also known as Sex with Sophie Lee, was a "lifestyle" show
launched in Australia in 1992. Produced by Tim Clucas for the Nine
Network, the show went to a second series in 1993 with a new presenter,
the comedian Pamela Stevenson. Sex can be seen as the first show
on Australian TV to try to modernize sexual attitudes and make sex
a vital topic of mainstream public discussion in the HIV era; or
it can be seen as an attempt by commercial television to consumerize
sex itself, making sexual preference into supermarket choice, and
use public education as an excuse for exploitative television.
show was launched to phenomenally high ratings (a 32 share), largely
on the lure of its presenter Sophie Lee's own reputation for sexiness.
But the early episodes succeeded in mixing straightforward advice
about common problems, with some noteworthy firsts for primetime
television, especially by showing human reproductive organs, both
male and female, on screen. Most notably, even though its own format
comprised the most traditional magazine-style journalistic and "expert"
segments linked by a studio anchor in glamorous evening-wear,
Sex crossed one of television's most policed generic boundaries:
characters (fiction) can have sex while people (fact) can only talk
about it. The presentation of ordinary people being sexual on screen,
and the screening of sexualized bodies (even if only in bizarre
slow-motion "reconstruction" mode) was enough to give the show an
unsettling, innovative feel, and to ensure that Sex provoked
widespread discussion in the press and popular magazines as well
as rating highly. Not all reaction was positive; for instance General
Motors president Holden announced that the giant car company would
not advertise during Sex because it wanted its products to be associated
with "wholesome" topics.
Lee became progressively more disenchanted with the lack of control
she had over the items she was contracted to introduce, segments
which began to interpret "sex" in terms of ratings-potential rather
than public utility. She left the show at the end of its first season,
to be replaced by Pamela Stevenson, the Australian-born comedian
best-known for the 1970s BBC series Not the Nine O'Clock News.
Stevenson recorded her links for Sex in a studio in Los Angeles,
clearly regarding it as her brief to supply the "nudge, nudge, wink,
wink" element. After the departure of Sophie Lee, without anyone
on or behind the screen to argue for the show's importance in changing
public attitudes to sex, the series slid from interesting experiment
to unstylish exploitation and was canceled by the Nine Network after
two seasons, to be replaced by safer lifestyle shows about money,
home improvement, tourism, and gardening.
Photo courtesy of TCN Channel Nine
Pamela Stevenson, 1992
HISTORY 20 Episodes
May 1992-July 1992 Thursday
February 1993-May 1993
also Lee, Sophie