“What can we put on after ‘Secret Diary of a Call Girl’ this season?”
“Oh, I don’t know, how about a half-hour docu-comedy featuring full penetration?”
If you haven’t heard anything about it yet, “Gigolos” is an extremely graphic and often hilarious look at the lives of five men working as escorts in Las Vegas.
They service only female clients, and after the charming “Blind Date” style introductions, we watch them go to town — with few details spared. Most of the guys are quite endearing, and after a while, the sex is just sort of… a part of the show.
This got us thinking. Though the pay cable networks have boasted adult programming for as long as they’ve been in existence, none of them have ever really been plugged along with the primetime slate. (“Gigolos” airs at 11 p.m., by the way, so it’s not technically primetime.) How did we get to a place where these sort of sexual antics aren’t actually a surprise on the tube?
Here’s a look at five watershed moments from the past 20 years that paved the way for us to be collectively blas� about watching an explicit workplace comedy about prostitutes:
“NYPD Blue,” 1993
In its first season, the beloved Steven Bochco and David Milch‘s drama unleashed a bevy of butts onto the airwaves. Some of them were pretty (Amy Brenneman), some of them were scary (Dennis Franz) and all of them entered the cultural zeitgeist.
“Sex and the City,” 1998
We must give credit where credit is due. However silly it may seem now, “Sex and the City” was a revelatory moment on television. It destigmatized nudity, sex and extremely frank discourse to become a mainstream, award-winning television.
The Super Bowl, 2004
Accidental as it may have been, Janet Jackson’s infamous Super Bowl halftime show nip slip showed America that, for all its maturing over the years, the majority of the population is definitely not cool with seeing a boob — even for two seconds. Our Puritanical reputation was restored, and, not so coincidentally, “NYPD Blue” finally went off the air just one year later.
“Tell Me You Love Me,” 2007
HBO was clearly hoping for “Sex and the City”-style success with this graphic drama, that featured blow jobs, prosthetic penises and sex scenes so explicit, people constantly speculated over whether they were real or simulated. Unfortunately, it was also a huge downer. And nobody watched.
It had been something over a decade since MTV legitimately raised any eyebrows with some scandalous programming, but when the U.S. adaption of the British hit “Skins” debuted in 2010, the network made up for lost time. The Parents Television Council went absolutely apoplectic with the drug-and-sex-filled soap, slinging allegations of child pornography and prompting sponsors to pull out faster than… well, you get it.
… Which brings us to today. “Gigolos” certainly won’t cause the same fuss as its predecessors, but we may look back at it one day as a tipping point in reality TV — once darkly lit, above-the-covers bedroom cams are officially exchanged for stage-lighting and high-def.