Porn Goes Prime-Time

Cory Kincaid
HOLLYWOOD, Calif. -- In past years the porn industry and mainstream film and television have existed on opposite sides of a giant media chasm with very little crossover between X-rated entertainment culture and the more conservative and enduring tastes of Middle America.

But more recently, porn-related themes and storylines have gradually begun to trickle into mainstream media, reflecting the multi-billion dollar force behind the porn industry in both a favorable and unfavorable light.

While the film "Boogie Nights" can be credited with starting a wave of movies that depict porn culture, recent feature films like "Wonderland," the John Holmes story staring Val Kilmer, and "Porn Palace," a film about a disparate group of individuals who regularly visit a porn movie theater, have all won high ratings from movie audiences and critics.

At the same time, porn references and porn star profiles have begun to appear with surprising regularity on cable programming in less shocking and controversial ways.

Ellie Reeve, a spokesperson for Vivid Entertainment, told XBiz that the integration of porn into mainstream entertainment media has been gradual but persistent over the past few decades.

"It's all just a sign of how mainstream the business has become, or how mainstream entertainment has become fascinated by adult entertainment," Reeve told XBiz. "This is only the beginning."

Among the many film and television projects that signal this integration, Imagine Entertainment's Brian Grazer is in the midst of making a documentary titled "Inside Deep Throat," which depicts 1970s porn culture.

E! Entertainment recently aired a celebrity profile on porn star Jenna Jameson.

Showtime's Fall programming lineup will feature a documentary on Ron Jeremy titled "Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy."

World of Wonder producers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato are working on a 13-part documentary series titled "Porno Valley," about adult film company Vivid Entertainment.

Production on "Porno Valley" begins in the Fall and will cover all aspects of making porn films through to the finished product, the company said.

"We plan to tell the story of the adult film industry by tracking the daily activities of Steven Hirsch, the visionary co-founder and co-chairman of Vivid," said Bailey. "We'll watch as potential Vivid Girls are selected, we'll get to see how new films are planned and made, and really get to know the unique personalities of the people involved in making the movies."

According to Reeve, "Porno Valley" will first air in the United Kingdom, followed by a yet-undetermined U.S. release.

As part of Vivid's reach into mainstream media outlets, Reeves told XBiz that the Vivid Girls will be coming out with a sex advice book by April 2004, published by a division of Harper Collins.

Avatar Press will be releasing a series of porn adventure comic books in the near future, licensed by Vivid, which will be available wherever Vivid products are sold.

"What has happened is at least two or three generations of college students have entered the work place and are more relaxed and comfortable with their sexuality," said Reeve. "That has helped tremendously, plus the strong accessibility of adult material on the web and pay-per-view. It's so convenient now that it has crossed just about every demographic barrier."

Even top producer Jerry Bruckheimer has jumped on the porn bandwagon. The king of formulaic feature film and television genres is slated to air his new cable series "Skin" on Monday, Oct. 20 on the Fox Network.

"Skin" follows the tumultuous lives of two star-crossed lovers; the daughter of a porn mogul, played by actor Ron Silver, and the son of a conservative attorney.

The new drama series is Bruckheimer's and Fox's first foray into the porn world and might not be their last if current media trends have their way.

"It's not about what a porn flick is or how it's shopped, but how this business runs," said "Skin" Producer Jim Leonard. "It's a lot of money and a very big and inviting world."

Emmy Award-winning cable network HBO will also air a six-part series profiling the thriving, recession-proof adult entertainment industry in Southern California.

HBO's investigation into the porn trade will be titled "Pornucopia: Going Down in the Valley" and will focus on what makes porn tick, who's making it, and who's watching it.

"Pornucopia" is directed and produced by Dan Chaykin and is scheduled for a 2004 debut. The series will air in 30-minute segments, an HBO representative told XBiz.com.

"You can hear young people talking about porn the same way they talk about athletes or their favorite movies," said Reeve. "The question is, are we going to get too comfortable with it?"