By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
A guard with a headset and clipboard stands outside the entrance to Culver Studios' Stage 5. He lets you into the plush, dimly lit lobby, and another guard lets you into the production office, which, unlike the lobby, is bright, fairly small, informal, and cluttered with file folders and computers and various other office supplies. "Roses are red, my balls are blue," reads one of the index cards tacked to a large bulletin board.
The board features titles to the "cases" to be tried this week on Sex Court, a Playboy Channel TV show (and video) that is a cross between Jerry Springer, Court TV and fake porn. Other titles include "Do the Math Teacher," "Comic Requif" and "My Husband Took Viagra, Now He Comes Like Niagara."
"By no stretch of anyone's drug-addled imagination is this show meant to be taken seriously," says Scott, the show's publicist.
Have no fear, Scott.
The "cases" are presided over by Judge Julie, played by Julie Strain, a statuesque brunette adult model/actress whose robe consists of a black, strappy, dominatrix-looking teddy-type thing. Also populating the "courtroom"—which is filled with various ornate, gaudy Gothic candelabras and big, imposing throne-ish chairs, like the set of the Saturday Night Live skit "Goth Talk"—are a variety of sexy court people like sexy bailiffs and sexy guards and "Sex Court's own reporter Nikita," who apparently fled Communist Russia for the freedom of fake porn. Or the fake freedom of porn.
There's also Onyx, a robust, shiny, hairless guard who's also on the HBO series Oz. Alex, the show's other publicist, is taken aback when he realizes that he went to high school with Onyx back when Onyx was still a skinny black kid named Aaron Brumfield.
The formula for the show is simple: a case—such as the one I watch in which a couple have been having sex at their office and one day discover they're being filmed by surveillance cameras and that their boss is making money by broadcasting the footage on the Internet as well as (and this is the big, climactic turning point) pleasuring herself while watching —is brought before Judge Julie, who holds no law degrees but is, she tells me, the most frequently painted nude model in the world. The litigants are actors, and the cases are not real. In its first year, the show (now in its third year) featured actual, genuine, true-to-life cases inspired by viewers. Because, I mean, what exactly do you do when you're a stripper and your dad doesn't want you to strip anymore, but then it turns out that he doesn't want you to strip because he's sleeping with a bunch of the girls you work with at the strip club, but that's okay because you're sleeping with his boss? Or what, please, do you do if you're a stripper and your mom doesn't want you to strip anymore, but then it turns out that she recently got implants and now she's a stripper and she doesn't want you to strip because she just doesn't think you're sexy enough? Or how about if your brother is a constant embarrassment because he keeps having sex—in public—with his blowup doll, who he kinda sorta maybe really believes is his girlfriend? Or how about if your boyfriend wanted you to dominate him and you tried, but you just weren't convincing enough so he left you for a real dominatrix who leads him around on a leash, but you want him back because you think you're now ready to really dominate him and plus, that other dominatrix is a total bitch who doesn't even love him?
After Judge Julie asks the fake litigants a series of questions, she retires to her fake chambers to make a decision. She returns, delivers her verdict, and then doles out some kind of cruel and sexual punishment that must be carried out in front of her.
"Okay, I just want to warn you that sex will be simulated in this next scene," says Scott, which is a nice gesture, but hello! What the hell do you think I'm here to see?
At this point, I'm so tired from sitting around for hours witnessing the tedious lack of stimulation, made more poignant by the fact that I'm in a tightly guarded atmosphere that's supposed to be a paean to stimulation, that I kind of have to shake myself out of my daze to mutter reassuringly, "Oh, okay."
The justice doled out by Judge Julie is swift and exact, though not exactly befitting the crime. The office-sex couple must have sex for one last time—in public, in the courtroom, while their boss sits next to them and masturbates.
Now, you would think that this is the point at which things would get exciting. You would be wrong.
You know that part at the end of a game show where the contestants and host come out and clap and shake hands and hug and dance about and there's music playing and maybe confetti falling down and perhaps someone is holding a gigantic check and the credits roll? This is what the next scene of Sex Court is like, only everyone's naked or nearly naked and instead of dancing about, they're pretending to make out with one another.