The Experiment: Gay and Straight

Feature version of a reality-TV miniseries that's deservedly gathered dust for a couple years, "The Experiment" offers the thoughtful consideration of weighty social issues one might expect from Fox News. In other words, it's an overpackaged, rather hysterical entertainment/exploitation/quasi-documentary that ought to be put into a time capsule, thus preserving some of the era's worst mass-media characteristics.

With:
With: Andrea, Chris, Deo, Greg, Brandon, Darlene, Frank, Jennifer, Larry, Kyla.

Feature version of a reality-TV miniseries that’s deservedly gathered dust for a couple years, “The Experiment” offers the thoughtful consideration of weighty social issues one might expect from Fox News. In other words, it’s an overpackaged, rather hysterical entertainment/exploitation/quasi-documentary that ought to be put into a time capsule, thus preserving some of the era’s worst mass-media characteristics. Allegedly altruistic experiment forcing five hand-picked actual gay people to cohabit for an entire week with five straight brethren probably does have shelf value as a future camp artifact.

Tag-team hosts Darlene Hill and Mark Saxenmeyer — whose pokerfaced appearances seem like something out of a Christopher Guest film — set up the situation, introduce the players and solemnly weigh each shocking or poignant new development. A dozen volunteers chosen for the seven-day stay in a Chicago brownstone are the usual representative mix of ages and ethnic makeups. They include an HIV positive man, the supportive mom of a gay son, two cocky next-generation gay youths, and several straight folks who admit to some anti-gay prejudices.

Various exercises and heart-to-hearts serve to promote a dialogue that results in broadened minds by week’s end — not including that of boorish Kyla, whose insistence homosexuality is a sin seems somewhat hypocritical, given that she’s living out of wedlock with a male lover.

While pic has the inevitable reality-TV pull of colorful real personalities and gossipy content, as well as a few genuinely touching moments, it’s so slickly contrived and sensationalistic in tone that unintentional laughs are never far away.

Loud Top-40 hits drop-kicked onto the soundtrack, over-busy graphics and hyperactive editing all further underline the disingenuous nature of the enterprise.

The Experiment: Gay and Straight

Production: A Fox Television News production. Produced by Darlene Hill, Mark Saxenmeyer, Kathleen Minnis. Directed, written by Mark Saxenmeyer.

Crew: Camera (color, DV), Leo Brucato, Chris Davis; editor, Lou Hinkhouse. Reviewed at San Francisco Lesbian & Gay Festival, June 20, 2004. Running time: 87 MIN.

With: With: Andrea, Chris, Deo, Greg, Brandon, Darlene, Frank, Jennifer, Larry, Kyla.

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