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Ryan, a self-described sex addict on Logo’s new group therapy reality show Bad Sex, unabashedly tells the camera that he has slept with approximately 1,500 guys, give or take a few, including “everyone in West Hollywood.” The plausibility of his boast aside, the point is that the 35-year-old gay male believes himself to be a guy who has not only gotta have it, but can’t live without it.
“The goal is not ‘normal,’” Donaghue tells his new, sexually confused clients in their first group session. “Don’t go for normal, because normal implies that there’s a right and a wrong, and there’s not. The goal is for us to all figure out what is healthy for us.”
While we briefly meet the other group members, including Joel, a compulsive cheater, Stella, a 37-year-old virgin, and Erin, whose craving for rough sex freaks out potential suitors, the premiere focuses on Ryan’s insatiable carnal appetite.
Given that Donaghue never really seems to say anything that either the viewer or his clients haven’t already deduced on their own, it’s not a bad thing that the bulk of the first show follows Ryan around LA as he searches out his next conquest. A restaurant owner, with an iPhone full of hundreds of willing contacts, Ryan’s online profile at numerous gay dating sites includes a shirtless picture suitable for gay porn promos, but his real target are those men who may not even realize that they’re living in a closet.
“I like straight-acting guys,” Ryan says before a bowling date with a straight friend. “And it’s not a fun thing because then you have to deal with all their drama. They wake up the next morning and they’re freaking out because they just had sex with a guy, or you actually kind of like them but then they’re married.”
After luring a first-timer into bed one night, and taking cellphone video of himself lying next to the sleeping man, Ryan requests an emergency one-on-one session with Donaghue.
“That is risky and dangerous, right?” Donaghue says with little to no affect. “Because you don’t know this guy.”
Midway through the episode, after listening to the so-called expert state and re-state the obvious, you can’t help but agreeing with Ryan’s assessment of his abilities.
“I’m frustrated, I’m annoyed, I feel like this whole day has just been stupid and wasted and boring,” Ryan says after Donaghue basically tells him he’s out of his depth and that Ryan should consider an in-patient program.
Despite Donaghue’s lack of Dr. Phil certitude and charm, Ryan’s story of addiction is entertaining television, especially because his case is so extreme. What’s surprising about his treatment regimen, though, is how long it takes his therapist to get around to addressing the underlying causes for his patient’s glaring inability to achieve emotional intimacy.
Executive Producers Patty Ivins (The Simple Life) and Julie Pizzi (Date My House) have the potential for decent show here. There’s no shortage of tension in the group therapy sessions, and one assumes that as the eight-week therapy progresses, it will come to the fore. And with a mixture problems ranging from kinky fetishes to repressed libidos on deck for future episodes, there is little doubt that Bad Sex’s subject matter can generate interest. Still, if they don’t already suspect as much, Ivins and Pizzi may want to consider shopping around for a more animated and knowledgeable host.
Tucked in at the very end of the premiere episode, a supertitle offers the following disclaimer. “Chris Donaghue is a registered associate social worker working under the supervision of a licensed psychologist.”
In other words, Donaghue isn’t yet a fully accredited sex specialist, and even if he were, he might not be the best choice to play one on TV.
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