“Gigolos” comes closer to pornography than most reality TV series dares to tread, but that’s not the head-scratching part of Showtime’s latest foray into the sex trade, featuring a quintet of male escorts. No, the real puzzler is how many clients seem completely unabashed about having their preferences and fetishes captured on film — undaunted by paid-for frolicking (between two, or more, consenting adults) with a camera crew in tow. Once you get past that, the series proves reasonably compelling while relying on typical tricks of the trade — a brand of pandering commonly known as “reality TV.”
Wisely limited to a half-hour per episode, the series makes the case early on that women employing the services of males (and it’s stressed that the guys cater to a female-only clientele) are no different than men patronizing prostitutes — a commercial transaction that’s also been documented for pay-TV posterity, in venues such as HBO’s “Cathouse.”
That said, it’s still a little jarring to hear a client talk about escaping to Las Vegas, where the show is set, for some “Whatever happens in … ” fun away from the kids, then participating in graphic sex acts on camera for all the world (OK, a subset of Showtime’s nearly 20 million subscribers) to see.
Represented by an “agent” (his term, not mine) named Garren James, the escorts each have their own stock character issues. There’s the single dad, the older guy who wants to launch a product line that will provide his transition out of the business, the fellow who wants to reveal his career path to visiting friends, and the genial new guy.
The sex itself isn’t particularly glamorous, and the escorts spend a lot of time talking about the nature of fantasy and psychology of seduction — one reason, aside from the 30-pack of chiseled abs, this series should principally appeal to women.
Succumbing to fantasy is also required to enjoy the show, since like a lot of conventional reality fare, viewers must tune out the level of production involved to maximize their satisfaction. An audience has to pretty actively suspend disbelief, for example, when somebody tells the camera they don’t want their mother to know what they’re up to, and there are stagey moments — like the lads reluctantly baby-sitting a couple of kids — in the episodes previewed.
Then again, even a cynic can grudgingly admire “Gigolos” strictly for the sheer “Wow, they got someone to sign a waiver to show that?” absurdity of it. By that measure, the escorts and producers have much in common, philosophically speaking — along the lines of, “Hey, as long as the lady’s buying … “