'Sex Box' Premiere Review: A Live Sex Show or Brain-Dead Reality TV?

·Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment

The heroic public service being performed on the WE tv network's new show Sex Box is to prove that couples look awfully foolish sitting around in silk pajamas and slippers discussing a recently-completed bout of the old in-and-out, up-and-down. Instead of the post-coital glow that romantics believe results from doing the deed, the participants on Sex Box look dazed, smiling sappily, willing to agree with anything the "sexperts" say to them. Which is probably the condition they were in when they signed on to appear on Sex Box.

Looming over the set of the show is a huge blue opaque cube — the sex box of the title. There is a brief preliminary interview of a couple having intimacy problems. Sample tragic difficulties: "He rarely tries to jump my bones"; "I'd like to date other women with my wife" ("a thruple, you mean," said the host, sex therapist Dr. Chris Donaghue, helpfully). Asked to describe their sex history, one couple told a hair-raising story of how the wife, about to give birth in the delivery room, insisted on giving her husband oral sex right there because, she claimed, her contractions were turning her on so much. (I confess my notes are a bit indecipherable here, as I passed out around the time of the word "contractions.")

At some point in the opening interview, Dr. Donaghue always pauses to lower his voice to say with great solemnity, "Are you ready to go into… the Sex Box?"

At which point the couple under scrutiny nods enthusiastically and enters the blue cube box, which then turns a throbbing red color as the duo engages in sexual acts we do not see or hear. This being a highly scientific investigation, their act is timed down to the second they emerge from the Sex Box: the first two couples in this episode (which I watched with fingers covering my eyes) emerged with figures of "27:29" and "26:41." A third couple's comparatively lengthy "31:49" drew gasps of admiration from the studio audience. Oh, yes: There's a hooting, cheering, laughing studio audience — there to help, I assume, make the laboratory atmosphere all the more convincing.

After the act, a trio of advisors — Dr. Donaghue, Florida pastor Dr. Yvonne Capehart, and relationship therapist Dr. Fran Walfish — quizzes the couple in silk pajamas (the couple, not the therapists: that wouldn't be professional!). Because, as Donaghue says, "post-sex, people are at their most vulnerable and honest," details come tumbling out of the not exactly shy couples, who use the most artful of euphemisms: "I let him go down on my boobs and have a good time there"; "He actually spent some time in the southerly direction"; "He knows the slut I can be." The therapists offer their considered analysis and then congratulate themselves. Wafish exulted, "I have never seen emotional growth that fast!" (That's what she said!)

The Parents Television Council has condemned Sex Box before its premiere as a "live sex show on basic cable," which has turned out to be the greatest publicity WE tv has received since it debuted Braxton Family Values. Really, if you need a watchdog group to tell you to stay away from a show that lets people air their steamy details while moist perspiration clings to silk pajamas left over from Hugh Hefner's Playboy Mansion closet, you might be gullible enough to enter… the Sex Box!

Sex Box premieres Friday, Feb. 27 at 10 p.m. on WE tv.