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50 Years of Bad Sex (2011)

TV Movie  -   -  Documentary  -  16 December 2011 (UK)
6.3
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An essay by cultural writer and critic Jacques Peretti on the role and expression of sex in five key entertainment products of the last fifty years: the Carry On movies, ABBA and TV series Baywatch, Sex and the City and X Factor.

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Jacques Peretti ...
Himself - Presenter
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
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Themselves (archive footage)
...
Himself
Wes Butters ...
Himself
...
Himself (archive footage)
Tony Cowell ...
Himself
Michael Engler ...
Himself
Richard Evans ...
Himself
Wagner Fiuza-Carrilho ...
Himself (as Wagner)
Claes af Geijerstam ...
Himself
Leonard Grossman ...
Himself (as Dr Leonard Grossman)
...
Herself
...
Himself (archive footage)
Charles Hawtrey ...
(archive footage)
Wolfgang Heilemann ...
Himself (as Bubi Heilemann)
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An essay by cultural writer and critic Jacques Peretti on the role and expression of sex in five key entertainment products of the last fifty years: the Carry On movies, ABBA and TV series Baywatch, Sex and the City and X Factor.

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Reached rock-bottom when it presented Baywatch as an 80s show
28 March 2013 | by See all my reviews

This documentary apparently started off well, using the Carry On films as a convincing-sounding example of how the hype of the 60s sexual revolution compared to the more conservative reality of society in general. (I say "apparently" because having seen the misleading inaccuracy later on, I became less willing to trust its analysis of a decade I wasn't even born in.)

It goes seriously downhill when it gets to the 1970s with ABBA as Peretti's chosen representative for the decade. Unusual choice as- media observation of Agnetha's backside aside- their public profile was relatively asexual. Still, despite some interesting observations, very little he has to say about them can be generalised into insight regarding society as a whole, beyond the fact that their divorces reflected a growing acceptance of that phenomenon. So what was the point?

But it really, really hits rock bottom when he chooses Baywatch to represent the 1980s. Er... hang on, wasn't that a 90s show?

Having looked this up, he's correct- but only in the most misleadingly pedantic sense. Yes, the first series aired in September 1989, but- as the documentary itself points out- it flopped and was cancelled, and only became a success story a couple of years later after being reworked into its better-known form (i.e. from 1991 until it finished in 2001).

So why on earth does Peretti choose it as representative of the 80s- of what "we" were watching during the decade we were fearful of AIDS, the "last decade of the cold war". David Hasselhoff is shown singing at the fall of the Berlin wall in late 1989, as if this had something to do with Baywatch, when in fact he was already famous there.

One could argue that the early-to-mid 90s that Baywatch actually represented showed the continuation, evolution and consequence of trends begun in the 80s. But this is beside the point, because that's not what Peretti says. The way he presents it, Baywatch is an 80s show- period- and is associated with all the things that obsessed us in the mid-80s. As this section draws to a close, a pastiche of the 1983 "Scarface" soundtrack (all analogue synths) briefly plays, as if to associate Baywatch with a decade prior.

Piretti doesn't strike me as an idiot, so what his motives are for this intellectual dishonesty are unclear. My guess is that he wanted things to fit his narrative whether or not they actually did, regardless of how much hammering was needed to get that square peg into a round hole.

After getting a 90s show to represent the 80s, Sex and the City (titled "Sex and City" in its caption) gets to represent the 90s, which is at least correct, though it's definitely "late 90s / millennial" rather than the entire decade.

Simon Cowell and the X Factor represents the present day but- like ABBA before them- this segment says less about sex (or asexuality) than Peretti wants to think it does.


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