Entertainment TV Stripping off: Why voyeuristic SBS show Undressed fails to titillate
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Stripping off: Why voyeuristic SBS show Undressed fails to titillate

Hopeful singles are asked to skip dinner and drinks, and go straight to undressing a total stranger before jumping into bed. Photo: SBS
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Social media manager and musician Cam, 30, has a third nipple, just below the top of his underpants and he wants to show it to Nurse Pam, 27, with whom he’s hoping to find love.

In turn, Pam shows Cam her operation scar.

Their revelations come after Cam, with Pam’s blessing, spends several minutes struggling with a knot on her top as he undresses her, just minutes after they meet.

“I can tell Pam did Girl Scouts with this knot,” he laughs.

Both are on a sparse set – with a double bed and a huge screen – for an experiment in discomfort, also known as SBS’ new dating series Undressed.

In summary, two strangers meet, strip each other down to their underwear and hop onto a bed and chat, hug, kiss and massage each other during a 30-minute date.

At the behest of the producers, there are other activities thrown in – boxing, dancing, looking at old photos – according to the interests of the participants.

And they have to discuss random questions that appear on the screen.

Cam and Pam are asked how important sex is in their relationships.

Pam says it’s very important while Cam admits his sex drive drops after a year or so in a relationship.

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Not everyone is so comfortable stripping off in front of strangers. Photo: SBS

Pam tries to reassure him that everybody’s does.

“Mine drops more than anybody I’ve ever dated. Down to twice a week,” he confesses.

“His declining sex drive is a problem,” confesses Pam.

At the end of the 30 minutes, they separately decide if they want to see each other again. Then they wait an excruciatingly long time for the YES or NO decisions to come up on the screen in front of them.

Anyone who votes NO is asked to dress and leave the set immediately, leaving the rejected participant on the bed all alone to ponder what went wrong. That rejection is painful to watch.

Contestants get to decide if they want to bail on the date. Photo: SBS
Contestants get to decide if they want to bail on the date. Photo: SBS

We don’t find out what happens to those who agree to see each other again, as in other dating shows, which I find frustrating.

In the second episode (also airing on January 16), beauty therapist and single mother Sharn, 27, is paired up with IT specialist and musician Roger, from the Bahamas.

Sharn says she’s never dated anyone from a different racial background.

“I’m liking what I’m seeing,” she says as she undresses Roger.

Sharn slips under the sheets and grabs a pillow to hold on to and to cover up. Her body language indicates her tension, but it’s not clear why.

“I feel as if there was a wall in between the two of us,” says Roger.

In the same episode, performing artists Lexie, 28, and Nicole, 24, are paired up.

They look extremely comfortable with each other. They quickly share dance routines from their stage acts and their views on polyamory (having more than one partner) and pan-sexuality (sexual partners of all genders).

Lexi & Nicole get to know each other.
Lexi & Nicole get to know each other. Photo: SBS

On the surface, it’s all a bit of fun, watching how strangers behave when they are in really uncomfortable situations, out of their control.

SBS, according to a press release, reckons the series (which is an Italian format) is exploring diversity while “accelerating the process of attraction” and is challenging “preconceptions about race and sexuality”.

But, having watched three episodes, I’m not convinced that they succeed in those aims.

It’s voyeuristic. The casting is diverse. It’s well made. Some of the participants, like Pam and Cam, are genuinely funny. But does it prove anything or add to meaningful debate? Not really. Perhaps wrongly, I expected more.

Undressed will premiere on SBS on Monday January 16 at 9.30pm AEST.

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