Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sex on the box

When times get tough in the magazine business, and circulations are dipping, it’s time to roll out The Sex Issue. It’s normally a fairly standard issue of the magazine in question, but with a picture of a half-dressed starlet on the front and some coverlines that make the articles within sound as if they might be fairly fruity. With the upper shelves of our specialist newsagents heaving even today with periodicals of a markedly more forthright nature it’s unclear why this subterfuge might work, but work it does.

It’s not so different in the world of TV. Nothing attracts an audience quite like the prospect a younger scion of one of our great acting dynasties wriggling out of her vest in the name of popular drama.

Internet access is, despite what the admirable Ms Martha Lane Fox have you believe, well-nigh universal. What with the ubiquitous internet boasting an infinite variety of unapologetic muck, it’s hard to see why the tamer breed of TV smut might attract our interest.

Perhaps it’s because the enjoyment of online pornography is generally quite a lonely activity. By contrast, what could me more enjoyable than settling down to watch a cosy costume drama such as  Tipping The Velvet with your Mum?

Perhaps that’s a bad example.

Still, I can’t be the only jaded TV viewer who perks up the moment that the continuity announcer tells me that there will be scenes of a sexual nature or violence or even just some flashing images in the upcoming show. That dire imprecation at the beginning of Bravo’s Spartacus contains in itself twice the erotic power of the internet’s seamiest byways.

It’s no surprise then that this Autumn we’re going to see two – at least two – major TV dramas that rely for their appeal on our expectation of their fruitiness.

The BBC weighs in with a four part adaptation of Michiel Faber’s The Crimson Petal And The White. Itself a book that spent so much time telling you how unutterably sexy it was that there was precious little time for any honest dirt, it will, as these things are, be coyly sexed up for the post 9pm ‘big drama’ slot.

You can imagine it now: A series of tableaux out of Toulouse Lautrec by way of Nancy from Oliver! Adapted by playwright and screenwriter Lucinda Coxon, rather than the predictable Andrew ‘off comes the corset’ Davies it’s directed by Marc Munden who established his period drama credentials with The Devil’s Whore and Vanity Fair. It will be - at the very least – a good deal more faithful to the source novel than Kirsten Dunst’s planned Hollywood version.

ITV delved into their own archive for the new season’s ‘sex issue’ drama. Notorious Seventies Elektra complex ‘musical beds’ romp A Bouquet Of Barbed Wire is back! I didn't manage to stay the whole distance on that one but based on the events of Ep.1 Trevor Eve slips briefly into Frank Finlay’s trousers before slipping out of them and under the duvets of Hermione Norris, Jemima Rooper, Imogen Poots and (what with this being 2010 and everything) Tom Riley too I expect.

Are either of these two shows proper honest to goodness dirt? No. Will people talk about them as if they were? You bet.

One last thing. Please don’t think I’m judging the makers of these shows. Putting the word ‘sex’ in the headline works for blog posts too. I’m always doing it. Today, for instance.

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