not the whole story behind the decision. An HBO spokesperson told the Los Angeles Times that even before its parent company was bought up, network execs were already having conversations about paring back on explicit programming. In the rep's words:
Over the past several years HBO has been winding down its late-night adult fare. While we're greatly ramping up our other original program offerings, there hasn't been a strong demand for this kind of adult programming, perhaps because it's easily available elsewhere.
Indeed, one of HBO's bigger draws in its earlier years was that one could watch such provocative content without having to purchase or rent videos outside the home, and it also rang less alarm bells than a separate subscription to the Playboy Channel, or cable bills full of pay-per-view porn charges. But now that the Internet has become a one-stop shop for anyone's pornographic needs, of either the softcore or hardcore variety, people have far less of a need to seek that kind of entertainment out on cable. Amusingly, nudity-filled clips from several of HBO's hits can be regularly found on various adult websites, bringing things around full circle.
On top of all that, HBO has long been considered part of TV's upper echelon as far as scripted fiction goes, which wasn't the case when the network was first documenting people's sex lives for Real Sex and similar fare. But it's not like these shows weren't also popular with viewers, with episodes repeating for years after their initial airings. Plus, Taxicab Confessions actually won a Primetime Emmy in 1995 for Outstanding Informational Special, and it was nominated another three times in the following years.
But now, HBO is busy winning tons of other awards thanks to Game of Thrones, Big Little Lies, Veep and more, so it's going to be completely focused on putting all of its money into more popular fare, even if sex and nudity are still part of the equation. Not that HBO had produced any of its adult doc shows in the past few years, with Showtime having taken over the mantle in that department with shows like Gigolos and Submission.
When it comes to currently airing shows, HBO just wrapped up the psychosexual drama of Sharp Objects, and will soon get back underway for Season 2 of the porn-centered drama The Deuce. For more new and returning shows sashaying their way onto the small screen soon, head to our fall TV premiere schedule.