I-spy sex show fails to excite
Ireland's Secret Sex Lives Monday, TV3 White Heat Thursday, BBC 2 Luck Saturday, Sky Atlantic
This week it looked like TV3 was doing an investigation into a shocking phenomenon: an outbreak of silhouetted people with weird disembodied voices. These weirdos like to sit in darkened rooms being overdubbed by actors while a journalist nods at them.
Sadly, intrepid reporter Paul Connolly was actually making a documentary all about secret Irish sex instead.
Ireland's Secret Sex Lives was boring -- a tour of sex-shops, swingers, fetishists and dogging enthusiasts (dogging is basically sex for outdoorsy types). It was contextualised by anonymous silhouette-people, sexperts and, at one point, Catholic ideologue David Quinn, one of the few to shun the silhouette (his fetish, apparently, is 1950s Ireland).
With the gritty voice of a seasoned gumshoe, and the square jaw and gelled-hair of a defrocked boy-band member, Connolly promised he'd "cross over into the world of Ireland's swingers".
The truth is, he wasn't invited, so instead he "gestured in the general direction of Ireland's swingers".
There were digressions in which Connolly explained the meaning of words such as "masochist" and another where he resorted to the student essay staple: "The dictionary describes swinging as ... ." There were even demonstrations of interesting sex toys and, at one stage, a practical how-to guide to dogging.
There were also loads of shots of the reporter at work (on the phone, on the computer, driving his car) as well as eerily soundtracked footage of cars crossing O'Connell Bridge.
"All of these people are going dogging," I expected Connolly to say. And when the camera panned aimlessly across rooftops, he could have said: "Many of these houses contain full sex."
The programme peaked with grainy hidden-camera footage of a swingers' party. This began with fully clothed people awkwardly drinking wine, before then having sex. It made swinging seem like a perfectly reasonable icebreaker for a dull dinner party.
Paul also managed to get some grainy footage of people being spanked in a club and having sex in a car. The latter journalistic triumph came, apparently, after ages spent hanging around known sex-sites.
At times the irony of Connolly frequenting dogging sites to film voyeurs almost made my television explode. If TV3 did self-awareness the programme would have ended with Connolly rugby-tackling a suspected fetishist and ripping its gimp-mask off to reveal -- himself.
Connolly could then turn to the camera, point an accusing finger and the credits would roll to the sound of weeping.
White Heat, BBC's new cross-decade epic, begins in 1965, two years after sex was invented (according to Philip Larkin). It follows the interlocking lives of a naive middle-class girl, an ambitious working-class boy, an artistic working class girl, an Indian chap, a Jamaican fellow, a Catholic girl from Belfast and a loveable robot called BeBot (I made one of these up). This improbably diverse group live in the house of a radical toff.
"He's handpicked every one of us to conduct a social experiment," suggests the working class boy, pre-empting programmes like Make Bradford British.
"I'm not sure anybody is quite that cynical," replies his Jamaican flatmate.
The makers of White Heat are that cynical and they shamelessly deploy these cyphers on overfamiliar plots about escaping humble origins and disappointing parents.
Virginities are lost and drugs are consumed. And lest you think the characters are completely one dimensional -- the Indian chap turns out to be secretly gay. That's (count them) two dimensions. If they gave him an eye-patch or a limp he'd be a fully rounded character.
US drama Luck does have fully rounded characters ... I think. A cast of expressively grizzled actors certainly utter impenetrably Shakespearian dialogue at a beautifully shot racecourse, and a fuzzy story of race-track princes and paupers is slowly coming into focus.
Three episodes in, I'm still not sure what's going on, but I'm really enjoying the uncertainty so far.
Ireland's Secret Sex Lives HHIII
White Heat HHIII