Dan Savage is no stranger to giving pointers about sex. He has been doing so in his column "Savage Love" in newspapers for years, as well as on the Internet and in podcasts. Television is the next logical place for him to dispense his sexual advice and MTV is the logical channel for it to air. After all, it was the network where Dr. Drew Pinsky became the country’s most celebrated sex advice guru with his show "Love Lines" in the late 1990s. Savage updates the show’s formula for the Millennium with his new series "Savage U."
His format, though, is less studio-bound than Pinksy’s. On the show Savage and his producer Lauren Hutchinson travel to college campuses where they speak to students, either in assemblies or in one-on-one sessions, where he answers such questions as: "Is it okay to get mad at someone if they don’t swallow?" or "Where’s the line between guys trying out other guys or guys who are actually into guys?"
In the first episode, Savage and Hutchinson visit the University of Maryland where the pair meets with students in various states of sexual curiosity and distress. The show is most serious when Savage helps out Marty, a nervous 21 year-old who is a virgin and still crippled by a rejection from a woman in the eighth grade. "People can be really cruel," Savage tells him. "Rejection always kinda hurts, but you have to embrace rejection or you’ll never have a relationship."
For the most part, though, the show has a more snarky tone. What more can you expect from the man who invented the term ’Santorum?’
Savage’s ease with advice and his quick-wit are in evidence with his retorts, which can be called Savagisms. For instance, he tells a woman dating a man with a small penis that in the long run she’ll likely have better sex because "Guys with small penises try harder." Addressing an auditorium full of students, he advises: "There are no normal guys. If you dump the honest foot fetishists, you will marry the dishonest necrophiliac." He even comes up with an aphorism about a college stereotype: "Frat boys are like sailors. They’re not as hot in reality as they are in your imagination." And he tells one female student: "Women reading Cosmo and then having certain expectations are like guys watching hard core porn and then having certain expectations. Cosmo is bad for you."
The show marks Savage’s second MTV project - the first was based on his "It Gets Better" program, which aired in February. On that, he profiled three LGBT youth coming to terms with their sexual identities. "Savage U" does something different - it hopes to educate its target audience with a mix of frankness and humor. It will be interesting to see if Savage and Hutchinson travel to campuses more conservative than the University of Maryland. (They go to twelve over the next three months.) Whether they understand it or not, the Maryland students are. At one point, he meets up with two male students and one female that participate in a game based on how much sex they get over the weekend. That the female student has scored higher doesn’t surprise Savage, who points out that it is easier for women seeking sex to get it then men because, well, men are sluts.
What is most remarkable about Dan Savage is how easily he relates to the students - he’s more the wise-ass older brother than an understanding parent, and this comfort level is one reason why he is so successful at dispensing much-needed advice and safe sex information to perhaps the most sexually active college generation in decades.
"Savage U" airs Tuesdays at 11pm on MTV.