Showrunners Michelle Ashford, Carlton Cuse, Jenji Kohan Talk Sex, Emmys and Binge-Watching at HRTS Panel

No topic – from sex and nudity to binge-watching – was off limits at the Hollywood Radio and Television Society’s Hitmakers Newsmaker luncheon as the creators of some of the most popular shows on TV discussed what it takes to create and maintain a hit skein.

Michelle Ashford, creator of Showtime’s “Masters of Sex,” “Bates Motel” creator Carlton Cuse and Jenji Kohan, the mastermind behind the Netflix series “Orange Is the New Black,” came together Wednesday afternoon at the Beverly Hilton for a panel discussion moderated by TV Guide’s Michael Schneider.

Even though sex is the main topic of her show, Ashford said she was presented with an interesting dilemma since she doesn’t enjoy watching “tons of graphic sex scenes in the movies or on television.”

“It was an odd thing that I ended up with a show about sex since I’m sort of one of the biggest prudes on Earth about this,” she admitted, adding that her goal was to only show sex in a way that related to the story.

Kohan had the opposite reaction.

“I love graphic sex,” she said. “The more sex the better.”

Though convincing the actors to do sex scenes or be comfortable with nudity often poses a challenge, Kohan explained that Netflix has not imposed any restrictions.

“We’ve had no limits so far,” Kohan said. “We had some male frontal nudity this season.”

When asked if there is such a thing as a drama or comedy anymore, Cuse replied, “Only for Emmys, apparently.” Kohan also wished for an hour-long category and a half-hour category.

Cuse said the decision of where to shoot a TV show now often comes down to a question of tax credits. The choice to film both “Bates Motel” and his upcoming show “The Strain” in Canada was “purely economics,” he said.

All the panelists expressed their distaste for the pilot process, which Cuse likened to “a form of haiku poetry,” as opposed to the straight-to-series approach.

The panelists also weighed in on binge-watching.

Ashford said she doesn’t have time to binge-watch shows and, though fans seem to enjoy immersing themselves in 13 hours of nonstop streaming, Kohan expressed nostalgia for the good old days of traditional TV viewing.

“I miss having people on the same page,” she said. “I miss the watercooler thing.”

Ashford, whose show is based on Thomas Maier’s biography of Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson, said “Masters of Sex” has “stayed very close to the truth.”

“Masters of Sex” and “Orange Is the New Black” are set to return with new seasons in the summer, and Ashford said season two of “Masters” will move into a completely different element while Kohan said she has tried to incorporate the fans’ favorite things from season one.

“The whole season is just dance parties, pie throwing and urination,” she teased.

In addition to the third season of “Bates Motel,” Cuse will also serve as exec producer of the vampire-themed FX show “The Strain,” which premieres in July.

“The Blacklist” creator John Eisendrath was originally slated for the panel, but had to back out due to a scheduling conflict.

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