All three shows have entered re-run heaven, which means you can still watch them, more often than not, in no sensible order of original broadcast. But at least they are available to confirm that the key goal for Will, Grace, Jack, Karen, Frasier, Niles, Roz, Daphne, Ross, Chandler, Joey, Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Jerry, George, and Elaine was to conquer someone of the opposite (or same) sex. I still don’t know what Kramer was into or if he was even into anything.

I think all four are quality examples of terrific writing, directing, and acting. There should be no shame in liking sit-coms with this kind of brilliance. And it’s unfortunate that NBC, the original home of all four, has basically abandoned the form. The good news is that CBS has picked up the torch with its four heavy-hitters: “The Class,” “How I Met Your Mother,” The New Adventures Of Old Christine,” and “Two And A Half Men.” Underlying the basic premise of each is the primary characters’ lack of sex and the desire to do something about it. If you think Hollywood’s greatest screwball comedies weren’t all about getting laid, then you really aren’t paying attention when you watch them on Turner Classic Movies.

Sex is the great divider and the great uniter. One wonders if presidential compassion would be a little more, well… compassionate if, oh, come on, you know.

Let’s face it, Bill Clinton was getting it all the time and things were mighty good for a lot of people during those eight years. How many wars have been fought because someone wasn’t getting laid? Or felt the lack of a good woman? Or the lack of a good man? Who the hell knows? I sure don’t. Go ask Henry Kissinger; he’s the smart historian. I think he’d know. But I’ll hazard a guess that a lot of blood flowed because of pent-up passion.

At some point, post Beatles/Stones/Vietnam/Hippie, sex in the United States reached a peak, and then the Puritan ethic reared its returning head. If you listen to contemporary pop music, you know that one fellow is single-handedly trying to restore sexual energy in the American psyche. Watch Justin Timberlake’s video “My Love.” And then chant: “go Justin go.”

Why are their people who want to demonize sex? Arrive at your own answer about that. What can you do about it, aside from having sex? Well, after you shower, go and see the movie “Shortbus,” and then tell your friends to go and see it.

Not only is it a very funny American comedy, but it’s a broadside against sexual repression the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the late 1960s and early 1970s. Movies made during that Golden Period, especially the sharp-witted “Shampoo” and some of the stunning work of director Robert Altman, mirrored a relaxed attitude about sexual relations and basically exalted the expression of sexual delight. If these were magnificent films, then magnificence is bliss.

“Shortbus” is one of the movies that earned the biggest buzz at the recent Toronto International Film Festival. I saw it at a jam-packed press screening (every seat taken) and even amongst the press, some of whom were quite notable scribes, there were walkouts by disgusted watchers. To each their own, I say. The movie is a rollicking powerhouse about a group of New Yorkers suffering from sexual angst, sexual dysfunction, and sexual thirst.

The title refers to a club where people go to experience liberation of the libidinous kind. As written and directed by John Cameron Mitchell, “Shortbus” is an open window for a society that has become far too puritanical. The film is from the fertile mind of John Cameron Mitchell, whose “Hedwig And The Angry Inch” is a fascinating, glittery rock and roll comedy of some reputation. “Shortbus” is a celebration of sex and an attack on sexual hang-ups and prejudices. There’s no shortage of comic moments, in addition to the up-front sexual couplings. The movie revolves around a tense female sex therapist and her mellow husband, two gay guys, a theme party thrower, a rich young man and his S & M mistress, and a happy troupe of Manhattanites of every persuasion, all of whom are ready, willing, and able to ignore the scowling scolds of the worlds. Sexual joy and freedom notwithstanding, there’s a message within. One of the best lines of movie dialogue I’ve ever heard resides in the middle of the film. Brothel madam Justin Bond, the owner of the sex club called Shortbus, says of the erotic goings-on: “it’s like the Sixties, but with less hope.” I never take notes during a screening, but I can honestly tell you that after almost two decades of professionally reviewing movies, I finally did, grabbing a flyer out of my sport coat pocket and writing down that line. “Shortbus” is sincere, earnest, and unique. There’s laughter and a little bit of sentimentality. It looks like one of those campy films from the Andy Warhol-Paul Morrisey era, but it feels like a breath of fresh air. It’s in the tradition of the duo’s 1970’s “Flesh,” “Trash,” and “Heat.”

“Shortbus” is a sexually uninhibited and honestly graphic film; a bawdy romp that sounds a cautionary note (the characters are intelligent beings). It also shines a light on what you may have been missing. Nobody says you have to like what you’re seeing (that’s the difference between sexual fascism and sexual open-mindedness), but you most certainly have the right to see it. By Michael Calleri
ALT Movie Editor

In the truly classic and great situation comedies like “Will & Grace,” “Frasier,” “Friends,” and “Seinfeld,” the longest-running jokes in each were about the shows’ main characters desire for sex. The pithiest part of every episode basically revolved around who would get laid.