HBO's 2007 drama series Tell Me You Love Me gained some controversy due to its sex scenes - here's why. Television is currently considered to be going through something of a golden period, due to acclaimed shows like The Handmaid's Tale, Black Mirror, Stranger Things and many, many more. HBO is often credited with helping transform the modern television landscape thanks to groundbreaking series like Oz and The Larry Sanders Show.
One show that really broke the mold for TV was The Sopranos, about the complicated life of gangster Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini), who decides to see a therapist for his anxiety. The quality of the acting and writing was easily the match of anything on the big screen. HBO has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to acclaimed dramas and comedies, including The Wire, Barry, and Chernobyl.
HBO excels at crafting adult dramas, which often includes frank depictions of both violence and sex. Tell Me You Love Me was a show that debuted on the network in 2007 and explored the complicated relationships of three couples who share the same therapist Dr. Foster, played by Jane Alexender. Tell Me You Love Me was intended to be an honest look at the lives of these characters, and explore the issues and difficulties of marriage. The show's creator Cynthia Mort wanted a naturalistic feeling so it was shot with handheld cameras and features little to no music. This naturalism extended to the show's many sex scenes, which were intense by even HBO's standards. The explicitness of these sequences even led to media reports the actors were actually having sex on camera.
While these reports may have garnered Tell Me You Love Me some publicity, the cast and crew have dismissed those rumors. Actress Michelle Borth admitted the love scenes may have looked intense but they were simulated, and co-star Adam Scott (Parks And Recreation) revealed in an AV Club interview he wore a fake prosthetic penis for certain sequences after refusing to film full-frontal nudity. Director Patricia Rozema - who directed the pilot - also denied the show featured unsimulated sex.
Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding Tell Me You Love Me's sex scenes overshadowed the show itself, with Scott also admitting it was frustrating the topic was all people could focus on. The series received good reviews and solid ratings, but despite being renewed for a second season, it was eventually canceled when Cynthia Mort couldn't develop a satisfying way to continue the story.