HBO’s hit series Sex and the City wears its bawdiness like one of Carrie’s (Sarah Jessica Parker) oversize silk flowers — it grabs your attention, but it’s pretty fake. Still, there’s something to be said for crudity that isn’t too gritty. Because the other option would look a lot like a new spoof called Sex and the Inner City. The series is showing at The Romp (www.romp.com), a four-month-old company that’s getting attention because of one of its founders (Eric Eisner, son of Disney chief Michael) and because it’s still standing in the rubble of conspicuous online entertainment failures (Pop.com, Pseudo, and DEN).
The Romp’s takeoff stars multiethnic lowlifes rather than single white women, and replaces those trendy Manhattan nightspots with treacherous ghetto street corners. In one scene, buxom swinger Sapphire is arrested by officer Clueless Klux Klan for walking into a department store, but she evades jail by inviting him back to her place to do some ”emancipating proclamating.” After which Kneisha, the show’s sexual anthropologist and ”90-pound crack whore,” says, imitating Parker on the real show: ”At least one of us had a date for Friday night.”
Refreshing as it is to see Sex and the City deflated, the staying power of such satires seems limited at best. Unlike, say, Heavy.com’s VH1 parody Behind the Music That Sucks, which decimates a new artist with each episode, Sex and the Inner City has to keep whittling away at the same tiring theme. It also lacks the game-play interactivity of one of The Romp’s most popular series, Cooties. In one episode, the viewer is given a pair of virtual X-ray specs and goes on an animated see-through tour of a bar. Seeing the naked truth is funny, though not unpredictable (the nun has a 666 tattoo, and one ”woman” has — gasp! — a penis). Another of The Romp’s interactive gaffs, Booty Call, is a multiplot story in which the viewer has to make the correct choices in order to get laid — those who keep at it always win.
The Romp hasn’t pinned its survival on the Net alone (though it’s fun to imagine the business formula for such a site: website + mild nudity x animation/video = $$$!!). The company is partnering with Mandalay Sports to produce two reality-based TV game shows. One — in which someone on the street is promised cash in exchange for doing something outrageous, and the show’s contestants bet on how far that person will go to get the moola — is titled Peephole. The concept could be a metaphor for The Romp itself, because I can’t help but wonder just how far this raunchy site will go to become a success.