"Sex in America with Lisa Ling"

At least, that’s what Ling’s new show on OWN (Oprah’s new tv network) should be called, instead of “Our America with Lisa Ling.” After all, four of the first five episodes focus on matters of sexuality: There’s “Pray the Gay Away,” which looks at the conflicts between Christianity and homosexuality; “Transgendered Lives,” which profiles several different people who were born in the wrong body; “The State of Sex Offenders” which takes a look at criminals once they’re out of jail; and tonight at 10pm “Online Brides,” which we’re guessing (from the promos) follows men to foreign lands who are in search of love (read: paid-for sex slaves). The first three (which we’ve seen) all take a very personal and intimate look at how these issues are affecting real people — it’s fascinating stuff, all shot very cinematically.

The only drawback is how each episode is framed with a series of rhetorical questions posed by Ling’s stiff, flat-affect narration. Her ultimate messages are all very diplomatic and politically correct, carefully constructed so as not to offend anyone. We keep hearing about Ling’s hopes for these people, because we’re supposed to care that she really, really cares. But her Oprah-commanded celebrity is just a distraction from the otherwise compelling documentary coverage of such sensitive, polarizing issues (especially those around sex) in this country.

All of the episodes mentioned above are re-airing several times over the next week — check your DVR’s schedule for “Our America…”