Leave it to the Brits to come up with this, put it on the television, and call it, simply, Sex Box. (It's no coincidence they sound smarter than us!) And then leave it to WE TV—home of Bridezillas (RIP) and lots of CSI and Law & Order reruns for ladies—to adapt it for prurient American audiences. Prurient American audiences who would rather imagine a couple of dowdy married people humping in a depressing cubicle on a soundstage than look at an entire Internet full of graphic images of actual sex.
But it's more than just a sex thing. Rather, it's "the most transformative therapy ever captured on TV," according to a disclaimer before the show, which premiered a couple Fridays ago. Ostensibly, the subject couples mostly just transform from people who were wearing normal outfits into people who are wearing cheap satin pajamas dampened with postcoital perspiration, but part of the idea is that most people are more relaxed after a good lay; a couple might be better equipped to work through their problems with a panel of three shouty psychologist types once both parties are feeling all floaty and nice.
It almost makes sense—but then you remember you're watching a show about people having sex in a box on a stage on TV, and then you realize it doesn't make sense at all! So in the premiere episode we meet newlyweds Elle and Brandon, who are having sex about as often as oldlyweds. They're partners in life and in business, but Brandon is sort of a doof, and consistently fails to make sure his wife is having orgasms at least some of the time. His excuse to the panel of experts: "I guess I knew, but it had never been said out loud." The members of the panel—psychotherapist to the stars Fran Walfish, celebrity sex therapist Chris Donaghue, and Florida-based doctor-slash-minister Yvonne Capehart—do not like this excuse, and so they start yelling over each other to yell at him about what a schlub he is. WHY, they demand to know, is Elle staying in a "relationship of deprivation"? All right, Brandon, now get in that box and give it to your wife while we continue to talk shit about you to the studio audience—and make sure she climaxes!
After 17 minutes and 29 seconds—elapsed for us, but not for the poor studio audience!—Elle and Brandon emerge from the box, looking vaguely like people who've just had sex, which is sort of gross. Then they plop their sex-slime-covered bodies down on a sofa and, surrounded by a noxious aura of sex smells, tell the panel the hot deets: Elle had an orgasm! She gives the sex a 7.9! And so Brandon and Elle's marriage is saved or whatever.
For the rest of the hour, during which two more couples fucked in the box, I was plagued by questions. Could anyone really have enjoyable sex under these circumstances? Aren't the doctors and the audience members horrifyingly bored while three couples are having their sex? Don't the couples feel rude for not hurrying up? EVERYONE IS WAITING. And, mostly, what kind of cleanup is happening in that box between sessions? Whose job is that? These thoughts were occasionally interrupted by a man using the word "fondled" (shudder) or a woman mentioning that in the box her husband "went down on" her "boobs," perhaps the grossest thing ever uttered on TV.
In our phony-baloney Maury Povich world of real oversharing and fake oversharing and an absence of distinction between the two, Sex Box still seems egregious. I'd call it trash, but the concept is British so I'll call it rubbish.
Sex Box, Fridays at 9 PM on WE TV