Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Cable sex -- how was it for you?

One advantage premium cable channels have over broadcast networks is they can show nudity. The most groundbreaking display of nudity on ABC was a quick glance of Dennis Franz’s ass on NYPD BLUE. Granted, that was still more arousing than a naked Lena Dunham on HBO, but the point is premium cable has more freedom when it comes to flashing skin. Basic cable is also allowed to get away with “brief nudity” but it’s usually too brief and not nude enough.

The trick for premium cable is to make nudity and sex seem “legit.” That way subscribers could watch it without having to wait until everyone else in the house was asleep.

HBO attempted the “documentary” ploy, which was as see-through as see-through blouses. They aired PORNUCOPIA, A series about the adult industry in the San Fernando Valley complete with incisive interviews of porn stars where we learn why they got into the business and whether or not they’d fuck goats. How this series didn’t win a Peabody I’ll never know.

Then there’s REAL SEX. Saggy middle aged couples try to rediscover their sexuality at a hippie retreat, female mud wrestling, and Rube Goldberg penis machines are showcased in a Sesame Street for Sleazeballs format.

Fortunately, quality dramas like THE SOPRANOS came along and the nudity was just part of the pastiche. It became a bonus, not the reason to watch in the first place.

But make no mistake, sex and nudity are big draws. So HBO went further, putting on TELL ME YOU LOVE ME, where we got to see Sonya Walger and other naked pretty people giving handjobs. The faux credibility here was that they were in therapy. So it wasn’t just gratuitous sex and excessive titillation – it was a psychological exploration of human emotions. They claimed it was raw and they were right – Ms. Walger did not use a lotion when she administered the handjob.

GAME OF THRONES used nudity as a writing device. Anytime they needed characters to rattle off lengthy speeches of dry exposition they just put them in brothels. No fear of audience tune out when there’s fornicating going on in the background.

And now comes MASTERS OF SEX from SHOWTIME (which just got renewed yesterday for a second season). This is a dramatization of the famous Masters & Johnson sex study undertaken in the ‘50s and ‘60s. The fact that SHOWTIME chose this subject matter over say Dr. Harry Harlow’s study (undertaken around the same time) of dependency and affection using monkeys is not coincidental.

But the truth is MASTERS OF SEX is a good show. They manage to satisfy the base interests of us men in the audience while attracting women by presenting a very progressive feminist point of view. The dialogue is intelligent, the characters complex, the sex is hot unless the couple is attached to seven wires, but for me that’s not the big draw.

Lizzy Caplan is luminous. I’ve been a big fan since her work in PARTY DOWN. She’s funny and smart, and here we see that she’s an actress of real depth. Yes, she’s naked quite a bit. But she’s even better with her clothes on. Here’s how good she is: I’d watch this show even if it were on ABC.

MASTERS OF SEX – check it out. You won’t hate it or yourself. And there’s not a single goat in the entire series.


Hamid said...

I love this show too. We had episode 3 last night in the UK (SPOILER ALERT FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN'T SEEN IT) and it was very moving to see how terrible Masters felt for resorting to using Scully's double life to blackmail him into allowing the study back in the hospital. Outstanding acting from Michael Sheen and Beau Bridges.

Lizzy Caplan is wonderful. First thing I saw her in was Cloverfield but it was True Blood and Hot Tub Time Machine where she caught my attention. I'd also make mention of the gorgeous Caitlin Fitzgerald, who is brilliant as Masters' wife, and Annaleigh Ashford, who cracked me up as the straight talking Betty.

BBinSF said...

David Caruso's skinny butt was exposed before Dennis Franz' plumper butt--I know because I track these things.

Scooter Schectman said...

My basic cable includes TCM, which last year showed "Walkabout" including full frontal Jenny Agutter when she was just...I swear she was at least 21.
I remember the big stink over a 70's made-for-TV miniseries "The Bible" when it dared to show Eve's ass from 40 yards away.

Marty McKee said...

I still remember seeing Radar's ass on M*A*S*H when he dropped his towel dashing into the showers. That was an eye-opener in the '70s!

Karen said...

Lizzy Kaplan is luminous indeed. A diamond among MANY diamonds on that cast. So great to watch a complex, "modern" woman navigate the maze of an entitled, elitist, white male world. Great performances all around but she is a life force.

PolyWogg said...

I assume you've seen the video, "It's not porn, it's HBO"?

Little Miss Smoke and Mirrors said...

@PolyWogg just a Googled it, THANK YOU!

Jim said...

One of those background whores on Game of Thrones goes by the name of Masie Dee, and her day job just happens to be in porn. She also writes a blog, and as is ever the case, the the book is far better than the film. So in case that didn't give the game away, beware that parts of this are more than a little not work friendly. Unless you have the desk next to hers.

The next day I was shown to my trailer (was very impressed to have one of those even if it did say Nubile whore on it. When I came back for my follow up two scenes I graduated to having a name), and presented with the much anticipated bacon sandwich.

So here are the links to her Game of Thrones pieces

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Hamid said...

Homeland also renewed for a fourth season! Yay!

But I will concur with what some others have said and hope that they wrap up the Brody story by the end of this season, unless the whole season's already in the can.

Gregg said...


First, thank you for this blog. I'm not even remotely associated with the industry (I sell whoopie pies! ) but it's always an interesting read, especially coming from someone whose body of work I enjoy so much.

My question is regarding commercial breaks for shows in syndication. I have been watching Entourage on Spike and they have created their own spots to cut to commercial, seemingly cutting out the scene between the break and the original break. Last episode I watched actually cut out the beginning of the show. What's the deal with this? Does the network syndicating the show get that much control over the show? Even if they do, why would they edit it like that? I understand Entourage was originally on HBO so they have to edit it curses, but I see it on other shows too. And don't get me started on shows starting and ending a couple minutes late and screwing up my DVR recording (I'm looking at you Modern Family on TBS!)

Speaking of which... Modern Family: best non-Ken Levine sitcom of all time?


Anonymous said...

Surprised you didn't mention Dream On.

Charles H. Bryan said...

Thanks, Ken -- this week's post has helped me replenish my Netflix queue.

DBenson said...

A few years ago I read a longish article on the business and financial aspects of the Playboy empire. Several paragraphs were devoted to an executive seriously explaining the the new branding/programming strategy for Playboy's cable channel.

The very last sentence in the article noted that the average viewer stayed with the Playboy channel for five minutes.

Paul Duca said...

As a baseball fan, how can you forget Steven Bochco giving us a shot of bare jock bottom in the first episode of his short lived 1983 series BAY CITY BLUES?

Johnny Walker said...

Apologies in advance:

It's only sexually repressed cultures that have to hide their basic and natural curiosity in sexuality in the guise of something "high brow". (And it seems women are just as curious as men -- Fun fact: Internet porn sites are now nearly as frequently visited by women as men.)

Film it in black and white, slap some French subtitles on it, and suddenly it's no longer cheap porn for the masses, it's art for the intelligentsia.

Just like sitting through a bad art house movie, it seems a waste of energy to create a wonderful show just to put a few sex scenes on TV. (And I wonder if some of these shows actually have a quota? Would HBO be upset if an episode of MASTERS OF SEX *didn't* feature any nudity one week?)

Considering the fact that we're all interested in our bodies, and having sexuality is something that every human on the planet shares, it seems very odd that we'll happily consume content about a million other (often fantastical) topics, but get uncomfortable about sex.

Maybe one day we'll just be able to explore our sexualities, or enjoy a bit of titillation, without having to hide it as something else, or relegating it to ugly porn?

Anonymous said...

real sex. named after two things that the show is not.

thomas tucker said...

Will be interesting to see how they handle the story line since M and J falsified their data. Maybe they will use falsies?

Dimitris said...

Nothing like a little good old-fashioned misandry in my evening blog-reading. Always reliable, Ken.

Storm said...

Earlier this year, my husband and I had to stay at a local hotel for a few days while our house was being worked on. They had HBO, which we don't (no premium channels, just the various Encores), and being a nightowl I was up channel surfing at like 3AM and landed in the middle of an episode of "Real Sex". It was a segment on the company that makes Real Dolls (Google that shit), and how they had started to make male dolls, with interchangable snap-on wangs. They sent one home for "product testing and review" with these three young women who were lovers/roomies, and holy cats, those three went to TOWN on that thing, with close-ups of the action, it was insane! I'm not easily shocked, but really, I was like "...the FUCK?! When did HBO start showing penetration?! I remember being a teenager and being happy just to see some titties!"

@JohnnyW; When I moved to London when I was 10 (in '78), I went there thinking that English people were lovely, but somewhat stuffy and repressed. Imagine my surprise when there was a buck-ass naked woman on TV at 9PM! And topless women on Page 3 of the paper (OK, The Sun can't *really* be called "the paper", but still)! If I wasn't already bi when I got there, I was for sure when I left.

Cheers, thanks a lot,


Storm said...

Johnny, did I tell you that story already? I feel like I did. You can thank the cannabis. Oh, for an edit feature. You already think I'm mad as a box of frogs.



GFoyle said...

Good grief! I just recommended your blog last night to my mother (who lives way down in the Bible Belt). What will she think when she takes a look at it today! LOL

chuckcd said...

Audience on Direc TV is neither a over the air network or a cable channel, so they can show just about anything.

Have you seen any episodes of Rogue?

Johnny Walker said...

No Storm, I don't believe you did. Or I'm forgetting!

Michelle said...

I've been following Lizzy Caplan since she literally exploded in Cloverfield. Something about her was interesting and fun. I caught her in True Blood and loved her in the underappreciated Party Down. I didn't watch Masters of Sex because I feared it would just be a cheap nudie fest with little substance like Bunny Ranch or Pornucopia. Now that I hear it is actually well done, I'll OnDemand it to catch up.


Amanda said...

One of the funniest things I ever saw was a young porno tart pouting that the internet and post-yourself-getting-it-on sites had ruined what it meant to be a porn star. What made it so funny was that she was deadly serious. Her profession was being ruined by all these amateurs calling themselves porn stars, and making the whole idea of being one seem cheap and tawdry.