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Sex on TV

Author: Rachel Browne
Date: 03/08/1996
Words: 1000
          Publication: Sun Herald
Section: Television
Page: 4
Lust is a must as today's shows steam up our

prime time screens with startlingly

candid references to sex, writes RACHEL BROWNE

WHEN Alice loads up the washing machine on The Brady Bunch, it's specifically to clean clothes. When Jamie Buchman does her laundry on a recent episode of Mad About You, there's nothing clean about it. The sexually frustrated Jamie uses the vibrating device as a source of, um, satisfaction on the 7.30pm sitcom.

What is happening to family entertainment? The Nanny contains more sexual innuendo than the Carry On collection - and when Jerry Seinfeld says he is the master of his domain, he's not talking about his Manhattan apartment.

Sex, for the most part implicit, has seeped into earlier and earlier time slots in programs where it was traditionally taboo, such as sitcoms and teen soaps.

"There is sex in shows you don't expect sex to be in - that's the problem," says Tottie Goldsmith, the host of Channel 10's new series Sex/Life which, when it starts this week, will push the boundaries of taboo TV.

While Goldsmith, 33, the former star of Fire, says she's no prude, she's had occasion to shield her three-year-old daughter Layla Rose's eyes when sex arises at a time once considered family viewing: "I literally rugby tackle her for the TV set to try to turn it off."

Goldsmith's sentiments are echoed by the president of the Australian Family Association, Susan Bastick, who found cause to switch off a recent episode of 8pm sitcom Ned And Stacey loaded with lewd jokes.

"There's a lot more implicit sex in early time slots in programs where you don't expect to see sexual themes," she says. "There should be a wide band of viewing time when families can sit down and watch TV together without parents worrying about their children being exposed to programs of a sexual nature."

Channel 10 has boldly slotted Sex/Life at 8.30pm. The publicity line is that the program is educational and aimed at families, but it will still push the envelope. Upcoming stories range from the risque (bondage, brothels, faking orgasms) to medical topics (breast cancer, hormone replacement therapy, sexually transmitted diseases) to relationship themes (lesbian and homosexual marriages, singles groups, couples' contracts).

But Goldsmith has seen nothing on Sex/Life which has shocked her. Amazed, yes. Shocked? No. "I haven't raised my eyebrows at a thing, but my jaw has dropped. When we did the story about faking orgasms, we asked a prostitute to show how she fakes orgasms for her clients and I was like a child!," she says, widening her eyes and craning neck, re-enacting the scene.

"I looked up at the crew and they were exactly the same, watching this woman going for it."

Ten and producers Beyond International are braced for cancellations from advertisers and cries of moral outrage from Fred Nile, but Goldsmith is philosophical.

"People have a choice," the actress and singer says with a weary sigh. "They can turn the TV off if they don't want to watch it, or turn it on to learn about the reality of world we live in."

While we're watching more sex than ever, it remains a touchy subject.

Channel 9's programmer John Stephens gave us steamy soap Chances, the original Sex show and, more recently, The Good Sex Guide and late-night flesh fest Pacific Drive. But when requests for Stephens to discuss this were left with the network, he became mysteriously unavailable. Ditto his offsider, head of programming development David Lyle.

Channel 7's head of programming, Chris O'Mara, denied his network screened late-night skin flicks until reminded of recent entries in the schedule: The Hustler From Muscle Beach, Beach Babes From Beyond and Young Nurses In Love.

Clearing his throat, he admitted: "Well, there is an audience for those sort of programs." Pause. "The voyeuristic nature of people makes them want to watch these things, I suppose." Longer pause. "In terms of sex, we don't go out of our way to push sex in front of people."

Perhaps not, but a large number of viewers enjoy small-screen sex if the statistics are to be believed. The original Sex series on Channel 9, which screened in 1992 and 1993, dominated its timeslot before being pulled off the air because then-chairman Bruce Gyngell felt it was too explicit. British import The Good Sex Guide drew up to half a million viewers when it screened in May and June.

Pay TV operator Galaxy was inundated by subscribers asking for an adult movie service and in response started the R-rated channel Nightmoves on Friday. Without any advertising beyond a couple of newspaper mentions, two thousand Galaxy subscribers have asked for the service - which costs $14.95 on top of the standard monthly fee of $39.95.

"People are clearly more relaxed about their own sexuality, they enjoy programs which have some excitement, glamour and sensuality," Nightmoves consultant David Haines said.

And this is in spite of Fred Nile calling for a boycott of Galaxy because of Nightmoves' selection of R-rated erotica.

"There is an element of good taste about all the films we have selected," Haines says before laughing nervously and adding, "Though I know there are whose who would dismiss any material of this nature as being in bad taste."

SBS programmer Rod Webb believes his network is unfairly singled out as a purveyor of pornography because of its sexually explicit documentaries and foreign films. In recent weeks, for example, they have shown the Spanish movie Tie Me Up Tie me Down, a comedy about a man who abducts and rapes a woman, and Midnight Lovers, about lesbians. But Rod Webb points out his movies generally start at 9.30pm, in the MA classified timeslot.

"The films we show treat sex as a normal, integral part of the plot and at SBS we take a mature approach to them," he says. "We don't feed stories to TV Week about some starlet who was terrified of taking her top off."

The Australian Broadcasting Authority receives more complaints about violence than sex and nudity (122 to 119, according to its 1995 report). However, issues of taste, morality and decency top the list with 214 complaints.

Some viewers believe sex in any timeslot is inappropriate. Bastick pities shift workers who come home late to find raunchy movies and ads for sex chat lines where semi-clad females huskily intone "Call now. Who knows where it could lead?"

"You want to come home to watch something half-decent and all you can see are over-the-top sexy films," she said. "There's an assumption that it's okay to screen this material as long as children don't have access to it, but there is a huge market of adults who also find sex and nudity on television offensive."

Those people should not watch Sex/Life on Channel 10 at 8.30pm on Thursday.



Nanny And The Professor

Juliet Mills feeds her charges milk and cookies

Candid Camera

Once upon a time you could smile when caught by a candid camera

Beverly Hillbillies

Crude means oil

Neighbours (1980s)

Scott and Charlene decide to save going to bed for their wedding night

Cop Shop

Roy agonises over whether to sleep with Melissa

Charlie's Angels

The closest these girls got to phallic symbolism was the guns in their holsters

Class of '74

An assault was a punch-up in the schoolyard


The Nanny

Fran Drescher feeds her charges advice on sex

Hidden cameras

Today you're likely to be caught pants down on a current affairs show

Beverly Hills 90210

Crude means Steve's been an extra in a skin flick

Neighbours (1990s)

Sam catches his girlfriend Annalise in bed with another man

Water Rats

Goldie agonises over whether two lovers an episode is too many


Every crime is penis-driven

Home And Away

Chloe is sexually assaulted walking home from a party

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