Open House: The Great Sex Experiment, review: a flagrant nookie-fest dressed up as science

Never trust any TV programme that opens with a question. In the case of Open House: The Great Sex Experiment (Channel 4), the introductory voiceover asked: “Is it possible to open up your relationship without harming it?” And I can save you the trouble of watching Open House on catch-up – time to make a flan or darn a sock, perhaps – by telling you that the answer is: “No.” 

Had the question been “Is it possible to make a TV programme that dresses up a flagrant nookie-fest as a cod scientific ‘sex experiment’?’’ well then the answer would have been: “Yes.” Because that’s precisely what Channel 4 have done. Calling it “Great” was probably pushing it – I’d have gone with “Cheap” – but this was undoubtedly an experiment in swinging. What would happen if you sent a selection of open-minded (that magnificent euphemism), curious (same) couples to a flash countryside retreat with a group of sex-mad singletons placed there expressly to have sex with people? Well, what do you think?

Helpfully, Dr Lori Beth Bisbey, an intimacy expert enjoying the gig of her life, was on hand to explain. The problem with introducing another random in to your most intimate shared moments is called jealousy, and you don’t need to be a Desdemona to know that it’s quite the buzzkill. The green-eyed monster duly feasted on Nathan and Mady, a charming Welsh couple who had decided (quite possibly with the prompting of an Iago-like TV producer) that what their year-old relationship needed was someone else panting and moaning in their bed. And some cameras in the room filming it all.

Incredibly, it turned out that, in what’s becoming one of the defining problems of our age, that porn and real life are not the same thing. Nathan was a bit put out seeing the love of his life getting her pleasure elsewhere. He couldn’t perform. Which is not something you ever see on OnlyFans.

Another couple were game, curious, mustard-keen apparently to take part in an orgy… until a little light probing (metaphor) from Dr Lori revealed they’d both had affairs in their 16-year marriage. These affairs had obviously been hugely hurtful to them both. The scars hadn’t healed one bit, the good doctor correctly divined, so that perhaps an orgy in a country house wasn’t the best way to rebuild trust. This couple, by the way, have four children. The episode ended with the man, in particular, looking utterly lost. That’s one “great” experiment. But are we not entertained?

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