NYPD BLUE star Esai Morales is fuming after discovering his first lovemaking scenes on the show have been darkened to virtual blackness to avoid upsetting TV viewers.

Morales, who plays LT TONY RODRIGUEZ in the show, has been waiting three years to land a sex scene, and when he got the chance to bed co-star JACQUELINE OBRADORS (corr) in an upcoming episode he was more than impressed with the way the tryst was shot.

But, following Janet Jackson's Super Bowl controversy, NYPD Blue producers have been told to play down racy scenes by TV chiefs - or face the wrath of the FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION.

And Morales' sex scene has become the latest risque moment deemed too racy for the censors.

He says, "They sent us the tapes at home and it really wasn't anything terrible. Not even booty. I'm doing the scene with Jacqueline, who is like my little sister... and here we are.

"I'm doing a love scene with a friend and we used each other to cover ourselves. I didn't think it was called for."

Morales fears America's censors are close to becoming ridiculous as they attempt to cut all saucy scenes.

He adds, "We've got to be careful. You can't be too reactionary. The whole Janet thing... Guys, it's a breast, let's face it. Come on. If you've got a problem with nudity, talk to the manufacturer. It's nothing we haven't seen on National Geographic and I think we're more perverse in our attention. What's the big deal?"

11/03/2004 02:36