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Sexual bypass: HBO's Americans In Bed instead hits on relationhips


Joe and Patty have the first and last words in Americans In Bed. Their dog steadfastly declines to comment. HBO photo

Surprisingly chaste given its title, Americans In Bed could just as easily take place in love seats or at dinner tables.

This last in HBO’s summer series of documentary films (premiering Monday, Aug. 12th at 8 p.m. central) is by no means a how-to positions paper. The informal street talk bridging the network’s Real Sex segments is oftentimes more explicit. In Americans In Bed, the conversation is mostly about the ups and downs, not the ins and outs. Couples range from Helen and Red, who have been married for 71 years, to Leon and Blanca, who so far have specialized in breaking up/making up.

Running for one hour, 20 minutes and based on a British production (what isn’t these days?), Americans In Bed nonetheless is by and large watchable and certainly economical. Its 10 couples all stay in beds or what sometimes look to be sofa beds. Easy listening music and generic video provide the transitions, with Joe and Patty leading off and also getting the last words about what constitutes true love.

Some of the men are topless and some of the women wear negligees. But no one reveals what kinds of sex they prefer. Directed by Philippa Robinson, Americans In Bed instead turns out to be almost as much about learning to go without as with. Deanna and Guy, for instance, no longer have relations because he’s medically impaired. Mohamed and Yasmin, who wears a head cover during their in-bed interview, abstained for religious purposes until they were married.

“It was really, really lovely,” she says of their first intimacy.

“It was really special,” he agrees.

You’ll hear racier exchanges on Phineas and Ferb.

Some of the couples aren’t all that endearing. The aforementioned Leon and Blanca, for instance. “She’s probably the best sex I’ve ever had in my life,” he says. Probably? But Leon’s still a career “polyamorous” guy who proclaims, “Monogamy is painful to me.” Blanca in contrast is “not into casual sex” and doesn’t understand Leon’s appetites.

Even more troublesome is the marriage of Roberta and Antonio. She’s his fourth wife and talks about how the mostly mum Antonio cheated on her after she gained considerable weight.

“I still think he desires other women, not me,” Roberta says before adding in another segment, “It’s a good marriage with bad episodes in it.”

Antonio grudgingly rates their relationship a seven-and-a-half on a scale of 10.

Patty and the at times coarse Joe appear to have a rock solid marriage while Red and Helen are too old to change at this point. Americans In Bed also highlights seemingly stable gay partners Linda and Margie, and George and Farid.

Joe and Patty say their marriage is now more about conviviality, with physical intimacy an occasional highlight when either the kids or the family dog aren’t disrupting “sexual Sunday.”

“We’re happy,” she says. “It’s important.”

“That’s what love is,” Joe agrees.

Different strokes for different folks. Which by the way aren’t really discussed.


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