May 20 2007

Nakedness NOT optional on Swedish TV

We have been hosting some friends from the U.S. this week and having a wonderful time doing it.

One of the endlessly entertaining things about guests from "The Heartland" is the cultural differences they tune in to…stuff I know I was hyper-aware of when I first moved here but barely notice now. There are plenty of them I could mention, but the one that seems to cause the most "shock and awe" is the preponderance of nudity and sex on TV here in Sweden compared to the States.

My friends got their first surprise Wednesday night when Dr. Darling decided she wanted to watch a British documentary called "The Perfect Penis."  (This may seem like a surprising program choice for a lifelong lesbian, but she is a scientist after all.)  My friend Gail, who had been checking her e-mail when Dr. D changed the channel, was stunned to look up from a message from her mother and see full frontal male nudity on our 32-inch flat-screen.  Let's call this jaw-dropping moment #1. (Geno, the only person present who actually had a penis, was too shy to even venture into the livingroom to watch.)

Naturally after educating our American guests on what constitutes the ideal dinkle, we felt it was only right to present the other end of the spectrum the following evening with the season finale of The L Word, which airs on regular TV here rather than a subscription-only cable channel like it does in the U.S. (Jaw-dropping moment #2.)

Then on Friday night, we were all up late enough for Playboy TV to kick in (it only appears on our cable line-up from midnight to around 4 a.m. on weekends, I think…) and I couldn't resist switching on some standard soft-core porn when nobody was paying attention.  The resulting jaw-dropping moment #3 was as hilarious as the first two.

But by the following evening, the joke seemed to be wearing a little thin. Both Gail and Geno had become convinced that nakedness was compulsory on Swedish TV, so I only paused on the Playboy channel long enough to note and announce that it was "Girl-on-Girl Saturday" before flipping directly to what I was certain would be a safe network for low-shock value.

At this point in the telling I realize that this story makes it sound as though we watched a lot of TV during the visit, which actually wasn't the case. Gail had lost the coin toss for the single bed in our guestroom/office and slept on the livingroom couch all week, and it was convenient to use the TV as the last light she turned off before crashing since it could be done by remote control. This meant the TV was often turned on just before we all hit the sack without anyone really intending to watch. 

So, in this scenario, the channel I'd switched to should have been an ideal choice. But instead of a heartwarming movie about WWII soldiers embracing the true spirit of Christmas in the Ardennes forest in Germany as the digital program guide promised, we got two middle-aged women embarking on what was pretty obviously the first same-sex sexual encounter for one of them.

So jaw-dropping moment #4 was completely accidental…because it just never occurred to me that "Girl-on-Girl Saturday" would also be the programming theme on the Hallmark Channel…even in Sweden.

Feed my ego!

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