LOS ANGELES - Vivid Entertainment's Debbie Does Dallas…Again is the focus of a seven-part reality TV series premiering tonight at 11 on Showtime. Produced by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato of Inside Deep Throat fame, the show promises a revealing look behind the scenes of director Paul Thomas' upcoming porn blockbuster.
"Vivid really gave us complete access to every level of production," supervising producer Chris May told AVN.com. "We were there from the moment they settled on the idea of making it, through the casting, the writing of the script, and throughout production. We shot over 300 hours of tape. And during that time, we were able to go into the lives of all the people involved, not just Steven and Marci Hirsch, but the girls, as well – finding out what their concerns are, and kind of getting a sense of what it's like to be an actress in the adult film industry."
The Debbie series idea emerged from Bailey and Barbato's previous dealings with Vivid on the 13-part reality show Vivid Valley (a.k.a. Porno Valley, 2004.)
"Vivid Valley aired on Playboy here in the States, and that was sort of an observational documentary soap-opera behind the scenes of Vivid," Bailey explained. "A lot of that was taken up with Vivid remaking The Devil in Miss Jones. We originally made it for British TV, and that did really well in the UK. [Vivid co-chairman] Steven Hirsch said that since Devil in Miss Jones did so well for him, he got the rights to make Debbie Does Dallas, and asked if we would be interested in doing a second show based around that."
The new series centers on the competition for the role of Debbie in PT's big-budget re-imagining of the classic porn title. The plot thickens when Vivid decides to simultaneously produce an alternative take on Debbie with director Eon McKai, head of the company's new Vivid-Alt division.
"When we were talking about different storylines for the show, one of them was 'what if we did an alt version of Debbie,'" said Marci Hirsch. "We talked to the producers of the show about it, and they basically said, 'why don't you just run with it and see what happens?'"
Quite a lot happens over the course of the series, including a not-so-friendly rivalry between directors Thomas and McKai. May hinted that McKai's casting choice for Debbie proved potentially destructive. And while it's no secret within the adult biz that Stefani Morgan won the role of Debbie, show producers said that Morgan's story arc is one of the show's big surprises. Monique Alexander, who plays Debbie's evil nemesis, is also said to have a major presence in the cable series.
"I think initially, we held back a little, but as time went on and we became more comfortable with the inner workings of a reality show, everybody involved seemed to really open up," Steven Hirsch told AVN.com. "The production value is so much higher than it was on the first show [Vivid Valley], and it just felt like a completely different experience. I think the show's great, and people are really going to enjoy it."
While neither of Vivid's Debbie updates closely follows the Bambi Woods original, Bailey views the connection to the 1978 classic as an important one.
"Debbie Does Dallas, Devil in Miss Jones, Deep Throat, Behind The Green Door, The Opening of Misty Beethoven -- these are the handful of classics from this sort of very narrow window in the '70s, where it looked like adult erotica was going to become part of regular cinema," Bailey said. "That never happened, and it was very deliberately prevented. It's good to see these films being remade because they were the icons of this rare moment, this time when it almost happened."
Paul Thomas is quick to distance his Debbie from the 1978 model. "My movie is not a remake; this is a completely different story," he said. "Of course, I think it's much better than the original. The original Debbie Does Dallas was not a good movie; it caught a certain zeitgeist in the culture, but it wasn't good for the time, and it's certainly not a good movie now. I spun the story closest to Heaven Can Wait, where Debbie dies and is reincarnated in the body of another cheerleader. If there's a greater theme to the film besides beautiful cheerleaders and hot anal sex, it's that Debbie, the most beautiful cheerleader of all, has to come back in the body of a girl who couldn't even make the squad before. So, Debbie has to look through a different set of eyes."
Thomas cast Hillary Scott as the geeky cheerleader whose body becomes the vessel for Debbie's vengeful spirit. According to Scott, the director asked her to read for the role after viewing a tape of her audition for Eli Cross' Corruption.
"I didn't even know until after I signed on that the reality show was part of it," Scott said. "It really didn't affect me; I think I freaked out the Showtime crew when they saw my business card that says Hillary Scott, Professional Ass Whore. I was telling them stories about sticking a baseball bat in my ass, and that I can fist myself; it was kind of fun to shock them."
In addition to shooting Scott's antics, the reality TV crew extensively documented the off-camera lives of Vivid girls Stefani Morgan, Monique Alexander, Cassidey, Savanna Samson and Sunny Leone. Bailey and May both emphasized that they set out to capture the girls' everyday lives rather than the porn-star fantasy image.
While dark-haired beauty Leone has only a minor role in the movie as "Corky," it's a memorable one: a sex scene in a cemetery chapel with Lacie Heart.
"It was a lot of fun," Leone told AVN.com. "The reality show followed us around for weeks, but they weren't your typical camera crew that was in your face and annoying like some of them can be. They followed us to different events, to our homes, to promotions we did; they followed me to Las Vegas once, and I believe they even did a doctor's appointment with Cassidey. Part of the reality series was to show who we really are, so they were asking us so many questions. For myself, one of the biggest questions was, 'Sunny are you going to do boy-girl?' They asked me why, what I thought it would or wouldn't do for my career, and all the questions that follow from that."
By all accounts, the Debbie show yielded plenty of drama – but Bailey emphasized that the series doesn't take the moralistic slant seen in many mainstream media portrayals of porn.
"Whether it's a film like Inside Deep Throat, or Pornography: The Secret History of Civilization, or this series, we're always trying to explode the prevalent stereotypes about the adult business," Bailey said. "They may be popular, but they are myths, and for storytellers like ourselves, that's a great opportunity to tell a story that hasn't been told before. The myth is that porn stars aren't like ordinary people. We show them in their everyday lives, doing all the things ordinary people do. At the same time, adult stars have a certain kind of honesty about them and a devil-may-care approach to life that makes the everyday stuff really interesting.
"We don't put pornography in the moral box of indignation that most people in the media do," Bailey continued. "When they deign to cover it, it's always with this kind of gloves-on approach, where there's some kind of moral judgment. We think that's not really the story, and so we've taken a fair amount of stick for making the films and programs that we've made. We believe that sexually explicit expression is a real vital force in civilization and culture. Sure, bad things happen, but the same goes for any professional in any business. That's not to minimize the distress and suffering; it's just not our focus."
That focus sharply contrasts with the approach taken in a recent documentary about the original Debbie Does Dallas that ran on British TV as part of a series called "The Dark Side on Porn." But the participants in the new Debbie doc insist that the show pulls very few punches.
"It's a very well-produced, very well put-together look at the making of an adult film," said Paul Thomas. "It gets into the lives of the people, the conflicts of making the movie and the real and imagined issues of the girls. It shows quite a bit of sex within the movie from a behind-the-scenes vantage point, and it's also very interesting from film making and human interest standpoints. Certainly, it's in a totally different league than Family Business. That was a small little company, and this is more like Paramount Pictures or Universal taking a much grander approach to the whole thing."
Vivid plans to release Debbie Does Dallas...Again next month on standard DVD, HD DVD and Blu-Ray. Vivid's official website www.debbiedoesdallasagain.com will offer free, exclusive behind-the-scenes footage from the movie and clips from the cable TV show.
Additional commentary and bonus content will appear on the website for Bailey and Barbato's production company, World of Wonder.
Look for more exclusive AVN.com coverage of Debbie in the coming weeks. For show airtimes, visit Showtime's official site.