The Short Version? Sex. City Optional.
What Is It? Comedy-Drama
Who Is In It? Nobody you know.
Should I See It? Maybe.
"Max After Dark" is the Cinemax cable channel's way of letting viewers know that they've stepped out of the movie zone and into notorious "Skinemax" territory. Where cable channels often slum for viewers with softcore porn after hours, Cinemax has the dedication to commission original programming for this block. The Girl's Guide to Depravity, based on the blog of Heather Rutman, chronicles the adventures of a pair of single twenty-somethings trying to get their fuck on in between monogamous relationships without getting the short end of any given stick. Lizzie (Sally Golan) is a hard ass attorney, while Jason (Jesse Liebman) is her much abused fellow lawyer. Comparatively meek best friend Samantha (Rebecca Blumhagen) works in public relations or advertising or something, and has a catty relationship with her relatively chaste office mate Kate (Margaret Keane Williams) and loudly sextastic next door neighbor Kaylie (Riley Steele.) Queer barkeep Tyler (Joe Komara) slings advice with the drinks as the girls spill woe and prowl for pole. Let's see how that pans out on an episode-by-episode basis...
- "The Break-Up Rule": Cute start. The credit sequence is lightly animated with a decent tune that I wasn't sick of after numerous listens, followed by a dialogue-free opening section involving another nice tune and lots of quirky digital effects highlighting various "rules." Perfume bottles arranged by the type of man they're meant to attract, onscreen text messages, and so on. The acting is low-end TV fare, but relatively high end for a weekly softcore comedy. Whoever cast the deceptively legal Rebecca Blumhagen is a sexual deviant, and bless their hearts/nether regions. Sally Golan's hiring is more typical along the lines of this sort of show, and her character is overly bitchy. I would hope the "rules" were intended to parody dogmatic self-help bestsellers by applying them to opportunistic promiscuity. As employed here, rather than coming off as sexually empowered, the "girls" quote rules so often and with such fervor as to seem like mindless disciples. It makes Samantha come across as a weakling and Lizzie deluded. The misandry is also off-putting, as decent enough if underwhelming guys are treated like lepers, while abusive himbos are adored. The plot is too involved to be this shabby and misguided, especially as it cuts into Samantha's severely truncated sex scene, and leaves Lizzie's feeling tacked on.
- The Last Woman Standing Rule: I'm sure awkward was what they were shooting for, but funny would have been a nice inclusion to a scene involving an attempt to start a relationship. The plot where a lawyer goes undercover to try to trap an employer in a sexual harassment suit is ridiculous. There's also the part where two hot and fairly indiscriminate girls struggle to get laid, because that happens, right? Lizzie's sex scene is best measured in seconds. There was a nice foley gag during a barroom competition. To spoil the ending, not only doesn't Samantha get a satisfying sex scene, but her drunk-stick bedside manner leaves a lot to be desired (entendre intended.)
- The Puma Rule: Jesse Liebman's Jason has been eating shit for 2¼ episodes, so it was nice to see things turn around for him for a little bit. There were two decent sex scenes in this ep, but none for Samantha, I'm afraid. Still, this one shows marked improvement. Lizzie's aggressiveness delivers comedically, and I'm finding that I dig her nose.
- The Vibrator Rule: The acting in general is still porn quality, but Blumhagen and Golan are getting further into their characters with each episode. I figured Jason was introduced as the nice guy who would eventually man up for one of the girls, but a new sad sack named Kate getting introduced into Samantha's workplace indicates they'll eventually get paired off. For a series with a four million budget spread across fourteen episodes, the music is surprisingly good. There's a nifty little techno tune this time that helps sell the vacuous whorishness of Riley Steele's Kaylie character. It's nice to see that Samantha can bring the bitch when needed, and I guess Kate will carry the innocent quasi-virginal torch. I felt bad for the wine guy, but sometimes being bold leaves a body cold.
- The Bitch Rule: Okay, this was an annoying episode. The worst rules are spoken as absolutes, and I'd absolutely sneer at these bitches over their shenanigans. Also, Samantha can't pull it off at all, and I guess these ladies are unfamiliar with the concept of the hate fuck. Worth noting: thirteen minutes until the first sex scene, and a later one was more creepy than funny.
- The Magic Pussy Rule: After getting Lizzie's best sex scene so far out of the way immediately following the credits, the funniest episode so far emerges. Too bad weak drama fills the closing minutes, plus Justine Joli gets wasted in a cameo, but this was still a good one.
- The Fuck Buddy Rule: I'm glad Teef McLottanose got shown the door, as the prospect of Samantha masturbating is more enticing than further frustrating encounters with that guy. Besides, everyone knows Milla Jovovich is the hottest action star (not counting weirdos who favor that ice queen Fetish Posh Spice from the Underworld movies.) The Matrix gag was cute for half a minute, but everything about this episode dragged on too long, and most every other bit missed.
- The Cheating Rule: That shit where they recycled scenes from the first episode? Fuck that shit. I understand why they did it, but this whole episode was too stupid to justify it. Someone watched a decent dark comedy, tried to imitate it, but lacked any aptitude for it. The sex wasn't great, either.
- The Bi-Guy Rule: There wasn't a lot of sex, because it was too busy being a really fun episode with elevated acting game and a story to tell. I regret not keeping up with the individual screenwriters, as IMDb doesn't give credits, and some of these folks are clearly better than others. For you homophones out there, the action on display is strictly straight.
- The Unavailable Rule: They finally introduced Sienne (Whitney Kimball Long,) and like "her" stupid rules, I pretty much dislike her on sight. Depressing and annoying is not a great combination. Lizzie has a nice sex scene, but Jason's (yes, Jason's) only works if you're into Jason. I had to multitask reading some blogs to get through this weak romcom shit.
- The Pill Rule: Lizzie gets things off right by riding Dirty Hot Guy with all her might. Elizabeth Carlisle takes Clarityn, in case you're also OCD about reading stuff off bottles on a screen. Hannah Fierman's Pill Pusher Patty is probably the most interesting character on the show to date, for whatever that's worth. Man, this episode was heavy, relative to a series that I don't think is built to carry the weight. Go back to making fun of tiny dicks.
- The Getting His Attention Rule: Oh shit, stark slow piano playing. That's like the Incredible Hulk closing theme of softcore drama. Your mournful genitals are getting left on an empty highway. There appears to be a strict no-homo rule on this show, so a trip to jail is more Mayberry R.F.D. than Chained Heat, although I still hate Sienna too much to have enjoyed it anyway. Better than the depths of the last ep, but still undermines the premise of the series with (blech) traditional values. Kate does get her fuck on as a result, though. Also, the music over the last several episodes has been very nice, and it was solid to begin with.
- The Revenge Rule: So yeah, they totally gave up on comedy and went right into romantic drama for the last quarter of the season. I'm glad they got away from the dogma, but if the humor doesn't come back in a big way, there aren't enough strong sex scenes to warrant TiVo speed viewing. They made sure to tie up everything with one long loose thread in the event of a season two. They even worked Riley Steele and Pill Pusher Patty in, though not for the five minute lackadaisical lovemaking montage. It ends on a meh note as a result.