Tuesday, September 11, 2007

HBO Tell Me You Love Me is Senior-Sex Positive!

Tell Me You Love Me has the media abuzz this week, mainly because the new HBO series bares it all with graphic sex. I'm applauding because -- at least in episode #1 -- it shows the most positive portrayal of seniors in love and having good sex that I've seen on television.

As an advocate for older-age sexuality, I'm thrilled by the portrayal of the older couple, therapist Dr. May Foster (Jane Alexander) and her husband Arthur (David Selby). Both are handsome people, but realistically handsome, without Botox-paralyzed facial muscles or taut facelifted cheekbones. These are real people, beautiful specimens of age 60+, to be sure, but so much more realistic than the aged (and not so aged) Hollywood and TV stars whose faces barely move. How refreshing!

The younger couples in the show are frenetic in their dialogue and sex play, while the oldest couple is gentle, knowing, connecting in a special way, both sexually and in daily life. When Alexander gently removes Selby's book from his hands and edges down his body to arouse him with oral sex, I cheered.

I hope the writers don't mess with this positive message that sex and relationships get better with age.

Did you see this show? How do you feel about it?

Added 9/18/07: Now that I've watched three episodes, I'm disappointed in this show. I still love that the 60+-yr-old therapist and her husband have such a loving and sexy relationship, but the other couples are so strident and unpleasant (especially to each other!) that I feel let down by the writers. They have problems in their relationships, we got the point -- do we have to keep reliving this with them without any progress?


  1. Hi Joan,

    I saw the first episode and noticed that the young couples were naked and Jane Alexander and her partner are discreetly clothed. Is this really fair? Is this the choice of the actors or the producers? Are they going to continue this disparity in future episodes?

    Other than that I liked the portrayal of senior sexuality between the two older actors. Maybe it was sweet and gentle because they were the only couple getting along. The others were in therapy for various problems.

    Not sure I'll keep watching this show however. I thought the sexual problems of the younger couples were forced and unrealistic, and I don't buy the high minded rationale of the producers for the graphic sex. Hey, ya gotta do something when there's no more Sopranos. Also, the young couples are all so gorgeous with perfect skinny bodies and that annoyed me too. Not an ounce of fat on any of them. I'd like to see some realistic looking young people too.

    So please keep posting Joan and let me know if the show improves and if I should watch it again. I can catch it on demand.

    Erica Manfred

  2. You're right, Erica. The couples are not only gorgeous and slim, they're also all white and straight. And I thought we had learned to embrace diversity!

    Still, I stand by my applause for the positive portrayal of senior sex. I hope they reach for the lubricant in future episodes, though!

    -- Joan

  3. Joan,
    Appreciated the positive look at senior sex, but the show was over-hyped. Reminds me of the old thirtysomething, only with swearing and full frontal nudity--the characters are gorgeous (and well-acted) but their navel-gazing is not that interesting. And there was a "We do it because we can!" quality to the explicit sex. Soft porn with better dialog. Skippable.

  4. My own thoughts are mixed. This show is like "Thirty- something" with frontal nudity, oral pleasure, and frank discussion of issues that face contemporary couples such as remaining monogamous, keeping sex fresh after years with the same partner, and confront issues such as infertility and lack of intimacy.

    The graphic sex at times seemed well placed, at times gratuitous. I liked that the topic was approached straight on, but some scenes, such as one couple sneaking off to have intercourse during a dinner party, seemed forced. Others, such as Jane Alexander and her retired husband making love, seemed right on the needle.

    Of course, if there is a therapist in a program, I'm interested. Jane Alexander does a fairly good job portraying a sex therapist, or at least a therapist who broaches sexual issues. She's a little bit smug, as if she already knows the answers to the questions she is asking her patients.

    I wrote more about this show on my own blog at http://www.thebuehlerinstitute.com/blog/.

  5. “Tell Me You Love Me” has gotten a lot of media buzz over its explicit depiction of sexuality. However, I think HBO just used that as the bait to get people to see a show that promises to delve deeply into issues of intimacy. The scene at the end with a couple obviously at least in their 60’s, explicitly and romantically enjoying oral sex, scores a point for HBO, for clearly and positively showing that sex is not exclusively for the under 40’s.

    -- Jeff Johannigman

  6. I don't think skinny bodies with not an ounce of fat on them are necessarily either gorgeous or perfect.

    Well, to qualify that, when thin is someone's natural state of being it's attractive. (Katherine Hepburn, Cate Blanchett) Some people are just naturally thin. But when it's obvious that the person made themselves that way just to live up to someone's arbitrary standard of gorgeous it is very unattractive to me.

    To me the prettiest bodies are ones that have good muscle tone, and some jiggly flesh in places. And I love big curvy bottoms. People who feed themselves good healthy organic (and sustainably produced) foods are gorgeous.

    This show sounds like a step in the right direction, and a major breakthrough in terms of elder sexuality. We don't have HBO so I haven't seen it.


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