Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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In a Perfect World: Intersection Between Primetime Soap Operas and Cinemax (Or At Least HBO)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on March 26, 2007

What if you woke up tomorrow and everything was perfect?

(Warning: Blog Post contains ruminations on occasionally borderline-too much information sexual matters and is not for the faint of stomach)

As part of my pop culture prepping over Spring Break, I watched my first ever episode of Beverly Hills, 90210–four of them in fact, since it was shown twice a day on the SOAP channel (one of the many channels whose existence I first discovered had existed in my digital cable all along). And though I avoided it like the plague during its original run, I gotta say, it wasn’t bad. I only caught some of the mid-run episodes (meaning there was Tiffany Amber-Thiessen instead of Shannon Doherty, which seems like about an even trade) so it probably wasn’t even classic 90210, but all the elements for good primetime soapiness were there–exotic locale, drama-heightened situations which ring with just the right combination of authenticity and implausibility, and beautiful, beautiful stars. Still, the whole time, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the show was missing something.

The characters weren’t having sex with each other.

I mean, sex may have been implied here and there, but it wasn’t ever actually shown. And I couldn’t help wondering how much more enjoyable the show would have been if it was. For instance: a scene in one episode featured a trauma-prone Thiessen waking up in a panicked sweat from a nightmare involving her father’s suicide/murder, and lifelong platonic friend Jason Priestly rushing in to comfort her. The scantily clothed Thiessen sobs into Priestly’s chest, while he tenderly comforts her.

The immediate reaction of any viewer who has ever watched a movie with the words Dangerous, Naked, Sinful or Temptation (or some combination thereof) in the title past the 10:30 hour on Cinemax would have to automatically assume that this scene was about to seamlessly transition into a graphic but tasteful four to five-minute Thiessen/Priestly sex scene, the prospect of which I imagine would be enormously appealing to just about everyone (and I’m having difficulty concentrating on writing right now just imagining it–I’d certainly never be able to watch Saved By the Bell the same way again). But oddly, this does not happen, and Thiessen and Priestly don’t even kiss–I think it faded to a commercial break or something, the relationship remaining platonic.

It got me thinking–I’ve enjoyed a handful of primetime soaps over the years, but how much more enjoyable could they have been if the characters actually had sex on-screen? What if on Grey’s Anatomy, the numerous second season closet-trysts between Alex Karev and Izzy Stevens had been about six minutes longer? How many seasons longer could The O.C. have lasted if that time Marissa and Summer jokingly “came on” to Seth Cohen in his pool, he had actually called their bluff for all to see? How would the show’s viewership have shifted if Rory and Paris had decided to get experimental in their first year as roommates at Yale on The Gilmore Girls?


Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m aware of the moral (and legal) implications I’m skirting with here. I’m not so much suggesting that these shows, several of which contain characters who are purportedly minors (even though I’m fairly certain zero of the actresses/actors involved are, at least not at the ages when their characters were first sexualized) should suddenly start having their stars simulating sex for my further entertainment. Such a prospect, exciting though it may be, is by nature unrealistic and probably at least slightly reprehensible.

Still, I have to wonder why no one has exploited this idea yet– late-teen/20-something dramas (played, of course, by actors/actresses above the age of consent) where the characters actually (well, not actually actually, but you know) have sex with each other. Sure, Cinemax has toyed with the idea of a softcore serial before, but the plots were dumb, the characters were weak and the stars were never that attractive. Shows like Black Tie Nights or Sex Games: Cancun are barely even watchable just for the sex scenes.

Why can’t you have a show as emotionally charged as 90210 with hook-up scenes as hot as Best Sex Ever? Sure, it probably wouldn’t air on basic cable, but with plenty of HBO, Showtime and Cinemax shows breaking ground for televised sex and nudity, it seems like such a series shouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility. It wouldn’t even have to be that much more exploitative–god knows characters on these shows are having plenty of sex anyway, they just wouldn’t have to fade to commercial now when things started to get hot. In Boogie Nights, Jack Horner often fantasizes about the possibility of making a skin flick with where people stay for the plot once they’re finished jacking off, a fantasy shared by likely many a porn connissuer–why not have a show for TV obsessives that does the reverse?

Maybe this show already exists, maybe the ideal channel on which it would air hasn’t been invented yet, or maybe it would’ve aired by now, but the government is worried about significantly rising unemployment and devastatingly lowered national productivity rates should such a show ever make it to air. But I feel like such a series is something of an inevitability–you can’t keep a concept that tempting unexplored for long enough without inciting revolution. I just hope it happens in my lifetime.


5 Responses to “In a Perfect World: Intersection Between Primetime Soap Operas and Cinemax (Or At Least HBO)”

  1. […] Original post by Andrew Unterberger […]

  2. Mayank said

    Wait, was Dylan McKay still around during the episodes you caught?

    He was the coolest.

  3. Andrew Unterberger said

    Yeah, he was in the middle of romancing the daughter of the millionaire mob boss who had his father killed (?) The girl’s played by Urban Legend and Jawbreaker star Rebecca Gayheart, though, well on her way to superstardom.

  4. Anton said

    If TV gets bumped up to Cinema-level sex scenes, Film will have to bump up to porn level. Imagine, if you can, a world where a five minute tastefully modest fuckfest comes on 10 minutes after 7th Heaven, and that sexually tense reconcilliation scene from The Notebook is actually 15 minutes of hardcore pornography.

  5. Andrew Unterberger said

    I think I can get down with that too.

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