Apparently, not even sex itself is sexy enough these days not to be tarted up for TV audiences. The producers of “Body Human 2000: Love, Sex & the Miracle of Birth,” a documentary whose most interesting segments focus on how technology is altering the course of reproduction, apparently felt that the subject matter wasn’t intrinsically interesting enough on its own terms. Compelled to add some spice with gratuitous imagery of models frolicking in bathing suits, couples dancing, En Vogue musicvideos and even shots of JFK Jr., the result is an occasionally diverting report that spends too much time treating its audience like panting teens.
Host James Brolin warns viewers they’ll see things “not normally shown on primetime television.” This includes staggeringly intimate images of a fetus only 25 days old (the earliest stage a fetus has ever been photographed — presumably earning it a SAG card) as well as doctors’ attempts to help a sterile man impregnate his wife and rescue a child born four months premature. That’s the good news.
Unfortunately, we’re also shown “temperature-sensitive” photography of a couple engaged in foreplay, as well as the interiors of both male and female genitalia being aroused, forcing one to question the producers’ motives — are they really interested in edifying us here or are they just getting some high-tech jollies?
Three absorbing, only slightly overdramatized reports form the structure over which the rest of the hype and nonsense is draped. The first features a groundbreaking procedure in which a man scarcely capable of producing a dozen sperm (as opposed to the billions roiling around in most men) has those sperm ferreted out and implanted in his wife’s eggs. Alas, the couple’s psychology is left unexamined; what drives them to a procedure that if botched is, as narrator James Brolin oversells it, “tantamount to castration,” over a more conventional method of perpetuating the family name such as, say, adoption?
Another technological breakthrough is depicted when a woman incapable of enjoying sex has the shape of her vagina surgically altered. Soon, she and her husband are strolling past windmills and slow-dancing, happy as never before. (Why didn’t “EDtv” think of this?)
The special’s most compelling story focuses on the abovementioned preemie in an unprecedented test of survival. Doctors kept the infant breathing by pumping oxygen-rich water into its delicate lungs, ultimately ensuring its survival.
But to get these reports, viewers must sit through pointless or inconclusive vignettes, such as a superficial meditation on what is sexy; a blithe, unrevealing report on identical twins; and an inconclusive story on a child without well-defined genitalia.
Occasional flourishes of MTV-style editing, computer graphics, and other bells and whistles make for a very schizophrenic documentary experience that tries to bury its simplistic conclusion that the “body human” hasn’t changed much in a long time, even if science decidedly has.
Tech credits are fine.