Satisfaction: articles

Satisfaction explores the inner workings of the sex industry

A NEW Melbourne drama may be the spiciest series ever made in Australia, exploring the taboo subject of brothel workers and their relationships.

ARE you ready for the spiciest TV drama yet? From its lush opening scenes, Satisfaction leaves you in no doubt you're in for a saucy ride.

An exploration of the relationships of six women working in a brothel, the show delivers full-frontal nudity and sex before you've had a chance to settle into your lounge chair.

Satisfaction is bold and confronting viewing, breaking new ground in Australian drama as it pushes deep into the territory of deceit, fetishes and ruthlessness in the sex industry.

The 10-part series stars Diana Glenn as Chloe, a single mother battling to keep her profession hidden from her teenage daughter; Bojana Novakovic as the adventurous Tippi; Peta Sergeant as clucky lesbian Heather; Alison Whyte as the sexually inexperienced Lauren; and Kestie Morassi as ambitious brothel manager Natalie.

Rounding out the female cast is Madeleine West as classy escort Mel, a bright, cool and confident sex worker who enjoys the trappings her enormous income affords.

"What intrigued me is the subject is quite taboo, and yet it's the world's oldest profession," West says.

Like her co-stars, West visited brothels and met sex workers to prepare for the role. She was surprised by the difference between what she found and the industry's portrayal in the media.

"Predominantly, in the media (sex workers) are all 15 or 16 years old and have been sexually abused and have drug problems. People have this negative perception that that's what all prostitutes are like. A lot have families. A large proportion came from the nursing profession, they'd been carers.

"We tried also to focus on fetishes, which on one hand can be quite amusing but can also be quite serious . . . if you are a stockbroker or a lawyer and are happily married with two kids, who's going to roll you up in a rug and step on you in high heels? Perhaps your wife doesn't want to do it."

Statistics show 30 per cent of Australian men have visited a brothel at some time, she says. Far fewer had experienced medical trauma or a police emergency, the fodder of most Australian dramas.

"This show is in no way trying to glamorise prostitution," West says. "It looks lush (and) sumptuous, but that is the world of the brothel; it is designed to look like that."

Though the drama is bound to draw viewers intrigued by its subject matter, it will be involving characters and interesting stories that keep them coming back, says executive producer Kim Vecera, who commissioned Satisfaction from producers Roger Simpson and Andy Walker, for pay-TV's Showtime.

"It's an out-of-the-ordinary Australian show and it set out to be that," she says. "You couldn't criticise the show of being tawdry in any way. Yes, it's challenging and yes, it will inspire debate and yes, that's what the producers were asked to deliver."

SEX scenes were filmed in a "fairly robust" way to ensure authenticity. The girls had some challenging work to do in early episodes and did it with great trust.

"I also have to credit the producers and directors for that," she says. "We had quite a long rehearsal period, which was very important to everybody's understanding of what we wanted."

As the mother of a young daughter, West thought carefully before accepting the role, knowing nudity was required.

"I don't want to do anything that my family would be ashamed to watch," she says. "But when you read the scripts and see the complexity of the characters, the nudity and the sexuality just becomes part of the package, they are not defining the package.

"I certainly don't think that after the first few episodes anyone (will be) watching purely to get their rocks off."

Given the subject matter, the show is guaranteed to arouse controversy. It could be argued no local drama in the 51-year history of our industry has portrayed sex so explicitly.

Producers and cast, however, wince at the attention being paid to the sex scenes. Nobody associated with the show wanted a Pretty Woman portrayal of life as a sex worker.

Alison Whyte plays Lauren, who at one point is so left so exhausted by the acrobatics demanded by a client that she reminds him she's not a blow-up doll.

Whyte, however, shrugs when asked about the show breaking boundaries with its sex scenes.

"So what if you show a bit of skin? The (sex) scenes are so integral to the drama that it would be much worse if we were coy about it. The show is honest. If it's controversial, so be it," Whyte says.

West is proud to be part of a quality drama that challenges the viewer.

"There's so much trash on television and personally I'd rather see something like this than another season of Dancing With the Stars."


THE US TV industry is known for being liberal in its portrayal of violence yet uptight about sexuality, but Aussie TV seems relaxed about both.

Local soap Number 96 featured topless shots of siren Abigail (left), but broke new ground in 1977 when actor Deborah Gray appeared full-frontal.

And who could forget the 1991 launch of Channel 9's Chances, which had been designed as a serious drama until falling ratings pushed its scriptwriters into bizarre story-telling territory, making a star of actor Jeremy Sims' buttocks.

By the time an episode of Nine's Sex and the City featured the "c" word, Nine's Melbourne switchboard received just four complaints.

By Kylie Miller and Darren Devlyn
November 28, 2007
Herald Sun