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With FX's Superb 'Clipped,' Ignorance Is Bliss

By Dustin Rowles | TV | June 6, 2024 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | June 6, 2024 |


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Growing up, I was a regular viewer of the big three in sports: MLB, NFL, and NBA. Around the time I got a full-time job, however, I had to give up on the NBA, and 400 scripted shows a year and three kids meant that I also had to give up baseball eventually. The NFL’s weekly games for six months out of the year is about all the bandwidth I have.

While I rarely watch, I still keep up with baseball, but the NBA is entirely in my periphery now. I can tell you what team LeBron plays for; I can identify enough player names to briefly be confused that Kevin Durant did not look like I thought he’d look in Abigail; and I have a rough idea of when certain teams were good. The Celtics are usually solid; the Golden State Warriors had a nice run, and I’m pretty sure I remember being surprised that the Los Angeles Clippers had a great team because they’d been basement dwellers when I was watching.

Given my limited knowledge of the NBA, FX’s Clipped is perfect television for me. I know just enough to be interested but not enough that most of what is happening is new to me. I know who Doc Rivers is. I know who Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are, and I know that Donald Sterling had to sell the Clippers after racist audio clips surfaced. I did not, however, know any of the circumstances surrounding the release of the audio clips; I knew nothing about the relationship between Donald Sterling and his wife; and I have no idea if the Clippers pulled off a championship in the same year.

This would be easy to look up, but I don’t want to know. I’m usually so aware of all the details involving scandals of this magnitude that little in a movie or a television series would surprise me. Everything about FX’s Clipped is blowing my mind, however, although I suspect that even those well versed in the NBA would find the series almost equally tantalizing.

Donald Sterling is a gross man, and as played by Ed O’Neill, he’s almost hard to watch with his icky feet and bad dye jobs. He’s a married 80-year-old racist man with a fondness for women. However, I’m guessing he has no real ability to make things in that department work. He has a mistress, V (Cleopatra Coleman), who he parades around like property but with whom he does not have sex. Meanwhile, his wife Shelly (Jacki Weaver), puts up with the other women — despite how humiliating it is — because Donald constantly reassures her that she’s who he comes home to.

Sterling also treats the players on his team like show horses, and Doc Rivers (played with perfection by Laurence Fishburne) barely tolerates his racist bullshit while trying to protect his players from him. It seems as though everyone who has encountered Sterling walks away with lifelong emotional trauma. It’s a powder keg of tension, and when the audio tapes surface, it all threatens to explode.

This gripping narrative is crafted by creator Gina Welch, who has writing and producing credits on two of the better miniseries in recent memory, Under the Banner of Heaven and Station Eleven. If Clipped continues to be as good as the first two episodes, it will join their ranks. It’s great television, Ed O’Neill and Laurence Fishburne are killing it, and I can’t wait to see how the team navigates the fallout.