Many watching the premiere of Satisfaction (8.30pm, Wednesdays on Showcase), Foxtel’s high-concept drama set in an upmarket city brothel, would have got their money’s worth in the first five minutes. Full frontal nudity and a reasonably smashing s-x scene. God knows how many teenage nights I spent furtively watching whatever subtitled European talk-fest SBS was showing hoping for a tenth of that action.
But, while adolescent boys all over the nation were pinching Mum’s credit card details to add Foxtel’s new boutique drama channel Showcase to the monthly package, I was watching on, unswayed by the glamorous T&A on offer and looking for something more.
Did I find it? Sort of.
Satisfaction does some things very well. S-x is one of them. Not just s-x scenes, though they are terrifically handled. But Satisfaction’s greatest achievement is to chart so richly, even this early in the season, the many different ways the women and their clients use s-x. For comfort, for friendship, to feel power, to have power taken away, as a weapon, and, most rarely of all, for love.
One of my favourite moments of the first couple of episodes was a young client who simply wanted to touch Alison Whyte’s character because his mother had just died and he wanted to feel close to her. It was the sort of moment that could have come out horribly creepy, but it was handled so artfully that it was genuinely, and surprisingly, sweet.
Moments like that one generally fill me with such joy and love for the magic of storytelling that I will keep watching a show for weeks in the hope that another like it will come along. So far, Satisfaction is promising those rich emotional rewards. What it isn’t doing just yet is delivering them. At least not with the consistency it needs to.
Part of the problem is the way the show has been structured through its early episodes. The first four or so focus very much around a single character. It’s clear why the script team made this decision: it avoids the trap of trying to “establish” too many characters in the early eps, and in the process servicing none of them. And in that sense, it works. We gain a much deeper understanding of Chloe (Diana Glenn) and Mel (Madeleine West) as we spend most of the first two episodes with their respective stories.
What we lose is the feeling of an ensemble. At this stage, I don’t really feel like I know how the girls of 232 relate to each other, only how a couple of them relate to the rest of the world. It’s telling that I was more interested in the men in Chloe and Mel’s lives than I was in the other women at 232 – the characters who are supposed to be the core cast. Indeed, one of the pleasures of Satisfaction is watching the parade of character actors swan in, nude up, make an a-se of themselves and leave shamefaced.
But the girls are where the money is in Satisfaction. Let’s hope we see more of them.