Human sexuality, in all its glorious, fascinating diversity, should be a limitless source of entertainment. So why are so many TV sex advice shows either horrifying or boring? Remember "Loveline," the radio show that made it to MTV in the late '90s? Before turning up on "The Man Show" and "Celebrity Rehab," the program's classy hosts, Adam Carolla and Dr. Drew, were infamous for insisting to a huge number of female callers that they must have been sexually abused as children. Even my favorite sex advice show, Oxygen's "Talk Sex with Sue Johanson," can get old: The novelty of watching a grandmotherly woman (however adorable) dispense tips on vibrators and orgasms just wears off after a while. Apparently viewers agreed. The show went off the air in the U.S. in 2008.
And that's why I'm so excited to hear that Dan Savage, of "Savage Love" fame, is shooting a pilot for HBO. The syndicated sex columnist writes that his series, which would also be titled "Savage Love," "will focus on current events and cultural trends with sex as the filter." And his approach to the show seem specially designed to fill the TV sex programming void: "I'm hoping to bring a new kind of conversation to TV about sex -- an honest conversation, one that's informed without being (too) wonky, funny without being (too) cruel, sexy without being (too) cheesy. Basically, my sex advice column -- but on the teevee!"
Well, hooray for that! The prospect of Savage getting his own show is exciting on many levels: For one thing, the kinky and complicated topics he takes on never hurt for entertainment value. And I'd love to see his nonjudgmental "good, giving and game" ethos expand its influence beyond the writer's devoted following of alt-weekly readers. Savage never sugarcoats, and his candidness only makes his advice more trustworthy. In a recent (NSFW, obvi) podcast, he tells a caller whose boyfriend has been choking her during sex, "I would not see this guy again if I were you -- ever. He is an unsafe, untrustworthy, emotionally sadistic piece of shit. And you shouldn't fuck him ever again."
But what I love most about Savage is his understanding that sex is political. This is, after all, the man who managed to make Rick Santorum's last name synonymous with a particularly gross byproduct of anal sex. The frequent "Real Time with Bill Maher" guest (who has also written for Salon) is a gay dad and an outspoken advocate for same-sex marriage, freedom of speech and abortion rights. During the '08 election season, Savage released a hilarious video in which he offered to be Sarah Palin's gay friend. As the struggle for gay rights rages and conservatives begin to muster their forces for 2010 and 2012, I'm crossing my fingers that HBO likes the pilot enough to give this smart, controversial and politically influential sex writer an even bigger soapbox.