Friday, July 21, 2006

Sex and the Gym: ‘Work Out’

Published: July 19, 2006

Personal trainers are the new dental hygienists: health professionals who prattle on about how they spent their weekend while their clients are under physical duress and most vulnerable.

So “Work Out,” a reality show on Bravo set in a trendy Beverly Hills gym, sounds dubious: a chance not only to hear about the weekend but actually to watch it unfold. Yet the series, which has its premiere tonight, is surprisingly compelling, a rollicking workplace melodrama set amid protein shakes, elliptical machines and glistening abs. Gay TV Show Work Out Jackie Warner, the owner of Sky Sport and Spa, is an attractive, exacting businesswoman with a quiet charisma; her trainers compete uneasily for her approval and their rightful place in the cutthroat world of beauty and fitness, the twin pillars of Hollywood.

Jackie is all business, except when dealing with her lover, Mimi, a blond Brazilian-born spitfire with a habit of biting when she feels jealous or ignored. Their love affair is one of several subplots, but it is nevertheless noteworthy; kisses, bedroom spats and physical passion are shown in more detail than other reality shows on Bravo do, but without fanfare. The focus of the series is the gym. The sexual orientations of its denizens — some trainers are gay, others straight — are just another part of the pumped-up life in Southern California.

And that is what makes Bravo, which is owned by NBC Universal, the premier gay network, even though it is not labeled as such. Logo, a niche cable network that MTV created a year ago for gay viewers, is an earnest, didactic celebration of sexual self-determination in even its most marginal manifestations: gay Republicans, biker lesbians and many gender-defying groups, including transsexuals. (A documentary, “No Dumb Questions,” is summed up this way by Logo: “Three kids try to understand their Uncle Bill becoming Barbara.”)

Logo is worthy, but too narrowly cast to draw a broad spectrum of viewers. That is also true of Here!, a pay-per-view network that is also not overly welcoming to outsiders, and perhaps a little claustrophobic for those inside. Both niche networks preach tolerance, but reinforce an us-against-the-mainstream isolation. Gay news for the Queer Australian

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