“I can’t wait to watch it next week!”
“You liked it?” I was pretty sure we had just spent half an hour laughing uncomfortably, except for the part where we paused and rewound to check if one of the gigolos really had a giant black tattoo in place of pubic hair.
“I hate it. But I can’t wait to watch more!”
Hey, she was right. “Yeah, I’m excited too, actually.” Besides, I was the one who had just watched Gigolos for the third time. First I watched it alone, then with a guy friend (“I could NOT do that”), and then with a lesbian friend whom I promised it would only last half an hour.
In case you missed it, allow me to bring you up to speed so that you can partake in the fun next Thursday on Showtime. The reality series follows five men who work for the Vegas-based straight male escort service, Cowboys 4 Angels. There’s Brace, the leathery douche we’re supposed to love to hate, Steven, the single dad with a heart of gold, Nick, the tattooed macho former stripper, Jimmy, the most cerebral (in the first episode, anyway) and Vin, the least metrosexual newcomer and first (light-skinned, mixed) black guy to be hired by the agency.
The show opens with Nick’s penis. Clearly the producers of a series about people having sex were concerned that the show still wouldn’t be sexy enough. In addition to the full frontal and the fairly explicit sex scenes (it’s not quite as intense as Star Jones would have you believe), the first episode is embellished with a pointless meeting at a strip club and shots of the guys macking on random ladies at the bar.
Nick puts some clothes on and we follow him as he meets a new client* at a restaurant. She is sort of cute—save for the skunky hair, blue eye shadow, sunburn, and extra helpings of collagen, which give her a bit of a Miss Piggy aesthetic. The two make small talk as Nick faces his body away from her. They head to her hotel room, knock champagne glasses and get down to business, where we hear her voice jump three octaves when she whispers, “Put it inside me.”
He joins the rest of the gang at the bar and says, “She was a cool girl. Actually, we had fun. It was more of like a brother-sister relationship.” I’ve noticed this clip featured out of context in previews. Obviously, he’s just being tactful about not finding her sexually attractive.
We are introduced to Vin when he meets the owner of the agency, who sports a blown-out mane as he explains to viewers how and when gigolos accept payment in order to stay legal. Then he tells Vin that he has to meet the other four dudes because they will decide if he can join the agency, which is obviously scripted**. Imagine what a disaster that would be if it were standard protocol for escort agencies to just let the prostitutes do all the hiring and firing. This practice seems about as common and legitimate as a citizen’s arrest.
We see the four gigolos working out together, which sort of gives the impression that they all live at the Gigolo Clubhouse, where they sleep in bunk beds, wake up and cook breakfast (raw eggs and protein powder) together, before taking the Gigolomobile to the gym. There they wait for Hair to call them on the Hunk Phone with assignments.
Today they’ve been briefed that they’re going to screen/interview a black guy named Vin. In a scene as cringe-inducing as “put it inside me”, they lift weights and speculate on what kind of black person is named Vinny and whether he’ll be late because he’s on “ghetto time.” When Vin arrives, Nick remarks, “I thought you were black.” It was straight out of Mean Girls (“Oh my God, Karen. You can’t just ask people why they’re white”). Vin wins us over with his gracious demeanor and big toothy smile and leaves the four gigolos to their iron pumping and macho banter.
The next sex scene, er, call, is the highlight of the episode. Jimmy helps a pair of 9-to-5ers play out a cuckolding fantasy for the wife’s birthday. “You know, working in IT everyone thinks you’re all conservative … but people have no idea what we like to do after five o’clock,” the husband offers. The couple meet briefly with Jimmy in the hotel lobby before rendezvousing in a garish boutique hotel room. The wife emerges from the bathroom in a crotchless body stocking, and politely asks the husband, “Should I start being naughty right now?”
She loosens up and is yelling “Fuck my shit!” in no time (which, of course, is after the close-up of her “praise the Lord” tattoo while she’s blowing Jimmy). The husband calmly offers words of encouragement from his position on a nearby couch, “Spank her ass. Pull her hair. She likes that, too.” He looks more like he’s sitting in a waiting room than watching a gigolo bang his wife. One can’t help but wonder if he would have preferred to masturbate if there hadn’t been cameras rolling, and if something is being lost even if the scene is graphic for a reality show. They’re obviously not completely uninhibited, as evinced by the wife carefully covering her breasts with her arm while orgasming.
This scene is interspersed with clips of Jimmy discussing how he feels about his work—that he’s grateful to have the income during a recession, how his parents would react if they found out, and how he’s managing to keep it up for the couple:
“Sometimes playing a game with somebody in terms of domination or submission, or even give and take can be just like Cops and Robbers back in the day. Just like a child, you are fully engaged in the moment, not judging it, not being self-conscious around it, and not really even being aware of yourself in it. I think that’s the best part of being a gigalo—getting to play.”
I found Jimmy to be self-aware and insightful and thought this was arguably the deepest (no pun intended) moment of the show. I’ve read reviews (here and here) where the authors are disturbed by the reference to children playing in the context of sex. I guess he could have said that his job was like acting in a movie, but I got the sense that he was simply trying to explain things in layman’s terms with the Cops and Robbers analogy. Would they prefer that he admit to checking out and going over a mental list of errands while he’s fucking her shit?
After this there’s a contest for a date with an eccentric older rich woman and further bro-ing down at the bar. Are you sold yet? Do you enjoy Hung, Jersey Shore, Real Sex, studmuffins, the Vegas skyline, physical fitness, racist quips, thrusting butts, and liberated couples? Thought so. Zomg, which gigolo’s your favorite?!
**Vin tweeted that the reason the approval from the group is necessary is because many clients request two or more gigolos so they have to be able to work together.