Open House: The Great Sex Experiment

Friday: Open House: The Great Sex Experiment; (Channel 4, 10pm)

By Claire Cartmill
Thursday, 31st March 2022, 5:00 pm

It’s April Fool’s Day, a time when pranks and jokes are played on unsuspecting folk.

TV land has featured a few during its time too (including the notorious hoax involving a spaghetti harvest from a 1957 edition of Panorama), and some of the folk featured in this intriguing new series may have thought they were also having their leg pulled when their other half suggested participating.

It’s the latest in a long line of relationships-based series from Channel 4, which also includes the likes of First Dates, Naked Attraction, The Love Trap, The Language of Love and Flirty Dancing. But where the emphasis in those has been on finding a partner under often weird and occasionally wonderful circumstances, this time there’s more of a social experiment going on.

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Dr Lori, the show's resident psychologist on set with the some of the availables

The programme has been made as part of the broadcaster’s Global Format Fund, which has been set up to stimulate the creation of original new formats from UK-based independent production companies which can then, presumably, be sold on abroad. The show’s maker is Firecracker Films, whose previous projects include The Customer Is Always Right, Jamie: Drag Queen at 16, Stacey Dooley Sleeps Over and Emma Willis: Delivering Babies.

Executive producer Jes Wilkins claims: “I’m delighted to be in at the start of C4’s Global Format Fund journey with a new series that has so many of the provocative and purposeful hallmarks of successful shows that Firecracker have made for Channel 4 in the past.”

Last year, the company launched a search for participants, asking: “Do you want to explore a freer lifestyle and relationship? Married or in a committed relationship? Curious about open relationships and seeing other people while remaining together?” Clearly plenty of people answered in a positive fashion, because just a few months later, the resulting show is set to air.

Society deems that we should remain monogamous, yet research shows that around 42 per cent of marriages now end in divorce. Does that mean that couples would stay together if their relationships were more open? Is the human race really meant to mate for life, or are we by nature polygamous?

Those are the kind of questions the series aims to answer, and one that scientists have been trying to work out for decades. As they have, so far, failed to come up with a definitive response, Channel 4 hopes that throwing together committed but open-minded couples with sex therapists and relationship coaches may be more successful.

The expert set a series of challenges for the participants in an effort to work out whether getting intimate with someone other than their partner will enhance or ruin their current relationship. First up are Welsh sweethearts keen to explore the idea of bringing another woman into their sphere, and a married couple from Bolton who may have to tackle issues from their past if they’re to explore their fantasies.

“This provocative new series confronts a profound and unsettling question that is rarely asked openly – but with the insight, warmth and sensitivity of the best factual entertainment formats,” says Channel 4’s commissioning editor Tim Hancock.

Expect lots of thought-provoking moments and water-cooler discussions over the coming weeks – this is a show that looks set to divide opinion while possibly breaking a few taboos in the process.

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