For propagating tawdry content — -and forcing millions of cable subscribers to pay for it — the February 27th premiere episode of WE tv’s Sex Box (10:00 p.m. ET) is the Worst Cable TV Show of the Week.
“Guided by three of the nation’s leading sex and relationship experts, these couples are about to BARE IT ALL!” blares an off-screen announcer. “Confessions will be made, secrets revealed, and lives changed, all by having SEX in this BOX – IN FRONT OF A LIVE STUDIO AUDIENCE!!!” as the audience shrieks, “ooohs” and “aaahs,” and pumps their fists as though they’re on Jerry Springer.
Then the program introduces its three alleged “therapists”:
Fran Walfish, shown driving a huge, boat-like convertible, is “relationship therapist to the rich and famous and keeper of Hollywood’s secrets”, as a montage shows shots of various Beverly Hills signs;
Chris Donohue, “cutting-edge sex therapist and controversial voice in the study of relationships,” is shown displaying his tattoos while chinning himself on a playground jungle gym; and
Yvonne Capeheart, “renowned pastor and spiritual advisor,” is shown rather more sedately talking in front of a church.
Then it’s on with “The MOST TRANSFORMATIVE THERAPY EVER CAPTURED ON TV!” shrieks the announcer, in ludicrously hyperbolic language and tone of voice.
The first guests are newlyweds Brandon and Elle, who have been married six months. They discuss their sex life, during which Elle admits that Brandon doesn’t satisfy her in bed. Brandon makes a joke, after which all three therapists berate Brandon for “using jokes to hide something” — right after his wife has told an audience on TV that her husband is a failure at satisfying her sexually. Why on earth would Brandon feel defensive in such a situation?
Chris asks, “Elle, why do you stay in this relationship?” The audience applauds. Because if you don’t have an orgasm every time, why, there’s absolutely no other reason to stay married!
Chris then states, “If we could actually be in your bedroom and help you with this, we would!” (Nothing creepy about that, is there?) Then, after some highly dubious palaver about post-sex oxycotin making them “open” and “vulnerable,” Chris bellows the question he’s so obviously been waiting to ask: “Are you ready to go in the…SEX BOX!??”
“Brandon and Elle have to think outside the box, while they’re…IN THE BOX!” mocks the announcer. “Brandon CAN’T BE SELFISH! And Elle has to speak her mind.” Wow. Glad this show isn’t putting any pressure on the couples. But after all, why would there be pressure having sex inside a box, then talking about your most intimate experiences before a panel of buttinskis and a huge studio audience who applauded at the thought of your wife leaving you…and, oh yes, a TV audience of THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE? Won’t THAT do wonders for Brandon’s self-esteem (and his performance)?
While the couple is “in the box,” the three “therapists” take the opportunity to talk more trash about Brandon. Chris notes his defensiveness. “He likes being pleased,” sneers Yvonne. When Chris notes, “They’ve been in there 17 minutes,” Yvonne says, “Let’s hope for at least 16 of those minutes he’s focused on her! I will be totally devastated if they come out of that box and it was all about Brandon.” Meanwhile, Fran goes out of her way to mention her “Beverly Hills practice” several times. (Looks like Brandon’s not the only one being defensive. Hey, how about a show titled “Battle of the WE tv Sex Therapists” in which viewers get to watch three fame-and-status-conscious pseudo-therapists try to one-up and belittle each other before a studio audience? Oh, never mind – it looks like that’s what Sex Box is.)
Finally, Brandon and Elle emerge, wearing brightly colored silk pajamas emblazoned with the “Sex Box” logo. (Maybe they’ll get to keep them as souvenirs of this wonderful experience talking about their sex life in front of thousands of people.) Interestingly, Brandon wears full-length pjs, while Elle has a tiny robe, the skirt of which barely covers her crotch. There’s no possible way a series which requires people to have sex in a box before a live audience would be sexually exploitative, would it?
Chris: “Brandon, we had high expectations of you focusing on Elle’s pleasure and her orgasm. We’re really curious to see how you felt about Brandon’s performance….How well do you think you did at pleasing your wife?” Both are asked to hold up a card “rating Brandon’s performance.” (Actually, there begins to be a bit of logic behind Sex Box…the same logic that says, “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” If this level of humiliation doesn’t destroy Brandon and Elle’s marriage, nothing will.)
Chris: “Elle, how well do you feel Brandon did at pleasing you?”
Chris: “Because a 7.9 says that you were pretty attentive, pretty aware and the sex was pretty good.”
Elle: “I just said, like, “I want to be on top right now. I want this angle and we have to try this.”
Chris: “The big question is, did you both orgasm and who orgasmed first?”
The program cuts away to professional comedian Danielle Stewart, who interviews people on the street about sex. A few of these real people’s remarks to their partners:
Danielle: “If you could tell your partner to do something better, what would it be?”
Gay man: “I think it would be really cool if you dressed like Batman.”
Woman: “I would really like it if sometimes when I came home like he would already be naked. So it would be like easier to kinda like jump in?”
Woman: “Bruise me during sex. Y’know what I mean? Let it be so rough…”
Man: “Her obvious faking it. Like, OBVIOUSLY faking it.”
Woman: “EVERYBODY fakes it!”
Danielle: “Oh, in the bedroom? So true.”
For the second round the announcer introduces, “Rebecca and Dyson have tried almost EVERYTHING in the bedroom! Now, one of them wants to push things EVEN FURTHER!”
Rebecca: “Sexually, we’ve experimented with everything. But he’s always pushing the envelope.
Dyson: “I’m trying to figure out how to have my cake and eat it, too.”
Rebecca: “Right now, while we have young kids, I don’t want to do that. It was the cause of many an argument. That’s where I draw the line. That’s where the boundary is going to be.”
Dyson: “Boundaries are for people who want to stay in the box.”
Rebecca is afraid they won’t grow together into a real married couple if they’re constantly “experimenting” with other people; Dyson claims that, if he doesn’t have “variety,” they’ll become a “boring old married couple” and he’ll be driven to “do something destructive to our marriage.” (Because what could possibly be worse than loving the same person for the rest of your life?) The couple then sits and talks to the “therapists.”
Rebecca: “Uh, we’ve had threesomes, foursomes, more-somes…” (Audience applauds.)
Dyson: “She thinks I’m too far outside the sex box…I’d like to date other women with my wife.”
Chris: “You’re looking to keep things as they are but also bring in another partner so that the three of you would have what some would call a ‘throuple.’ A three-person committed relationship.”
Rebecca: “If we didn’t have children in the home, I would have another woman living in the house. I just want there to be parameters.”
Dyson: “Being in a relationship with someone longer than five years… you start to get into a routine. And I think the routine is the death of sex and intimacy and all that. Chris Rock does this bit about old [bleeped p***y] versus new [bleeped p***y], you know? And there’s a lot of good things about the “old,” but then you have those things that are kind of lacking, ’cause you’ve just been together, you know?”
While Dyson and Rebecca are in the SEX BOX!, Chris reveals some cluelessness of his own. Yvonne and Fran try to convince him that Rebecca is so desperate to hold onto Dyson that she’ll do anything he asks, even if she doesn’t like it; but Chris is oblivious to Rebecca’s actual statements, verbal tics, facial expressions, and body language, and remains serenely convinced that Rebecca is a strong bisexual woman who loves every minute of the “experimentation.” Wow. With “therapists” like Chris, no wonder so many marriages are dysfunctional.
When they emerge, Rebecca states she is satisfied:
Rebecca: “He actually spent some time in the southerly region.”
Chris: “Going downtown?”
Rebecca: “He did a great job. He was just very attentive and very sweet which that’s how I know him to be.”
However, the “therapists” tell Rebecca she’s only agreeing to the “experimentation” with other people because she’s afraid of losing Dyson. On his side, Dyson openly states “I can’t guarantee that I won’t leave, or be with other women.” Gee. It’s almost as if being exploited by having sex in a box on TV before a live audience didn’t help this couple resolve their problems.
The final couple is Alexia and Christopher, who “had a sizzling sex life until something came between them, and one of them lost all interest in intimacy!”, as bellows the announcer.
Alexia: “My motivation, my lack of interest, has definitely changed…”
Chris: “So what did the sex life then evolve into?”
Christopher: “It started off, you know, we’d have multiple times a day, you know…I love to record us having sex.”
Alexia: “Our major point and the peak of our sex life was when I was pregnant. For me, my sex drive was so high. I mean I, it was literally multiple times a day, different times a day.
Christopher: “We do a lot of role playing.”
Chris: “What’s the kinkiest it’s gotten?”
Christopher: “When she was pregnant, she’s about to give birth, we’re in the room, she’s starting to get contractions, she gets the epidural, she’s all hopped up on all these other things. Her parents left to go do something, and just outta nowhere, she’s like, ‘Hey. Come over here real fast.’ I started getting a b***job right there while she’s having contractions!”
Yvonne: “We’ve heard the type of sex you’ve had, and we’ve heard about your adventures. What is going on now, in your sex life?”
Christopher: “I went from one extreme to another. We have a son. It’s gone from sex maybe three or four times a day to sex maybe once a week, if that. She’s explained to me, ‘I’m a mom now. It just doesn’t feel right.’ ”
Alexia: “I used to love my boobs to get played with, you know my nipples everything. Why? Because my son uses them. My son was there. So it’s a different feeling for me.”
Fran asks if Alexia feels “torn” between being a mom and being sexy.
Alexia: “Christopher doesn’t look at me any different. He knows the slut I could be. He knows what I could do. Maybe now my view is maybe more lovemaking and maybe more, you know, “Look at me as your kid’s mom” like, respect me in a different way, rather than the slut you threw over the counter.”
Christopher: “I just want her to understand that, just because you’re a mom now, doesn’t mean that, behind doors, you can’t get freaky still.”
Inevitably, Chris then asks, “Are you ready to go into the…SEX BOX??!” And they do, remaining inside for half an hour. When they emerge…
Chris: “We’d LOVE TO KNOW what you were doing in there for 31 minutes!”
Christopher: “Well, I just started undressing her slowly, trying to into more of that romantic side that she wants me to get into. So, just a lot of kissing and touching, fondling.”
Alexia: “Foreplay. Like I had said to you, like, my boobs are a different story, but I let that go today an like I don’t know if my mind set was different but I actually, like it felt better… maybe I think about it too much. I mean I’m not too sure but I let him go down on my boobs and have a fun time there.”
Alexia concludes, “I still think that I can be that mom that I want to be, but I really think I can be that half that he needs.”
The program concludes with snarky final remarks about the couples’ current status:
Brandon and Elle: “Now that he’s leaving the jokes out of the bedroom, Brandon and Elle are making beautiful music together. Brandon now scores a 9.5”
Dyson and Rebecca: “This couple won’t become a thruple anytime soon.”
Christopher and Alexia: “Are expecting another baby, and couldn’t be more excited.”
Despite WE tv’s hopes, Sex Box attracted only one major sponsor (Arm & Hammer), and only 378,000 viewers – out of more than 100 MILLION cable and satellite subscribers. Given its failure with viewers, sponsors, and TV critics, one is left with two questions: Why is every pay-TV subscriber in America forced to subsidize a program less than four-tenths of one percent care about? And who at WE tv thought Sex Box was a good idea to begin with?
For forcing consumers to subsidize sleaze, WE tv’s Sex Box is the Worst Cable TV Show of the Week.
Arm & Hammer sponsored this program. To contact them with your concerns, click here.