TV Review: ‘Claws’

TV Review: 'Claws,' Starring Niecy Nash

Niecy Nash and Carrie Preston star in this shaggy, fun TNT drama following crooked manicurists in the distinctly trashy landscape of Manatee County, Fla.

Aesthetically, “Claws” is magnificent. In the nail salon where much of the action takes place, the show’s palette pops with teal and pink and coral. The manicurists create bright, patterned and often bejeweled confections for their clients’ nails — and they dress themselves following the same philosophy. Everything is eye-catching and attention-grabbing, form-fitting and asset-enhancing. The looks are finished off with ambitious shoes, statement purses, fluorescent lipstick, and chunky jewelry. “Claws” is a show about manicurists dabbling in mild-to-moderate mob activity on the Gulf Coast of Florida. So the polyester jumpsuits and gilded sunglasses see some unconventional use. Early in the second episode, a character tries to drag a bloody corpse from one place to another in Lucite platform heels. In the pilot, one character gets roughed up by getting her face slammed into a rack of candy-colored nailpolishes.

“Claws” is a story about petty criminals, but it stands out because it portrays a culture that most television uses only as a cipher. A character in a network drama who walked in with inch-long acrylics and knee-high lace-up boots would likely be treated in a very specific way. Reality television similarly leans heavily on these style signifiers when creating narrative arcs for its “characters.” In “Claws,” the style is not shorthand for something else, it is the story. The characters are engaged in the art of crafting and distributing an element of that style: They own it. And because they are so proud of and attuned to their own aesthetic, they are practically strutting in their own reality show.

Like “Orange Is the New Black,” “Claws” is impressive primarily for how genuinely it engages with a disenfranchised underclass (without making it feel as boring or academic as that sounds). Desna (Niecy Nash), who owns the salon, has ambitions to get out of this hand-to-mouth life. Ex-con Polly (Carrie Preston) has an ankle bracelet monitoring her movements and likes to invent stories about why she went to prison. Quiet Ann (Judy Reyes) is a butch lesbian with messy cornrows and a man’s swagger, guarding the front door with a baseball bat. And Jen (Jenn Lyon) is an ex-addict and mother of two girls from two previous ex-boyfriends. On the outside of their crew, but desperate to get in, is pretty young thing Virginia (Karrueche Tran). There’s a bit of “Steel Magnolias”-esque small-town closeness in the crew’s tight-knit dynamic and beauty parlor gossip. But perhaps because of the emptiness of exurban Florida, there’s a desperation keeping them all together, too: Without each other and the life preserver of the salon, it would be so easy to drown.

The manicurists are almost all ex-strippers or sex workers, now hustling for tips in their 40s. They’re in the thrall of the petty crime lord that owns the strip club and launder money for the oxycodone clinic at the other end of the strip mall. They seem to have ended up in Manatee County, Fla., because no one else would take them. But even here, they’re treated like the underclass. There’s a subtle violence in the way their boyfriends, bosses, and husbands talk to them — in the way clients and patrons shrug off their protestations. The premiere shows us Desna’s long-simmering frustration at being sidelined by the men who rely on her and then shut her out of success. It’s not long before she acts on her anger, but of course, that has a long tail of consequences.

The characters of “Claws” inhabit that paradox of space outside both leftist intellectualism and conservative “family values” — they’re not self-consciously political in their language, but are mostly by necessity in one of the most vibrantly diverse communities in America. It creates interesting, unconventional storytelling scenarios. Virginia is repeatedly subject to a racist barrage of language about her Asian features, mostly from Desna — only to find Desna the only person willing to help her following a crisis. Other moments offer glimpses of this life: Jen’s two children appear to be completely different races, despite their shared mom; Ann’s specialty is getting “straight” women to hook up with her; and the “Dixie Mafia” is headed by strip-club owner Uncle Daddy (Dean Norris), who is both very bisexual and very Catholic.

As a vehicle for exploring this world, “Claws” is fascinating. As a storytelling machine, it’s a little less so. The primary story driver is that Desna is trying to invest in a new nail salon in a different neighborhood. But there’s so much thrown in the way — mobsters of various stripes, a quack with marital problems, Desna’s autistic brother Dean (Harold Perrineau), and the actual art and craft of manicures — that frequently it feels like “Claws” is over-embellishing its own fingertips. And though “Claws” admirably avoids judging this world, it still struggles with tone. The drama can’t quite decide how funny, smart, or pathetic it wants to be, and that can make for a jarring viewing experience. Desna’s relationship with wannabe mobster Roller (Jack Kesy) is where this problem is at its most pronounced. (This may be entirely because Roller is an amorous lover with a grill (the teeth kind), a grill (the barbecue kind), and penchant for manscaping. It’s hard to know how to feel about anything he does.)

There is something uniquely and pervasively raw about Floridian life — whether that is the alarming number of strip clubs per capita, the unrelentingly hot sun, or the population’s odd obsession with alligators. “Claws” gloms onto the landscape with surprising ease, riffing on Florida’s self-conscious trashiness (“WE SELL BIG SHRIMPS,” reads a sign outside the salon) and its gloriously unlikely cultural mashups. For its unique details alone, it’s thrilling. Jen ends up square dancing on a weekday morning at the “Messianic Jewish Cafeteria and Internet Center.” We’re deep in the slew of content that comprises Peak TV — but that’s not a moment you’ll find on any other show.


Seven Must Have Apps for Your Amazon Fire TV Stick

Seven Must Have Apps for Your Amazon Fire TV Stick


  • Amazon Fire TV Stick is available in India for Rs. 3,999
  • All apps below are free to download, though many require subscriptions
  • Apart from streaming apps, VLC is great for local content

Amazon’s Fire TV Stick launched in India last month, and in that time, we’ve seen a number of companies get on the bandwagon to provide their services through the platform. At Rs. 3,999, the Amazon Fire TV Stick is priced similarly to the Google Chromecast, though the two products are actually very different, as we noted in our review.

Getting the Amazon Fire TV Stick without subscribing to Amazon Prime doesn’t make a lot of sense. Not only is the device cheaper if you’re a Prime member – you get a Rs. 499 cash back as Amazon Pay balance after purchase – but only Prime members get access to Amazon Prime Video, which is a very good video service that’s reasonably priced. It’s also got its share of exclusives, including, most the latest one, American Gods.

The Fire TV Stick is well suited for people who want to browse around to find something they would watch, a little like you would on a regular television. If you’ve bought a Fire TV Stick, or are planning to do so, getting the right apps will certainly help. Here are seven apps that your Fire TV Stick should have, apart from Amazon Prime Video, obviously.

ALSO SEESeven Must-Have Apple TV Apps for Cord Cutters in India

1. YouTube
The YouTube app is basically just its TV website, but that doesn’t mean it’s not one of the most used apps on our Fire TV Stick. It’s easy to find the content you want, or browse your subs, and the world’s biggest video destination really needs no introduction.

youtube fire TV app youtube

Many publishers upload shows directly to YouTube, and it’s still home to a plethora of viral content. Once you’ve signed in, you can even control YouTube via your phone, so it’s really convenient.

Get YouTube for the Amazon Fire TV Stick

2. Netflix
Another obvious pick is Netflix, though the Netflix app doesn’t seem to be available in the India store as of now – hopefully it will be restored soon. While a Netflix subscription costs a lot more than Amazon Prime membership, the service has its share of much-loved exclusives.

netflix fire TV app Netflix

If you’re a fan of shows such as Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, or Iron Fist, or if you follow other originals like Master of None, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Orange is the New Black, or House of Cards, then Netflix is the best way to stay up to date with the latest episodes.

It helps that the Netflix interface translates really well to the big screen, loading smoothly and allowing you to quickly start browsing on the Fire TV Stick.

Get Netflix for the Amazon Fire TV Stick

3. Hotstar
If you think a Netflix subscription is too expensive, Star’s Hotstar is worth considering. It will give you access to HBO’s catalogue, with shows like Game of Thrones, Westworld, and Silicon Valley, along with the Disney and Marvel movies. On top of that, you can watch popular shows such as Modern Family, and Homeland. On top of this, for cricket fans, Hotstar is also where you can stream IPL, all international games played in India, and a whole lot more sporting action, including the likes of Premier League.

ALSO SEEAmazon Fire TV Stick vs Google Chromecast: Which One Is Right for You?

hotstar fire TV app hotstar

Between the two apps, Netflix definitely has a much better interface. But if you’re a cost-conscious streamer, then going with Hotstar is the obvious choice, because of its far more reasonably priced library of content.

Beyond that we should add that the app has been steadily improving since it first launched, and there’s every hope that it will get better on the Fire TV Stick as well.

Get Hotstar for the Amazon Fire TV Stick

4. Gaana
With the first three apps, you’ve got video-on-demand sorted out, but if you’re using YouTube to listen to music, you’re doing it wrong. Music discovery on YouTube is not great, and you’re also wasting a lot of bandwidth on the videos if you just want it for the songs.

gaana fire TV app gaana

We tried a number of different options for music streaming, but eventually we settled on the Gaana app. These are a few quirks about how search works, and the radio function, but the collection is good, the whole experience is free, and once you’re streaming, it works reliably. If you like a mix of Indian and international music, then Gaana is your best bet – on many days, we just planted ourselves in front of the TV, and let an automated playlist take over while getting work done on our laptop.

Get Gaana for the Amazon Fire TV Stick

5. DittoTV
DittoTV is an app that you stream live TV that’s otherwise broadcast to your televisions, and you can choose from a wide variety of content at just Rs. 20 a month, making it the most affordable ‘premium’ offering.

dittoTV fire TV app dittotv

With DittoTV, you get all the Zee channels, along with a number of additional channels. If you’re thinking of cord-cutting but haven’t made the leap yet because your favourite shows aren’t available online, DittoTV could help you to bridge the gap, at a fairly affordable rate – just be sure the channel(s) you want to see are part of the package.

Get DittoTV for the Amazon Fire TV Stick

6. VLC for Fire
You can get a number of different free media players for the FireTV, but our pick is VLC for Fire, a name that should be familiar from the PC world. The app lets you play locally stored videos, which you could have downloaded to the Fire TV Stick itself, or videos stored on the network.

vlc for fire fire TV app vlc

VLC plays a plethora of formats, and handles just about every kind of video smoothly, with options for subtitles and various playback controls. It’s smooth and reliable, and if you have a lot of offline content, getting VLC is an obvious decision.

Get VLC for Fire for the Amazon Fire TV Stick

7. Kodi
Formerly known as XBMC, the Kodi media centre is one of the most advanced ways to manage your library of content, and comes with a host of plugins that make it easy to enhance its capabilities.

The app was officially removed from the Amazon Appstore because it can be used for piracy, but it’s really easy to side-load apps onto the Fire TV Stick. All you need is the APK file, and a file management app. If you need a step by step guide, check out this detailed explainer.

kodi tv app kodi

Kodi allows you to manage your local library, and has a number of add-ons that really boost its functionality, turning it into a homepage where you can get all kinds of information such as your Twitter and RSS feeds, or weather updates, if you want the app to do all that. You can also get music and video plugins to automatically fetch lyrics and subtitles, and there are also a number of plugins that enable piracy for users so inclined.

Get Kodi from the Amazon Fire TV Stick

Bonus picks Although we’ve kept our main list to just media apps, there are a couple of other things we would strongly recommend you install on your Fire TV Stick. The first is ES File Explorer – this is one of our favourite file managers, and it’s really easy to use. It works well on the Fire TV Stick too, and is very useful if you’re storing videos on the Fire TV Stick, or if you’re trying to side-load apps like Kodi.

Second, we’d recommend getting the Firefox browser. You’ll need to side-load it similar to installing Kodi, but once you are up and running, Firefox a convenient way of finding new files for the Fire TV Stick using the device itself. Yes, it’s hard to navigate to a website if you are typing URLs using the TV remote, but you can connect a Bluetooth keyboard to the Fire TV Stick or use the companion app on your smartphone to make your life simpler.

Before we go, it’s also worth reminding that the Amazon Fire TV Stick supports a number of casual games. These go largely ignored since it’s pretty low-end and the remote isn’t well suited to gaming. However, if we had to recommend just one game for you to try, it would be Crossy Road, which is still free and fun.

These are our top picks, though there are a lot more apps you can and should install on your Fire TV Stick. Indian news channels have a presence – the apps could be better, but you should get your favourite channel anyway to stay up to date – and there are also some great DLNA apps you can install to easily get video content from your phone to your TV.

There’s a lot to choose from today, and it’s more feasible to ditch linear television than ever before. Have you taken the step yet, and if so, which of these apps are your favourites? Tell us via the comments.

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Netflix adds a screensaver to its TV apps to promote its original content

Netflix quietly launched a new discovery feature this week aimed at promoting its original programming to users who are watching via an app on their television. Now, when you leave the Netflix application idle, a screensaver will eventually appear displaying a rotating selection of Netflix’s Originals.

The company didn’t make a formal announcement about the new addition, which seemingly confused some users who didn’t expect to see this.

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

Netflix confirmed with TechCrunch that the screensaver rolled out globally to the TV experience this Tuesday, though it had been tested prior to now. It features the cover art for Netflix programming, including movies and TV shows.

There is no option to disable the feature nor configure any settings related to it — like how long before it appears after the screen remains idle, for example.

Right now, the screensaver is focused on Netflix Originals, instead of other featured programming, popular content or new releases. The idea here is to better promote Netflix’s original content that users may not be as familiar with — perhaps because they aren’t titles from traditional television, or blockbuster movies, or because they feature unknown actors.

The company did not confirm a detailed device lineup, but users have already reported seeing it on a variety of streaming players and TVs, including Android TV, Fire TV, Mi Box, Xbox One, PlayStation, Roku, various smart TVs and more.

According to Netflix, however, the screensaver feature is broadly available across all of Netflix’s TV apps, with the exception of some older and legacy devices.


Witness the genius of LG’s ultra-slim OLED TV wall mount

LG OLED Wall Mount 1

We’ve already enjoyed the splendour of LG’s new 2.5mm thick Signature OLED W7 at CES 2017, but it’s not just the TV that’s ultra slim. Its clever wall-mount system is equally stunning and ensures the TV sits completely flush against the wall.

It all starts with the mounting sheet, which sticks to the wall using adhesive. It has nine magnets to help secure the TV correctly in place, though there are also two hooks so it’s not just the power of magnetism securing your hugely expensive TV to the wall.

LG OLED Wall Mount 7What I saw at LG’s recent European convention looked very simple for two people to assemble, though LG plans to offer a ‘white glove’ service for owners, so they won’t have to do it themselves.

In case you were wondering, the wall mount comes with the TV as there is no traditional stand for this set – it’s wall-mount or nothing here.

LG OLED Wall Mount 1While the W7 isn’t especially heavy, it is very flexible. All this bending has no negative impact on the TV. We’ve come a long way from the humble CRT TV, that’s for sure.

LG OLED Wall MountThis is one of the two hooks that help hold the TV to the wall. They combine with the magnets to keep the TV securely fastened to the wall – you don’t even need to drill a single hole.

LG OLED Wall Mount 3There’s a single cable which runs to the provided Dolby Atmos soundbar. LG provides an extension cable should you require it, though it’s worth noting the soundbar can’t be wall mounted. You’ll need a shelf for it to sit on.

LG OLED Wall Mount 6And here’s a clearer view of how thin the mounting sheet is. That little metal circle is one of the hooks the TV sits on.

LG OLED Wall Mount 4The final result is a TV that mounts perfectly to the wall and sticks out only 2.5mm. Hell, if you were really clever you could make a little 2.5mm deep alcove so the TV wouldn’t stick out at all.

If you can afford it, that is – this TV is likely to cost around £10,000, which is hardly pocket change.

If you’re paying that much, you may as well make a little extra effort.

WATCH: Best TVs of CES 2017

The LG OLED W7 was one of the most exciting new TVs at CES 2017, but which was your favourite? Let us know in the comments.