Is this TV's most explicit show ever?

Television has never depicted anything like it. Channel 4 is to broadcast the most sexually explicit TV programme yet - Pornography: The Musical. It is the product of an oddball collaboration between one of Britain's leading poets and an award-winning documentary crew.

Television has never depicted anything like it. Channel 4 is to broadcast the most sexually explicit TV programme yet - Pornography: The Musical. It is the product of an oddball collaboration between one of Britain's leading poets and an award-winning documentary crew.

Focusing on an in-depth exploration of the work of real-life hardcore porn actresses, the extraordinary film makes for graphic, often unsettling, viewing.

What sets it apart from most films about the subject is its bizarre juxtaposition of candid interviews with the women and sequences in which they sing about their work while stripping or performing sex acts. Though the words they speak are all their own, the lyrics have been written by the prize-winning poet Simon Armitage.

Before it has even been broadcast, feminists are criticising the programme, with one calling its premise "deeply dodgy".

In the film's most graphic sequence, a porn actress breaks into song in-between performing oral sex on a group of 12 men at a "bukkake party" - a practice purportedly based on a traditional Japanese punishment for unfaithful wives. She later gives an interview while cleaning herself up.

Another scene introduces us to Karina Curry, a young porn star with a live webcam in her bedroom, who portrays herself as a witch-like "mistress" luring internet users into her shadowy domain. She is shown writhing semi-naked on her bed while performing a song about the recruitment of fledgling porn actresses, which opens with the chilling lyrics: "Girl next door, Girl with the scar, You're beautiful, beautiful, Get in the car."

More amusing, if unsettling, are the scenes featuring Karina's mother. She is introduced as a supportive but concerned parent, but it soon emerges that she too has become involved in the porn industry. Along with Karina and her boyfriend - "porn stud Aaron Member" - she joins in a graphic discussion about the mechanics of anal sex.

In another sequence, actress Kelly Cooke is shown taking a break from a shoot in which she is expected to urinate on camera and roll around on a wet mattress.

The makers of Pornography: The Musical, to be shown next month, insist it does not try to glamorise or dilute the industry's more disturbing aspects. However, it concerns feminists, not least because all but one of the actresses profess to love their work and to find it empowering.

The writer and academic Beatrix Campbell described its premise as "deeply dodgy", adding: "What's interesting about the depiction of the work of women in the sex industry is that there's an endless quest to confirm that they are not exploited, that they do it because they love it.They are talking to women working in a world in which most are ambivalent about what they do. Yet the only people they talk to here are not ambivalent about it."

Denying that the film is exploitative, Mr Armitage, said: "If you watch it and you are sexually stimulated, I would say that either we have got it wrong or there's something wrong with you. Some women involved in its making are of a feminist persuasion. They have watched it and said they think it is a sad film that shows women in this position in a sad light."

He said he had intended to give a voice to women involved in porn and portray them as "members of our species", not "freaks".

Infamous TV shows

The Word (C4, 1985)

Programme: "Gross-out" show that earned then Channel 4 boss Michael Grade (pictured) the nickname "pornographer-in-chief".

Most offensive scene: Where to start? Performer called Mr Powertool pulls a woman across the studio in a chair tied to his penis.

What the critics said: "To be vulgar like [presenter] Terry Christian requires neither effort nor wit." ( Daily Telegraph)

The Singing Detective (BBC1, 1986)

Programme: Classic Dennis Potter drama about a bed-ridden crime author who dreams he is the protagonist in his own novel.

Most offensive scene: The 11-minute sequence in which author as a child catches his mother having sex.

What the critics said: "Gratuitous sexual imagery." ( Daily Mirror)

The Buddha of Suburbia (BBC2, 1993)

Programme: Saucy adaptation of Hanif Kureishi's rites-of-passage novel about the son of a suburban guru.

Most offensive scene: Hooded and gagged rock star strapped to bed by a prostitute and covered in hot wax.

What the critics said: "Salacious scenes more suited to a Soho sex cinema than to a spot on prime-time television." ( The People)

Designer Vaginas (C4, 2002)

Programme: Documentary about women who have surgery to improve the "look" and sensitivity of their vaginas.

Most offensive scene: Graphic close-ups of real-life operation taking place, interspersed with interviews with the woman who chose to have it.

What the critics said: "Far, far too graphic." ( The Times)

Naked Jungle (Channel 5, 2000)

Programme: In a desperate attempt to revive a dying career, former kids TV star Keith Chegwin hosted this one-off nude game show.

Most offensive scene: All 10 contestants were naked, but it was the sight of a nude Cheggers that brought complaints.

What the critics said: "A disgrace to British broadcasting." ( Daily Mail)

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