Pleasure for Sale

Hookers and booze. As scripted programming barely registers a pulse these days, that's what we're left with, as Sundance Channel's newest reality skein takes aim at the former with a peek at what goes on behind the doors at the world famous Chicken Ranch brothel in Pahrump, Nev.

Hookers and booze. As scripted programming barely registers a pulse these days, that’s what we’re left with, as Sundance Channel’s newest reality skein takes aim at the former with a peek at what goes on behind the doors at the world famous Chicken Ranch brothel in Pahrump, Nev. If skin’s your thing, prepare to be a tad unaroused. Sure, there are some fleeting images of sex in this six-part documentary series, but there’s certainly a lot more crying than fornicating.

That’s not to say “Pleasure” isn’t somewhat addictive in a voyeuristic sort of way for those who’ve always wondered about the type of women who would make a living as prostitutes and the customers who would use their services. Unlike HBO’s “Cathouse” series, which covers the same terrain and makes whoring seem like a 24/7 party, these ladies are much more sour on their no-degree-required careers. One resident equates working there to being in prison, having to be on call all hours of the day and ready to put out.

With about 20 women living under the same roof, there are certainly going to be catfights, and plenty abound here. The main instigator is Gabby, a woman who’s developed lupus from implants that have leaked silicone into her body. She’s angry, and worried she’ll never be healthy again, and takes her pent-up hostility out on her housemates. She calls one woman fat and accuses another of stealing clients — and it’s never her fault, natch.

Exec producers and directors Joe and Harry Gantz — the brothers behind “Taxicab Confessions” — smartly ensure that the women deliver personal backstories before getting on their backs, with tales that never fail to amaze. By episode two, the show becomes more engrossing as these women describe how they arrived here — with tales of woe coming as a welcome relief from the constant bickering.

Chyna, for instance, began having sex at age 16 but hasn’t had relations with her husband since 2004. Rose, who specializes in perversion, was on the streets at 16 and says she’s been a “piece of putty in the hands of unscrupulous men.”

And then there’s Kittie, a housewife and mom who helps with the family’s finances by working at the Ranch one week a month, and then goes home to make dinner and watch the kids play soccer. She recalls the day she cried for joy after receiving her first paycheck. (Just wondering, but do they take out for FICA?)

The Gantzes examine the brothel’s reach outside the Ranch as well. The local minister rages against the sins committed inside his community while the town doctor checks the ladies weekly for sexually transmitted diseases. (He’s OK with their profession andsays he’s never diagnosed one prostitute with a disease, unlike the high school kids he sees who are having unprotected sex.)

Like the world’s oldest profession itself, there will never be a shortage of folks who want to see why anyone would participate in what some would argue is a most degrading line of work. What “Pleasure” proves — at times depressingly — is that these women find being poor a far worse alternative.

Pleasure for Sale

Sundance Channel, Mon., Feb. 4, 11 p.m.

Production: Taped in Pahrump, Nev., by Sundance Channel. Executive producers, Joe Gantz, Harry Gantz, Lynne Kirby, Laura Michalchyshyn; producer, Devon Terrill; directors, Gantz, Gantz

Crew: Supervising producer, Ann Rose; field producer, Delaura Sue Gundle; editors, Aaron Butler, Tyler Hubby; assistant editor, Tom Nuzzalo; music, David Baerwald, Harlan T. Bobo. 30 MIN.

More TV

  • Mike Fleiss

    ‘The Bachelor’ Creator Mike Fleiss Accused of Attacking Wife

    “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” creator Mike Fleiss has been accused of attacking his wife Laura Fleiss at their home in Hawaii on July 4, according to documents obtained by Variety. The documents show that Laura Fleiss, who is currently pregnant, filed for an emergency domestic violence restraining order against her husband after he allegedly [...]

  • James Cordon Drag Race Handmaids Tale

    Emmys Trivia: 20 Surprising Facts From 2019's Nominations

    For a show that technically wasn’t eligible at the Emmy Awards in 2019, “The Handmaid’s Tale” did quite well this year. The Hulu drama picked up 11 nominations, including major ones like outstanding directing, writing, guest actress and guest actor, thanks to a quirk in the TV Academy’s Emmy rules. As previously noted, most of [...]

  • 'Schitt's Creek' Emmy Nominations Give Boost

    'Schitt's Creek' Emmy Nominations Give Boost to Pop's Profile

    The core executive team at Pop TV expected to be disappointed, but they still gathered at the CBS-owned cable channel’s Playa Vista offices early Tuesday morning for the reveal of this year’s Primetime Emmy Awards nominations. They were not disappointed. “Schitt’s Creek,” the quirky comedy series that has punched above its weight for Pop since [...]

  • Beyonce-HOMECOMING-Netflix

    Beyoncé, Sara Bareilles Vie for First Emmys as Ramin Djawadi Looks to Reclaim Throne

    Beyoncé and Sara Bareilles could add Emmy trophies to their awards shelves this year, having been nominated in key music categories Tuesday by the Television Academy. Beyoncé’s “Homecoming” special on Netflix was nominated in six categories, and four of those include a nod for the pop superstar herself. Only one of those is in a [...]

  • Disney Content Sales President Janice Marinelli

    Disney Content Sales President Janice Marinelli to Depart

    Janice Marinelli, president of global sales and marketing at Walt Disney’s direct-to-consumer and international segment, said Tuesday that she would step down from her role after a 34-year career at the company. “It has been an honor to work for this company and a privilege to work with so many outstanding professionals,” said Marinelli in [...]

  • Dusty Slay

    Late-Night Bookers Take to the Internet in Search of Emerging Comics

    With Netflix releasing a comedy special every week and YouTube offering a portal into both cutting-edge performance and the best comedy sets in history, it’s never been easier for audiences to access an endless stream of standup. But for fledgling comics, there’s still no more game-changing showcase than a five-minute slot on a late-night talk [...]


    CBS Warns DirecTV, AT&T U-Verse May Drop Network

    Some of CBS Corp.’s biggest stations and its flagship network could be dropped from AT&T’s various cable and satellite services if a carriage agreement between the companies is not reached by July 19. “CBS has reached timely, fair agreements with hundreds of other cable, satellite, telco and internet providers to carry our industry-leading, fan-favorite programming,”  [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content