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Cathouse, HBO's reality show about Nevada's legal Moonlight Bunny Ranch brothel, is back and it's more than just giggles and fake tits. The sex is fun, but that's not why this is one of the greatest reality shows on television.
The newest series, called Cathouse: Catcall, follows a class of new recruits as they get used to the life of world's oldest profession. Cathouse knows it's a reality show and is now playing with the tropes and conventions of the genre. It starts off with girls being judged by a panel consisting of randy owner Dennis Hof, who is always testing out his wares; Madame Suzette, the slightly priggish house mother; and Air Force Amy, a bubbly and busty older statesman of a prostitute. It's just like the auditions on American Idol except the girls have to take out their tits and do the booty dance.
By the time they have the new girls line up for an initiation, I realized that this is really every genre of reality show rolled into one. It's a workplace documentary, just like Ace of Cakes, that charts how everyone gets along in a wacky profession. It's competitive like Survivor, because these women are all fighting for the attention of the men that walk through the door so that they can earn their living. This isn't some silly prize or a relationship with a washed-up rock star on the line, this is their livelihood! And it's also a "women behaving badly" show in the spirit of the Real Housewives franchise. Just watch the steely scene when Cami, the squeaky-voiced blond who is Dennis' current girlfriend, first meets her coworker and fellow prostitute Brooke, Dennis' old girlfriend. Give it a few episodes and they'll be screaming just like the Real Housewives of Orange County, and they'll have the fake hair and plastic surgery to match.
Sure events are probably massaged like they are for any reality show, but has any scenario been more appropriate for reality TV than a brothel? It's engineered to be inherently sexy, have lots of bitchiness and backstabbing, and have serious amounts of cash on the line at all times. Whoever came up with the idea to film at the Bunny Ranch back in 2003 when HBO started airing documentaries about the place deserves a medal.
Yes there is some sex to watch if you're into seeing softcore action of the girls plying their trade, but the skin-on-skin action is the least titillating part of the whole affair. People may come for the sex, but, like with any reality show, they're going to stay for the characters and drama, and Cathouse always has plenty of both.