TELEVISION / The F-factor: a rule of thumb: Giles Smith takes notes on the first edition of Carlton's Good Sex Guide

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The Independent Culture
FOR all the hullaballoo, there was in the end little to separate The Good Sex Guide (ITV) from programmes on angling, say, or doing the garden. The relation of genuine practical information to basic ogling opportunities was, for a Carlton programme, surprisingly weighted in favour of the former.

The Guide does plan, in its seven-week run, to go the whole way. We'll get round to anal sex in episode six. But last night, in the company of our presenter Margi Clarke, we went after the female orgasm, an elusive grail for many women and, the programme seemed to be implying, a positive contradiction in terms as far as most men are concerned. And it wasn't long before the Guide was mounting a case for itself. In a board game rather wincingly reminiscent of Pin the Tail on the Donkey, a long line of volunteer men confidently located the clitoris somewhere in the region of the woman's knees. 'It isn't a push- button on a phone,' said a qualified doctor, helpfully.

The programme also featured an exclusive interview with one of the two million British women who have never experienced orgasm; and this despite, as the interviewee was quick to point out, her being in possession of 'a first class degree'. A more searing indictment of this country's education system it would be hard to imagine.

Boldly overlooking the fact that laughter is one of the great passion-killers, The Good Sex Guide thought to sprinkle itself with quick comedy sketches. Some of these had never been within a mile of a climax, either, though there was one half-decent gag about finding Steve Davis's Snooker Method shelved with the 18-rated videos. Even so, for all the jaunty openness, the suspicion lingered that the programme was tacitly reconfirming as many taboos as it was breaking.

For, while there are now apparently no limits to what you can talk about on television or what you can simulate using a cunningly devised board game, there are still restrictions attaching to what you can show. For its intimate moments, the Guide resorted to horrible swirly animation sequences, drawn, perhaps, by some left-over Punch cartoonist.

And this despite the fact that Clarke's opening words had borne brave and unusual testimony to the fact that sex involves sweat and squelching and can be a somewhat ungainly business; though, whenever we did see couples in the act (which wasn't very often), they were invariably two products of the beach and gymnasium coupled elegantly in what appeared to be Habitat's linen department. It was enough to give you the kind of complex the programme says you shouldn't have.