So sex doesn’t sell, after all?

So sex doesn’t sell, after all? (photo)

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When’s the last time you saw a big studio movie that had a sex scene? A real one — you know, one with something more graphic than what you’d fine in “Sex And The City”?

Off the top of my head, there’s “A History of Violence,” and then Keira Knightley seems pretty into getting naked, but I know for a fact no one saw “Domino” but me. But yeah, the whole idea that Americans are more down with violence than sex in their movies hardly seems worth repeating.

So what to make of a new study that analyzed 914 films released widely between 2001 and 2005 and concluded “sex and nudity do not, on the average, boost box office performance, earn critical acclaim or win major awards”? The study, which ran in the November issue of Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts, is titled “Sex Doesn’t Sell — Nor Impress.”

There’s an odd tone to the quotes run in Miller-McCune. Researcher Dean Keith Siminton suggests that “sex is cheap with respect to production costs. Female actors can be hired for less than male actors, and can be urged (i.e. coerced?) into displaying more sexual nudity/activity; and for various reasons, sex scenes may be less expensive to shoot. And yet, mainstream cinema still can’t get an additional buck out of the practice.”

I’m no research scientist, but I do know enough about the basic ideas behind causation and correlation to feel like this is kind of specious. Sex and casual nudity are exceedingly rare these days. A little Megan Fox cleavage to lighten things up? Sure — as in the good old advertising days, to sell a car you need a pretty girl — but not even “Jennifer’s Body” (which is all about sex) was going to go there.

On the arthouse side, there have definitely been sex-filled failures. But it’s possible that “9 Songs” flopped because no one wanted to watch a relation boiled down to just fucking and murky show-attendance, and that “Lust, Caution” flopped because no one had the energy for nearly three hours of WWII China sex and intrigue. Meanwhile, the “Sex and the City” movie was very popular indeed, “graphic nudity” and all. And it doesn’t get any more real than that title. So now what?

11232009_clashofthetitans.jpgIt’s true that the ’60s sexual revolution hung over into the ’70s and ’80s on screen with a lot of casual, incidental nudity brightening up PG movies for pre-pubescent boys everywhere (see “Logan’s Run,” “16 Candles,” hell, “Clash of the Titans”) and no one seemed to get too hung up about it. It’s equally true that, for whatever reason, that’s something most families wouldn’t put up with these days.

But it’s also true that much of the internet revolves around the promise of sexual content — think of blogs, with their after-the-jump teases about scandals and sex tapes, or the coy “lifestyle” stories on newspaper websites desperate for hits. And, of course, there’s the ever-enduring porn industry.

Maybe it’s really not true that “sex sells” — but wink-wink raunch totally does. What does that mean? It means that you can’t really draw conclusions from a climate where most movies involving sex scenes are inevitably up to something “serious,” and therefore commercially doomed from the start.

[Photo: “Sex and the City,” Warner Bros., 2008; “Clash of the Titans,” MGM, 1981]

That 70s show

That '70s Facts

10 Things You Didn’t Know About That ’70s Show

Catch That '70s Show Mondays & Tuesdays from 6-11P on IFC.

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Every That ’70s Show fan has a favorite character, favorite episode, or even a favorite “Circle” moment. But how well do you know the show? Check out some interesting facts about the series and the Wisconsin gang.

1. Chuck Norris Almost Played Red Forman

Red That 70s Show

We said everyone has a favorite character, and let’s be honest: it’s Red. And Red almost had the ability to lay out Hyde with a swift roundhouse kick to the head. Chuck Norris was considered for the role of Eric’s dad, but was unavailable due to filming Walker, Texas Ranger, opening the part for Kurtwood Smith’s incomparable portrayal.

2. Mila Kunis lied about her age to get the role of Jackie.

That 70s Show Jackie

Snotty (but surprisingly smart) Jackie propelled Mila Kunis to stardom. She got the part by being perfect for it, and by playing older than she actually was. Auditioning at age 14, she told the producers that “I’ll be 18 on my birthday,” neglecting to mention said birthday was still four years away. Having an actual teenager play a television teenager for once is a nice novelty.

3. The show was almost named after a Who song.

That 70s Show Theme

A ’70s-set sitcom couldn’t help but be defined by music, but That ’70s Show was legally forced into its final name. Early ideas included “Teenage Wasteland” and “The Kids Are Alright,” but pressure from The Who’s lawyers forced the creators to come up with something better. At which point they found that test viewers had already given it the wonderfully self-aware name.

4. “The Circle” was a way to get around censors.

The show’s trademark camera spin was a powerful comedic tool for endless one-liners and honest moments where the characters talked directly to the camera. Most importantly, it allowed the show to make it clear the characters were totally baked while never showing them actually smoking pot.

5. Leo Was Really Arrested For Drug Charges

Leo That 70s Show

Hyde’s drug-inspired boss Leo incarnated the ’70s stoner culture on several levels. Not only was he played by the iconic Tommy Chong, but he disappeared from the series for a while because he was serving a jail sentence for selling drug paraphernalia. It was such a natural chain of events, Tommy was surprised they didn’t write it into the show.

6. You can blame a movie for Blonde Donna.

Blonde Donna

Blonde Donna 2

Donna claimed she dyed her hair blonde after her marriage to Eric was called off. But the truth is Laura Prepon went blonde for the lead role in the 2006 psychological thriller Karla.

7. Topher Grace was discovered in a high school play.

Eric That 70s show

Topher Grace got his start in show business after That ’70s Show creators Bonnie and Terry Turner saw him in their daughter’s high school play. We assume he wasn’t constantly called “dumbass” in the play, but he wowed the Turners just the same.

8. Red really is from the “Craphole” state.

Red That 70s show

Kurtwood Smith is the only actor from Wisconsin, where the show is set. In fact, Red Forman is even more authentically Wisconson-ian, being based on Smith’s stepfather, who passed away shortly before the pilot was filmed. Yes, there actually was a real Red.

9. Josh Meyers was originally going to play Eric after Topher Grace left the show.

Josh meyers that 70s show

Josh Meyers, brother of Seth Meyers, was hired to replace Topher Grace, who’d left the series to fight Spider-Man on the big screen. Eric’s suddenly different appearance was going to be explained by the changing effects of coming back from his trip to Africa as a newly grown man, but the writers eventually ditched this ludicrous idea. Instead we got Randy Pearson, a fusion of Eric’s snarky humor and Kelso’s way with the ladies.

10. Eric’s Vista Cruiser license plate marks the passage of time.

That 70s show license plate

That ’70s Show almost lasted an entire decade with eight seasons, but it only took up four years of fictional time. And you can tell what year each episode takes place in by the license plate at the end of the theme song.

Bob Odenkirk and David Cross in Mr. Show With Bob and David.

Best of Mr. Show

10 Mr. Show Sketches That Were Ahead of Their Time

David Cross returns as Todd Margaret January 7th at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: HBO/Brillstein-Grey

Proving the old adage that anything is possible if you wish hard enough, this month marked the return of comedy pioneers Bob Odenkirk and David Cross to the TV sketch arena with their new Netflix show W/ Bob and David. Featuring many of the writers and cast members (including Comedy Bang! Bang! host Scott Aukerman) who made the ’90s sketch program Mr. Show such an indelible cult classic, the long-awaited follow-up possesses the same sharp, satirical eye as its predecessor.

But in case you’re unfamiliar with Mr. Show and how culturally significant its comedy still is two decades later, here are the 10 most important sketches the series produced. And for more David Cross, be sure to catch the return of Todd Margaret on IFC beginning January 7th at 10P ET/PT.

10. GloboChem

For every faceless, multinational, multi-billion-dollar conglomerate, there are countless daily meetings just like this one: corporate pitchmen and bottomliners brainstorming ways to humanize their company’s image while tapping as many markets and demos as possible. And who better to accomplish this herculean task than a magical, pansexual, non-threatening spokesthing named Pit Pat?

9. The Mr. Show Water Cooler

Not too long ago, CNN was a trusted news source, Fox News languished in cable obscurity, and non-substantive political commentary based on monologue jokes and stand-up bits was relegated to variety shows like Politically Incorrect. But in the years since this sketch aired, comedy news outlets like The Daily Show, The Onion, and Last Week Tonight have become far more in-depth than our current cable news offerings and, according to multiple studies, they command a much more knowledgeable audience. Today, the “Mr. Show Water Cooler” sketch is more of an indictment of the “uninformed, unrehearsed political jam sessions” from the mainstream media than the satirical news shows that skewer them.

8. The Story of Everest

Lanky Jay Johnston undercuts his triumph of scaling Mount Everest by repeatedly falling against two racks of his mother’s thimbles in a mesmerizing display of physical comedy. And the fact there’s not much more to the scene makes it incredible. The overall simplicity of the premise, the realistic bewilderment and frustration of the parents, and how the basic tenets of comedy — timing, heightening, misdirection, etc. — are warped or outright abandoned makes this sketch a fascinating study of subtlety within slapstick.

7. Fairsley Foods

Without the financial resources, tax loopholes, and teams of lawyers that your average retail giant maintains, small family-run shops don’t stand a chance in most free market scenarios. So when a humble local supermarket chain is put in the sights of a mega-mart’s cutthroat smear campaign, there’s not much to do but close down locations and spend a fortune on child-sized tracking collars. The satire of mom & pop’s losing ground to mega-chains is just another example of Mr. Show eerily predicting the future.

6. The Prenatal Pageant

Years before Toddlers and Tiaras and Honey Boo-Boo popularized the alien world of child pageants and pushed the lowest-common denominator to record lows, a sketch like “Prenatal Pageant” seemed like a farfetched (albeit hilariously astute) portrayal of pageant families. But with 21st-century hindsight, Bob and David weren’t too far off from how those starry-eyed, reality show parents would treat a potential embryonic meal ticket.

5. Ronnie Dobbs

Once again, Mr. Show — the satirical prognosticator that it was — anticipated the precipitous decline of our celebrity tabloid culture. Ronnie Dobbs, the oft-arrested redneck who’s had brushes with the law in every state, achieves fame and fortune by simply being a petty criminal on a Cops-like reality show. And honestly, is that really different from today’s reality stars who get ample airtime and exorbitant per-episode paychecks?

4. Mr. Show Boys’ Club

In this biting take on the swinging-’60s sexism that predates Mad Men and is still present in many institutions, “Mr. Show Object” Jill Talley discovers that the Mr. Show Boys’ Club not only parades women around in skimpy outfits and deer antlers (a thinly veiled dig at the Playboy Club), but also offers meager concessions to its young female members. At a time when women are still fighting for equal pay and adequate health care, the sketch is sadly still very relevant.

3. The Teardrop Awards

As a stand-up, David Cross has railed against the cynical marketing in the wake of a tragedy. (Check out his thoughts on American flags post-9/11.) And playing a singer-songwriter who lost his five-year-old son a year prior, Cross explores similar exploitative territory with jubilant acceptance speeches after winning awards for his commemorative songs. A cathartic sketch for anyone who has felt gross after seeing suffering and misfortune capitalized on in the age of knee-jerk social media reactions.

2. The Last American Indian

The last living descendent of an ancient tribe is close to death as government agents watch over him and wait to take his land. All that’s left of his rich and storied culture is the foggy memories of a man in his twilight years — ones that could be confusing history with the film Billy Jack. It’s an incredibly dark and poignant reminder of the civilizations that have been lost and forgotten in the annals of war and subjugation.

1. Pre-Taped Call-In Show and The Audition

While these two sketches may not have the satirical edge of other Mr. Show scenes, they’re both master lessons on sketch writing that have inspired countless comedians. Both penned by Dino Stamatopoulos of Community and Moral Orel fame, “Pre-Taped Call-In Show” and “Audition” feature multiple layers of meta-comedy and gut-busting rage that stems from casually benign misunderstandings. To make a diehard fan out of a person unfamiliar with Mr. Show, simply show them these two sketches that continue to influence everything from Adult Swim to IFC’s own Comedy Bang! Bang!.

Want more comedy from the mind of David Cross? Check out the trailer for the return of Todd Margaret


Do You Know Jackie?

Test Your Knowledge on All Things Jackie

Take the Jackie quiz, That '70s fans!

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Jackie is the spoiled little rich girl of That ’70s Show, which doesn’t stop her from being right a little more often than her friends might like. But how many right answers will you get in our quiz that’s all about the motormouth of the That ’70s Show gang? Find out below.


That 70s eric

Attention Eric Fans!

How Well Do You Know Eric From That ’70s Show? Take the Quiz!

Catch That '70s Show Mondays & Tuesdays from 6-11P ET/PT on IFC.

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Eric Forman is the heart of the That ’70s Show gang and the frequent target of his dad Red’s insults. But do you know his roller disco name? Take the quiz below and test your knowledge on all things Eric.


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