Harxhi's yakker pulls in viewers, made the physician a celebrity

BUDAPEST — A sex education show starring an elderly doctor has captured the deeply conservative, Muslim-dominated Albanian market — and created a genre that could fly across the Muslim world.

Dr. Adem Harxhi’s no-nonsense advice on love and intimacy in “Sex and Sexuality” has made him a local celeb and boosted auds for Tirana-based commercial broadcaster Gjeli Vizion, which produces and airs the show Thursday nights.

Called Dr. Sex by his fans, Harxhi is an Albanian-born physician who practiced sex therapy in the U.S. before returning home after the fall of Communism.

His on-air persona is one reason for the low-budget yakker’s popularity. Gray-haired, avuncular and famous for tart soundbites, Harxhi is the Albanian Dr. Ruth, coming off as both harmlessly trustworthy and titillating as he gives sex lessons, debunks taboos, dishes out advice and urges conservative Albanians into the bedroom.

Harxhi may be fighting to topple deep-seated taboos, but the series is nothing less than a revolution on Albania’s uptight airwaves.

Hardcore porn can be found on latenight TV, but mainstream broadcasters including state television TVSH deleted kissing from foreign movies and series until recently. Now Harxhi discusses everything from orgasms to oral sex in primetime and admonishes timid viewers to “tune your TV set to a different channel if you don’t like me.”

So far, Albanian society is sticking with him. This politely blunt form of sexual education could even become a franchise aired in similarly conservative Muslim-dominated markets like Kosovo and Macedonia, where nets have already expressed an interest.

Budapest-based distributor Cecilia Hazai, who sells programming to southern Europe, says sex programming must fit the idiosyncrasies of the local culture. “S&S” works in Albania, but it would bore sexually liberated auds in neighboring territories like Montenegro, she says. However, she thinks locally tailored versions of the show could work.

Harxhi says his philosophy is to use TV sex to spread peace of mind. “Make love as much as possible,” he recently told viewers, “so that you can relax, rid yourself of stress and regenerate.”

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