The Complete Second Season (Showtime-2005)
It 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.
Truth 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.
Family Business 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 Donald Trump.
It’s 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.
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 The Osbornes. “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.”
Adam is 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.)
The 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 scene.).
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. However, 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?
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2005 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: February 22, 2005.