Nail salons and crime go together like ... well, actually I’m not sure they go together at all. But TNT’s new hourlong dramedy “Claws” finds a way to mix the two in an appropriately trashy, entertainingly desensitizing Southern cocktail.
Comic actress Niecy Nash (“Scream Queens,” “Reno 911!”) headlines the show’s ensemble cast as Desna, the tough and protective HBIC of Nail Artisans in colorful Manatee County, Fla. Des and her girls take pride in “painting hooves,” but that doesn’t mean they don’t dream of a better life. Rounding out the strip-mall storefront’s manicure and pedicure stations are straight-laced old-timer Polly (Carrie Preston from “True Blood”), white trash mom Jennifer (stage actress Jenn Lyon), neck-tattooed butch bitch Quiet Ann (Judy Reyes, “Jane the Virgin”) and nosey newcomer Virginia (celebrity stylist-
In addition to running the salon, Desna is energetically banging white boy gangsta Roller (sleazy hunk Jack Kesy, “The Strain”), whose dad (Dean Norris from “Breaking Bad,” adding some serious scenery-chewing to the proceedings) runs the self-styled “Dixie Mafia” in town. While dreaming of that better life (and a fancier salon), Desna finds herself getting entangled deeper and deeper in a money-laundering scheme with this local crime syndicate. It pays money, but not enough. As New Year’s Eve approaches, Desna’s promise of getting out and starting a new life is complicated when things go south with her larcenous boyfriend. Naturally, things blow up (in a particularly nasty way), so the ladies decide to take matters into their own hands, rise up and stake their own criminal territory. But are these improvised plans gonna bite them in the ass? Probably.
Nash provides a lot of energy as the badass mother hen of this criminal brood. The other ladies embrace their stereotypes with a certain gusto. The script gives them various backstories to work though, stretching the narrative beyond mere crime drama. Back at home, for example, Desna gets to deal with her severely autistic brother Dean (Harold Perrineau from “Lost”)—yet another motivating factor for her to rise up out of poverty and oppression.
The show frequently—and with varying degrees of success—tries to mix the overly stylized look of a hip-hop “Miami Vice” and the low-rent criminal shenanigans of “Better Call Saul.” Occasionally, it finds its own voice, however—in the tough camaraderie of the ladies and in the unapologetically raunchy way it presents itself. Set amid the strip clubs and oxycodone clinics of central Florida, there’s plenty sex, drugs and R-rated language to go around. “She used to dance at Chi-Chi’s until she bit a Mississippi state legislator for trying to put a cigar in her ass,” is how the show chooses to describe our gal Virginia. Family hour, this is not. But its mix of rowdy comedy, rude shocks and good, old-fashioned Florida noir tell us this could be a down-and-dirty adventure worth sticking with.