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Primetime nudity: Tired titillation or genuine story-telling device?




Kelly Keodara and Yarc Lewinson ride around Grand Central Station in New York on July 16, 2014 in a pedicab to promote a new VH1 series to the roster called 'Dating Naked,' which is built on the premise of stripping away the outer trappings of attraction by dating naked.
Kelly Keodara and Yarc Lewinson ride around Grand Central Station in New York on July 16, 2014 in a pedicab to promote a new VH1 series to the roster called 'Dating Naked,' which is built on the premise of stripping away the outer trappings of attraction by dating naked.
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

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There is a blur of body-parts on reality television shows of late. The original sin started with Discovery Channel’s “Naked and Afraid.” For the hit show about survivalists struggling to brave the elements without food, water, shelter or clothes, the nudity has a context for each episode’s version of Adam and Eve.

Another successful foray into stripped unscripted is VH-1’s “Dating Naked.” The premise is akin to “Temptation Island” (in the archives of reality TV) meets “Blind Date” - but with extra visuals. Now, Fox’s new show “Utopia” is trying to capitalize on the trend - allowing cast members to shower and swim in the buff. According to AdWeek magazine, “TV executives say they are getting a steady stream of pitches for naked reality shows, as Hollywood looks to ride the current wave of series that push the envelope by baring bums.”

Since the cast members cannot be fully nude on network and regular cable, why are viewers captivated? Is the tension between the nude characters enough of an interesting dynamic? How long will this trend last? Will American viewers become impervious to it a la the Europeans?

Guest:

Robert Thompson, Director, Bleier Center for Television & Popular Culture at Syracuse University