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Episode: "Pilot" (1993)
In 2016, the sex scene in the pilot of NYPD Blue between Detective John Kelly (David Caruso) and Officer Janice Licalsi (Amy Brenneman) looks kinda cheesy and not all that scandalous. Back in the day, however, local affiliates declined to air the show because of that scene. Regardless of how we view the moment today, it's impossible to talk about sex on TV without talking about NYPD Blue, which predated cable dramas like The Sopranos.
Pictured: Amy Brenneman and David Caruso in NYPD Blue
Queer as Folk
Episode: "Premiere" (2000)
The first episode of Queer as Folk — Showtime's adaptation a British series — features a graphic scene in which the older, sexually experienced Brian (Gale Howard) and high school-aged Justin (Randy Harrison) have sex. Given that it's Justin's first time, the scene verges on instructional, and it's remarkably explicit, even compared to a more recent show like Looking. According to Out, it marked "the first simulated sex between two men shown on American television." The show lasted for five seasons, and actor Hal Sparks has argued that it didn't get the credit it deserved as a pioneer in depicting gay relationships. "I get a little bit pissed at times about how forgotten we can be to certain extent, and how we played a major part in paving the way for actors to feel more comfortable playing gay roles," he told Out.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Episode: "Touched" (2003)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer was always progressive in its depiction of sexuality, but it's not until the final season that it actually shows Willow (Alyson Hannigan) engaging in lesbian sex. Her scene with Kennedy (Iyari Limon) is still relatively tame, but it was a first for broadcast TV.
Episode: "We're Not in Kansas Anymore" (2008)
Oh, Beverly Hills, where teens give each other blow jobs in cars. New girl in town Annie (Shenae Grimes-Beech) sees her old fling Ethan (Dustin Milligan) in a car, when suddenly a girl's head emerges. Before this 21st-century reboot premiered, original 90210 star Jennie Garth said that when she heard about that scene, she thought "Aaron Spelling is rolling over in his grave right now."
The Good Wife
Episode: "Taking Control" (2010)
During the second season of The Good Wife, Peter (Chris Noth) goes down on Alicia (Julianna Margulies) in the bathroom while they are listening to NPR. The scene is not all that graphic — it is CBS, after all — but the presence of oral sex caused a media fracas all the same.