Synopsis: The premiere season of the Oxygen Network series, presented in its original full-length unedited versions. A ground-breaking series, Bliss explores the desires, passions and fantasies of women, written and directed by women.
Bliss: Season 1 7.5
eyelights: its female-driven episodes.
eyesores: its low-budget quality.
Three years ago, when I stumbled upon Season 2 of ‘Bliss’, the Oxygen Network’s erotic series made by women for women, I was stunned; it was the only time I’d seen any of the episodes collected on DVD in their original language (strangely, I had only previously found them overdubbed in French!).
So imagine my surprise when I also found Season 1 (albeit, second-hand, from a video store). I just had to pick it up, even though it was in lacklustre condition: I had enjoyed the other set and I thought it’d be worth seeing the season that had set the tone for it. It was a good gamble.
Strangely, as with the previous set, the DVD has the episodes in a different order than the one in which they were broadcast. This is too bad, because it changes the flow of the series (I could have watched them in the proper order, but I found out too late – and most people wouldn’t know).
In any event, here they are in broadcast order, but retaining their number on the DVD, as reference:
3. Valentine’s Day in Jail: A woman goes to jail to help a con with a story he’s writing for her magazine. Having grown to like him, she’s upset when he tells her that he has four girlfriends. But he seduces her in the middle of the hall during the Valentine’s Day celebration and, as the movie plays, they sneak under the table for some hot stuff. I didn’t find it credible, but at least the episode explores the repercussions, which is nice, if harsh. But I found the fact that she still waits for him silly. It’s such a poor life choice. I know it’s fantasy, but I just couldn’t buy it. 6.75
7. Six Days: Anne lives with Jake on a farm. She is unhappily married and everyone seems to know it (she smokes a lot, perhaps due to the anxiety). He has an accident, and she hires Mike (the ever winsome Callum Keith Rennie!) to help out with the chores during Jake’s absence. Obviously, they get it on. And it’s pretty hot. Now she has to pick between Jake and Mike. You know the drill. 7.5
8. Guys and Dolls: A business woman is late for a meeting and has her things stolen by a cab driver as she steps out for a phone call. She goes to a high-end bar to call her assistant and gets picked up by a rich guy. The have a night of passionate but meaningless sex – and mutual orgasms, apparently. She’s under stress at work so she uses their regular Tuesday and Thursday meetings to relax and escape. Except that the two worlds will eventually collide. I didn’t agree with the morality involved, but it was a well-told story. 7.75
5. The Value of X: A troubled girl, Jaye, hooks up with some emo guy who happens to like boys. They become friends and make out a little bit. The kids at school frown upon their friendship, and he’s teased for being gay. But their relationship tightens and they more than make out. It turns out she has the hots for her best friend, while he has the hots for her best friend’s boyfriend. It’s a steamy episode, but it’s not for all tastes. On a technical level, the acting was only okay, the kids looked older than 18, and the editing was poor. It showed promise though. 7.75
6. Voice: A girl goes out to a gallery and picks up an artist that she knows. After sleeping together, she’s haunted by a woman who appeared in his work. To make matters worse, she finds out he is married and has a kid. She begins to have erotic encounters with the apparition. Riddled with guilt, she decides to meet up with the spouse (who, it turns out, looks exactly like the apparition), and seduces her. It’s a pretty sexy episode, and I liked that she took charge of her life after discovering that she was helping the guy cheat. 7.75
4. Leaper: A young woman is suffering from writer’s block. Upset, she goes for a walk, gives money to a disturbed and clingy homeless young woman. She crosses paths with a publisher at a café and they witness the aftermath of the homeless girl’s suicide in the Metro. The publisher takes her home. They talk about the homeless girl, about what they could have done, about depression, …etc. The publisher really takes charge, and her confidence is arousing. The performances are so-so, but the sex if hot. 7.25
2. The Footpath of Pink Roses: Our protagonist is a karate student; she’s so intense about her martial arts that her friend suggests that she needs to get laid. She goes home and fantasizes about a rough sparring session between another couple and eventually imagines herself on the receiving end of some rough sex. The problem is that her fiancé doesn’t do it for her: he wants to make love to her, not rough her up. He doesn’t understand her rape fantasy, and gets upset about it. So, feeling out of control, she hooks up with a guy from her dojo – who totally gets what she wants and needs. I get the concept, and have read about it, but I just don’t understand the fantasy. It still had its hot moments, though, and it was a decent interpretation. 7.5
1. In Praise of Drunkenness and Fornication: A middle-aged couple, newly emancipated from their kids, prepare dinner for two other couples. They all get drunk together (There’s so much alcohol involved it’s ridiculous: They joke that two-three glasses a day is healthy, not two-three bottles. Ouch. Not even two-three glasses a day is healthy; they have serious alcohol issues!). After offending the younger couple, who leave, the other two continue to drink and dance. And seduce each other. Of course. It’s nice to see older women own their sexuality, even if they’re cheating (it’s just a fantasy, after all). There’s talk of sexuality at a later age, of living fully, which I also liked. Unfortunately, the dialogues and performances are iffy, unnatural. Mitsou, who is part of the younger couple, is particularly bad. 7.5
It’s funny to me that the broadcast order begins with the episode I liked the least. Had I seen the show during its original run, it might very well have tuned out right from the onset because of that. Thankfully, I had already seen the Second Season and the order here actually helped.
In my case, but likely not everyone else.
Either way , I really do enjoy ‘Bliss’: I love its gynocentrism and I wish that there were more of this sort of stuff around. Despite its low budget productions and the uneven writing and performances, it’s a refreshing alternative to the androcentric fodder we’re usually subjected to.
I have no doubt that I will seek out the third and last season. I can’t wait to find out what the producers had in store for their grand finale.
Dates of viewing: Jan 14-Feb 7, 2016