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Views & Reviews: The $treet and Titans

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Money Shot



I knew I liked The $treet from its opening scene. Hotshot stock trader Jack Kenderson is sprawled across his bed, getting what looks to be the finest blow job this side of the Oval Office. His face contorts with pleasure, and it takes us a couple of seconds to realize that his pleasure has nothing to do with the woman going down on him and everything to do with what’s on TV: the latest news bulletins from Wall Street. All that buy-and-sell talk gets Jack so jizzed up he has to leap out of bed and rush back to work.

    

“The market doesn’t open for three hours,” complains his frustrated fellator (and fiancée).

    

“The market’s always open,” Jack replies. “Somewhere.”

    

The $treet is the newest brainchild from the renascent Darren Star (Sex and the City, Melrose Place, Beverly Hills, 90210), and it may constitute the first time that a Fox-TV character has anything on his mind during sex but sex. Which is, of course, the central joke of The $treet: that for the hyper-caffeinated, overleveraged young denizens of Wall Street investment firms, business really is the biggest turn-on. Dressed in their immaculate European suits, these traders spend their days on the phone, pumping life into fragile IPOs, and when the closing bell rings, they collapse in their chairs and gaze at each other with exhausted rapture, like sexual marathoners.

    

At one level, we’ve been here before. The masters of the universe in Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities provided definitive evidence that men can get off on their own testosterone. What makes The $treet a departure is that it offers the same hormonal highs to women. Halfway through the first episode, a comely young vice president of sales (played by furry-browed Jennifer Connelly, last seen on one end of a two-way dildo in Requiem for a Dream) gets to dress down an odious employee, and as she ladles her carefully calculated threats into his ear, her voice has the caressing softness of a phone-sex siren. She’s really enjoying this.

    

Pretty much everyone on The $treet has a hard time figuring out where the office ends and the bedroom begins. When a Harvard MBA receives a marriage proposal, she responds by calmly reviewing her available options — even to the point of calling an old boyfriend to make sure he’s not still interested. When titty-bar strippers get a request for extra services from one of the young-gun brokers, they shed their masks of desire and become hard-boiled negotiators, refusing wads of cash and holding out for a platter of juicy stock tips. Even the IPOs revolve around such quasi-carnal matters as Ivy League sperm banks.

    

Not that The $treet is blind to the pleasures of actual sex. I counted three encounters in the first half-hour alone — as fully explicit as anything anything on Sex and the City — and that doesn’t include Jack (Tom Everett Scott, a bland actor but a full-lipped, sleepy-eyed hottie) mashing his face into a stripper, nor does it include Jack calling his fiancee out of a meeting so they can make out by the ladies room. Nor does it take into account the pilot light emanating from Bridgette Wilson (Mrs. Pete Sampras); in her somewhat thankless role of a horny rich girl, she shows how a streak of vulnerability can make an enticing woman even more enticing. I particularly enjoyed the fateful encounter between dweeby researcher Evan (played to stereotypical perfection by Adam Goldberg) and a Xena lookalike who turns out to be a hermaphrodite . . . a fact that deters Evan only briefly. When it comes to blowing off steam, apparently, any old ventilation system will do.

    

What separates The $treet from other sexy shows is the extra edge of awareness it brings to the subject. The show’s writers understand that sex happens in a context — in this case, a context of power — and that the context is sometimes more important than the sex. By contrast, the sex in Titans — the latest offering from Darren Star’s erstwhile partner, Aaron Spelling — is so free of context it seems to evaporate as you watch it. This is a deeply dreadful show, and I wish I could report that it was entertainingly dreadful (in the manner of Spelling’s lamebrained classic, Dynasty) but it appears to have been cranked out by a discount software program. Its characters are instantly familiar — aging gazillionaire, glamorous ex-wife, gold-digging second wife — but their interactions are so die-cast and impersonal that even the most salacious exchanges take on a bizarre, alien quality.

    

“I feel like such a fool,” pouts scheming vixen-android Yasmine Bleeth.

    

“Yes,” responds leering tycoon-android Perry King. “But an incredibly sexy fool.”

    

This last point is pressed so intently you may be driven, as I was, into the opposing camp. Watch Yasmine Bleeth spill out of enough bikinis and you begin to realize that she’s oozing not so much sex as flesh: her body is coming at you from every direction, but her mind is somewhere else completely. I would trade her entire bulging repertoire for just one of Bridgette Wilson’s kittenish moues or the naughty-schoolgirl smile that steals over Jennifer Connelly’s face. But then the women of The $treet are sexy partly because they’re not all that desperate for sex. They know seduction is just one of the avenues to power, and if their bodies don’t take them where they want to go, they’ll just pass on to the next weapon in their arsenal. Getting laid is all well and good, but it’s nothing compared to that sweet young dot-com stock on the ticker board. So what if it crashes tomorrow? There’ll be another start-up to hop into bed with. Money is still the real pornography.

©2000
Louis Bayard and Nerve.com, Inc.