TLC is the network for procrastination and spending Sunday afternoons unshowered, wearing leggings, and nursing hair of the dog. It also is the go-to spot to discover human beings you never knew existed. Like the kind who compulsively eat drywall (“My Strange Addiction”) and teach their 3-year-olds how to krump dance (“Toddlers and Tiaras”).
But there's one show near and dear to my hard-on and that's “Strange Sex.” Starting its third season on Sunday night, this series delves into the sexual lifestyles, issues and experiences of men and women often like you and me (on the outside) eager to eliminate as much related stigma and misinformation as they can.
Sunday's premiere follows a man who's uncontrollably turned on enough by his wife's breast milk to nurse himself, as well as a retired couple whose healthy sex life has inspired vaginal rejuvenation surgery – AND a hymenoplasty. She's revirginizing herself for their 40th wedding anniversary. Romantic.
AfterDarkLA chatted with Alon Orstein, vice president of production and development for TLC East Coast, who explained that though the show's topics are taboo and, to say the least, scandalous (i.e. good TV) the network isn't in the business of intentional exploitation.
“We thought it was high time [TLC] had a show that dealt with issues surrounding sex that still was in step with our brand and what we do,” Orstein said. “We wanted to find a way to get into sexuality that was nontraditional and cover the gamut looking at people who were living with or seeking treatment for unusual conditions or engaging in lifestyles that may be intriguing, different or unique when comes to people's sex lives.”
And a simple call for entries and submissions has given Orstein and his team enough content to feature multiple fascinating characters in each episode and keep the network happy and, presumably, watched by millions of curious people for three years.
“A lot of the people who end up on the show are folks leaning forward for different reasons,” Orstein said. “It may be that they want the opportunity to share an aspect of their lifestyle that to them is celebratory or is something they want to share with a TV audience and speak to and be a voice for. Others we profile might suffer from a condition that they are keen to shine light on and make people aware of.”
And that's precisely what “Strange Sex” does. From watching just a few episodes viewers will have enough fodder for inappropriate dinner conversation at least for the next five Thanksgivings.
But there's a thin line between sensationalizing these serious and significant sexual topics and genuinely trying to expose viewers to alternative lifestyles and preferences, and it's not an easy one to walk. Orstein and his team say they're incredibly careful about that, and are aware that while they're merely opening the “door,” the onus is on them to remain truthful, candid and authentic — else they'll just end up with a modernized version of a Coney Island freak show.
“We tell it straight,” Orstein said. “We don't come in with preconceived notions and we're not trying to put veneer on a story that doesn't exist. We want people to experience these individuals and lives as they unfold. As long as we stick to that and stay authentic with our characters we aren't going to run the risk of casting them in a light that is not true to who they are. We're very serious about that.”
If your curiosity hasn't been peaked by this point, why not check out some clips from the upcoming season. Get acquainted with the woman with the world's largest breasts (size 102ZZZ. YIPES.), the dude who drinks breast milk to get a boner, and the happily married couple getting ready to have sex for the first time all over again.
Check 'em out and keep your Sunday night open – check your local listings for air times.