MaHB Television: Sex Doesn’t Always Sell

Esquire Malaysia + Esquire Singapore, November 2013

Sex doesn’t always sell
Network execs, take note: clothing off won’t mean viewers switching on.

By Sophia Goh

Sex sells. Everyone knows that, and for the most part, it works. That’s why Megan Fox was cast in Transformers, Miranda Kerr has an “accidental” nip slip about once a week, and Miley Cyrus is physically incapable of not twerking. So it stands to reason that TV should work the same way. How else did Sofia Vergara land the role of Gloria in Modern Family?

Except it doesn’t. The US’ most watched TV show of the 2012-2013 season was NCIS, a procedural drama series about a team of special agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Maybe the men in uniform appeal to the female demographic, and the cast is easy enough to look at – but is it sexy? We think not. Second-ranked Sunday Night Football aside, the other shows that round out the top five are just as unlikely – The Big Bang Theory, NCIS: Los Angeles (you again!) and Person Of Interest. That’s geeky bromances, an NCIS spin-off, and another procedural type that, instead of solving crimes, seeks to prevent them. You could probably make half a case for The Big Bang Theory’s Penny, who is played by the cute and sometimes busty Kaley Cuoco, and Person of Interest‘s John Reece, if you can get over the fact that Jim Caviezel is the same actor who played Jesus Christ. But we think you’ll agree: sex icons they aren’t.

Then there’s the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation franchise, also known as CSI: Las Vegas, which was recognised at last year’s Monte Carlo Television Festival as the most-watched TV show in the world – for the fifth time in seven years (based on statistics from Eurodata TV Worldwide). The police procedural drama has spawned two spin-offs, CSI: NY and CSI: Miami, which lasted a stunning nine and ten seasons respectively before being laid to rest. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, meanwhile, is 14 seasons strong and still going.

So here’s the surprising conclusion: sex doesn’t sell on TV; or at least, not as well as one would think. Instead, well written dramas, brilliant comedy and grisly murders (presumably as long as they are solved or prevented) are proving themselves rulers of the roost. At a time when the TV industry is consistently producing higher quality entertainment than their movie counterparts, it’s good to know viewers are discerning enough to appreciate great work when they see it. Turns out that, at the end of a long day, people just want to kick back, relax and be properly entertained. None of that easy-way-out sex stuff, thanks.

Of course, there will always be those who won’t stop keeping up with the Kardashians or know Honey Boo Boo isn’t a type of cereal; but, overall, we reckon there’s hope for humanity yet. As for Vergara, she may be a scintillatingly sexy Colombian with an exotic accent and a blessed penchant for murdering the English language, but she’s also a talented actress. Just look at her three Golden Globe and four Emmy nominations.

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