seems that reality TV will pounce upon any sordid or degrading subject that
might drum up some voyeuristic interest in a holier-than-thou audience
base. So, it was only a matter of time that there would be a show focusing
on the circus world behind the scenes of pornography.
is, it makes for an interesting subject. Pornography is one of the few
recession-proof industries in the world (the others are war and chocolate).
Billions of dollars are spent on porn yearly and yet most of their audience
would never admit to partaking of it. It’s an interesting way of skewing
the whole thing; pleasure as business, sex as a nine-to-five job. If you
make a living at fucking, do you want to take the job home with you? Does
it all just get silly and dull? Besides, the series runs on Showtime, so
the profession throws the door wide open to lots o’ gratuitous nudity.
sets its sights on Adam Glasser, a creator of “adult
entertainment” who goes by the not-very-adult stage name of Seymore Butts.
Despite his extreme career, Glasser seems normal in most ways. He’s in his
early 40s. He’s a savvy businessman. He loves his son. He will give his
time and money to causes he believes in. He’s Jewish, though not
particularly religious. He’s a busy, driven man. (“I usually masturbate
about this time of day,” Adam tells one interviewer.) He works with his
family, is a loyal friend and he has the worst hair on TV this side of
ironic that despite his somewhat looked-down-upon line of business,
it turns out that Adam Glasser is much more likable and much less of a whore
than, say, Paris Hilton or Omorosa.
“The Osbornes are these crazy people being shown in the normal world,” he
explains. “We’re these normal people being shown in somewhat of a crazy
world.” In a
promo short that is included as a bonus on this DVD set, Glasser is asked to
compare his show to the once-popular MTV reality series
a single father and just a bit lonely. His mother
Lila has a touch of yenta
in her, constantly trying to set him up on blind dates.
“I’m very aware of how busy Adam is,” Lila explains when fixing her son up
for a round of speed dating. “He does have a lot on his plate. However,
thirty girls in one night? How could he go wrong?” At this point, Adam
seems tired of all the dating, but he adores his mother and will always
humor her in her attempts to find him true love.
This is particularly odd,
the show suggests, now that the series has made him a high(er)-profile
personality. Because of this, all the women he ends up dating know both
whom he is and that he is looking for love. “I am a touch more comfortable
going into this date than the others, because this girl has had the chance
to see me,” Adam explains. “From what I understand, she’s seen the whole
first season of the TV show. So, she has a better understanding of me than
someone who doesn’t know me from Adam… no pun intended.”
We go on some awkward first
dates with Adam, as well as one that seems to work out, but is impossible
because of geographical concerns (He lives in California and she lives in
Florida.). He also gets constant come-ons from women by mail and Internet.
(He receives one love letter from a fanatical viewer who purloins a few lines
from Suzanne Vega’s song “Gypsy” to declare her devotion.)
pornographers-need-love-too storyline pretty much fizzles out after a few
episodes (it probably got more play in the first season, which I’ve never
seen). Instead, the show peers into his more intriguing business life.
Adam seems like a cool boss. He is very supportive of his employees’ and
performers’ ambitions and does genuinely seem to care about them (“Don’t
hurt your back,” he warns an actress during a particularly gymnastic love
The two members of his staff
which are not family that get the most airtime are Bishop
and Mirna. Bishop is a practical-joking cameraman who is trying to put
together his own series of adult films (a reality show called Blind Sex
Dates). Mirna starts out as Adam’s assistant, but quickly becomes
entranced by the business and decides to try her hand as a performer with
the stage-name Mariposa. While Adam has some doubts, he doesn’t stand in
her way, saying, “Welcome to Team Tushy.” Mirna is also very close with
Adam and his son Brady, almost acting as Adam’s platonic girlfriend (or at
least as platonic as two adult film workers can be) until in the last
episode the series pulls out a “will-they-or-won’t-they” storyline that the
audience has been expecting for most of the season.
Adam’s son Brady is an
adorable little tike. Like all small kids on TV shows, he’s almost never
around. Every once in a while they’ll show Adam taking him camping or
coaching him at softball or giving him a gift when he comes home from a
trip. These scenes are more so that we will recognize that Adam is a good
father (and it seems he is) than because they add much to the show.
Lila is also funny.
because the series is not always focusing on her fix-ups and she doesn’t
have much to do with the day-to-day workings of the business (she’s the
bookkeeper), Lila is in the background for much of the series.
Occasionally, though, she
does come front and center, like the time when after years of fixing up
other people, Lila gets hooked up on a blind date. Ironically, she is
completely nervous before the dinner, and while she did like the guy, she
decides she is better off alone.
The breakout character of
the show is Cousin Stevie. Stevie is a jovial huckster, a former
salesman who won’t take any guff from anyone. He’s colorful and will never
mince words (“Get off your fucking high horse.” “I never wanted to be a
dildo more than I do right now.”) That’s not to
say that Stevie doesn’t have a soft side. For instance, when he was
reminiscing about his relationship on his 25th wedding
anniversary, he gushed, “The first time I saw Amy, just approaching her I
got a boner.”
The final credits of each
episode refer to something called “Comedy Stylings by the Jay & Tony Show.”
I’m not sure what that means, however a lot of the stuff that goes on does
seem staged. For example, in the season premiere, Cousin Stevie decided to
take advantage of his newfound notoriety from the show by trying out
acting. When he goes on the audition, the casting agents ask him what
experience he has had on a set. Instead of doing what anyone in that
position would do and telling them about his TV series experience, Cousin
Stevie launches into a raunchy story about being behind the scenes on a porn shoot. The
execs stare at him, dumbfounded and uncomfortable. Then the cameras follow Stevie onto the street, where he claims that he nailed it.
It’s funny, in-your-face
stuff. However, Cousin Stevie may be portrayed as a crusty-but-lovable
fuck-up on the show, but he isn’t stupid and he’s not delusional. There’s
no way he thought he got the role, and frankly I doubt that he would have
acted like he did at the audition if he didn’t know he was on cam. He was
looking for a water-cooler moment. Which is fine, nobody really expects for
reality TV to be real and when doing it you’re only as good as your
next surprise. Just don’t tell me this is the way things normally go.
Another scene where Cousin
Stevie tries to film some adult entertainment for his website also feels
like a set-up. He interviews an Asian model and asks her to remove her
top. Satisfied, he hires her and sets up a shoot. When the male porn actor
shows up, they quickly find that the girl Stevie has hired is a
hermaphrodite. (“Wait a minute, that’s a penis!”) Again, shocking and kind
of funny, but I don’t believe for a second that Cousin Stevie would have
hired her (him?) without seeing her completely naked.
Still, even if some
of it is staged, it turns out that it makes for some funny, interesting and
surprisingly entertaining viewing. Family Business is not for
everyone, but it does shine a light on an industry that spends most of the
time in the dark. Besides, without seeing this series, what are the chances
that you’ll ever get to know what a reverse pile driver or a
reverse Asian cowgirl is?
All rights reserved. Posted: February 22, 2005.