It’s becoming an increasingly common phenomena that networks with uninteresting shows to pedal will try to gin-up interest by giving the show a sleazy, jaw-droppingly inappropriate name.
Sex in Public is one of those shows.
The premise is that a therapist goes undercover and ambushes strangers in public spaces, trying to get them to talk about their sex lives, later revealing that their conversation was captured on camera.
This is not TV’s first sex/relationship advice show. Going back to the ‘80s there was Dr. Ruth, in the ’90s there was Dr. Drew and Adam Carolla, more recently, the Berman sisters. All of these programs dealt in fairly explicit terms with sexual relations; but you at least got the sense that, even when the shows took an unserious tone, there was genuine concern for the relational, medical and mental health of those seeking help.
You don’t get that sense with Sex in Public. Instead, a woman ambushes strangers in public places and embarrasses them by urging them to talk among strangers about their private business.
In the first episode, Jill Dictrow, the relationship therapist at the heart of this show, sits in a massage chair between a young man and woman and encourages them to show her their “sex faces.”
Jill: “Have you ever wondered what it was like to have sex with him?”
Natasha: “Yes and he has too.”
Jill: “Is that your sex face? That’s your sex face. Do you want to see mine? Watch, you can see mine now.”
Jill begins moaning in the massage chair and screams “Oh, yes!”
Jill: “Isn’t that great, now let’s see your sex face.”
Jill: “Call out her name, ‘Natasha.’”
Man: “Oh, Natasha!”
Jill: “They’re gonna have sex tonight.”
It’s laughable to claim that this is serious relationship help.
In another scene, she ambushes a young woman in a bridal shop and really gets to the heart of her relationship problems by asking deep, probing questions, like, “So is [your African-American boyfriend] well hung?” and, “Has anyone done, you know, S&M?”
Because, well, why wouldn’t that be the first thing you ask a person you’ve just met?
This isn’t even the most tawdry of the content. There’s also numerous “f-bombs,” vulgar slang references to oral sex, the list goes on… And it was all rated as appropriate for your 14-year-old.
Jill Dictrow might be a licensed credentialed professional, but she doesn’t do her profession credit by carrying-on as she does on this show, which puts the advice she dispenses on about the same level as friends dishing about their love lives over lunch or cocktails – except that even there, there’s a preexisting relationship, and a basis of mutual trust and understanding.
TLC used to be better than this. It can be again. But not if they continue to air schlock-and-awe programming like Sex in Public.
Oh, and a part of your cable bill is paying for it. Whether you watch or not.
Sex in Public was sponsored by:
Samsung Electronics America, Inc.
Mr. Gregory Lee, President and CEO
Ms. Caroline Shev, Chief Marketing Officer
Ikea Holdings Us, Inc.
Mr. Mike Ward, President
Mr. Richard Davis, Chief Marketing & Insights Officer
J.C. Penney Company, Inc.
Ms. Darcie Brossart, VP, Corporate Communications
Mr. Glenn Will
Chief Operating Officer