Satisfaction: articles

Brothel drama lacks grunt

Satisfaction has improved but still fails to make the most of its attributes.

AT A wedding this year, a friend's actor beau mentioned he had scored a role in Foxtel's set-in-a-brothel drama Satisfaction. Once I had got over that I would almost certainly end up seeing him in the nuddy doing very naughty things with someone who wasn't my friend (I know he's an actor, but I'm not, so it won't make future dinner parties any less weird), I launched into a champagne-fuelled tirade about how Satisfaction was a waste of money and a perfectly good cast, and if they'd spent more time on character development and less on ridiculously elaborate shagging scenes, it would be a much better show.

Perhaps there was a scriptwriter hovering close by, or perhaps my views were widely shared, because series two features a lot less sex.

If you missed series one of Satisfaction, it went a lot like this:

Bonk, bonk, bonk, "What do you do?" bonk, bonk, "I'm a sex worker!" bonk, bonk, bonk, "I'm a lesbian!" bonk, bonk, "I want a divorce!" bonk, "I'm pregnant!" bonk, bonk — you get the picture.

That would be perfectly fine if I was a 16-old-boy at home watching Foxtel (I initially thought it was a joke when I saw that the production company is called Lone Hand Productions), but I need more! I need storylines! I need characters to love! I need a weird-looking-yet-cute-guy-who-never-gets-the-girl-but-gets-all-the-good-lines to obsess over and make my screensaver! (Although I concede it should be a lot easier to get the girl in this show.)

When I first heard that Satisfaction was going into production, I was excited. "Great!" I thought. "A show with lots of roles for local actresses that doesn't involve them mustering in a full face of make-up or wearing a wig, holding a suitcase and standing next to Andrew O'Keefe. This is gonna be the next Prisoner!"

But despite the talented cast, it hasn't delivered. The Satisfaction characters in both series are one-dimensional, unlikeable, and I just don't care about them. Bea, Lizzie and even pathetic little Dor would have had the heads of this bunch under the industrial ironing machine the minute they stepped through the doors of the Wentworth Detention Centre.

And on the odd occasion that I do become involved in a character's storyline, the writers offer up something so ridiculous that I start yelling at the television all over again. I put it to you that as unfolded on a recent episode, on "losing" a condom after an encounter with a young man, a prostitute would be unlikely to climax while it was being retrieved in the emergency room for three reasons: (1) A duck-bill speculum is not a sexy object; (2) The doctor looks like her granddad; and (3) She's losing money the whole time she's on the table.

Granted, I have never known anyone who was a sex worker. Maybe Satisfaction IS a realistic portrayal of the industry, but I suspect real-life sex workers are much more interesting than the ladies depicted in both series of Satisfaction. It's a bit like the creators have put a whole lot of cliches into a hat and pulled them out at random — the single mum, the lesbian, the well-off divorcee, the angry sexually repressed girl.

And it's not just the female characters who are uninteresting. The blokes cop it too. I may have been the instigator of many an "all men are bastards" rant in my time, but even in my drunkest, darkest place, I've never made them out to be the scumbags that Satisfaction does. We have the violent "client" with a schoolgirl fetish, the ageing alcoholic artist who wants to sleep with his dead friend's daughter, the rich barrister with three kids who likes to do sexy time on his wife's appliances, and the guy who makes a girl neigh like a horse. And that's just in the first two episodes of this second series.

On the positive side, series two finally presents some much-needed conflict between the main characters, a welcome change to the Brady Bunch-brothel feel of series one. Kestie Morassi's character Natalie steps out of the periphery and engages in a power struggle with Mel (Madeleine West) over the ownership of 232 (the best little whorehouse in Melbourne), after the death of her father Nick (who was also Mel's lover, though where she found the time to have one I do not know — I need a nap after just watching some of her exploits.)

And Bojana Novakovic (Tippi) is finally given a decent storyline befitting her talents, rather than being the brothel's resident angelic airhead.

So, a slight improvement on the first series, but that's not saying much, considering it's got a brilliant cast and the kind of budget that would make any Australian independent filmmaker weep into the faded cushions of their brown, share-house couch.

And I hope it gets better, I really do, because I am not yet satisfied.

Satisfaction screens on Showcase.

By Sally Rope
December 11, 2008
The Age