Review: 'Sex Box' from WE tv
The opening narration of WE tv's "Sex Box" is more sensational than the actual show. It calls the series, using a format from the UK's Channel 4, "the most radical therapy ever seen on television" and insisting "these couples are about to bare it all" with "the most aggressive treatment ever captured on TV."
If WE tv's "Sex Box" was going to have a more honest title, it would be "Sex Talk," because although there is a box and sex in it, this is a show with lots of talking.
Ultimately, WE tv's "Sex Box" feels more like a daytime TV talk show than a scintillating nighttime reality show. The show churns through three couples in an hour, sitting them on chairs in front of three experts, led by a Dr. Chris Donaghue, an annoying sex therapist who interrupts his co-experts ("wait, wait, wait" he says when one of them tries to ask a question during the premiere). The other two are Dr. Yvonne Capehart, a pastor, and Dr. Fran Walfish, a Beverly Hills psychotherapist, who both have some interesting observations, but again, it's like they're hosts and/or guests on a talk show.
We see a clip package introducing each couple, and then they tell the therapists about their problem. The experts start offering advice, and by advice, I mean judgement.
Whether it's just edited and condensed or whether the show accurately represents how long the experts talked to the couple, it feels rushed and an impossibly short amount of time to do this well. They send the couple off to have sex with a homework assignment, basically.
For all the claims about the participants being more honest and vulnerable after sex, they've pretty much already confessed everything before they go into the box. Publicly discussing problems in their relationships and then being told to have sex immediately seems like an enormous amount of pressure, and it struck me more than once watching the premiere that I can't quite imagine why anyone would want to do this.
After the couple disappears to have sex, there's a clock that times them, though there's no indication that the length of time matters. When they're done, the box's lights change color and the couple exits in silky robes.
Then there's more talking. They talk about what happened--who was on top or how attentive the inattentive partner was, but it's all very PG, maybe PG-13. There is only talking on "Sex Box." Okay, again, yes, there is sex in a box, but that's about as interesting as ice cream surrounded by concrete.
Between couples, there is--you guessed it!--more talking. A "sex correspondent" interviews couples on the street, or as she said, "real talkin' with people about sex. That's something HBO's "Real Sex" did better, and not just because its version didn't have to censor words.
For a glorified talk show on WE, the production values are okay, but the show tries too hard to make itself seem authentic by letting us listen in to the control room and seeing cameras, though ironically those parts seem more staged than anything else.
The resolutions aren't quite trite, and there might be some useful takeaways for people who watch and identify with these (so far heterosexual) couples' problems. The show, however, wants to imagine some kind of profound change has happened or that they've solved all the couples' problems in a few minutes. Insight is not change, and this isn't real therapy. It's a box on a stage with three talking heads.