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‘Minx’ Review: A ’70s Feminist Teams Up With a Porn King in Glossy, Penis-Laden HBO Max Comedy

Jake Johnson is totally groovy as a porn publisher who upends a Vassar grad’s vision of creating a female-centric magazine

March is Women’s History Month, so what better time to debut “Minx,” a new original series about the birth of a feminist-made nude male magazine?

“This country treats women like second-class citizens. We’re overlooked, underpaid, and overwhelmed,” proclaims would-be editor Joyce (a perfectly buttoned-up Ophelia Lovibond) during her pitch at the Southern California Magazine Pitch Festival. This was back when people actually wanted to print magazines: the 1970s. “We deserve a magazine that inspires us — that shows us how to fight.”

Vassar alum Joyce spends her days selling subscriptions to teen mags in a powder-pink cubicle while her leering boss gives his young female subordinates back rubs; meanwhile, she dreams of running her own message-driven glossy, “The Matriarchy Awakens” — a publication that would make her hero, Gloria Steinem, proud. Unfortunately, no crusty old magazine men are in the market for a feminist manifesto. Looking at the activist on the “Matriarchy” mock-up cover, one perplexed prospective publisher asks, “Why is she so angry?”

In steps Doug — played by “New Girl” alum Jake Johnson, who’s basically unrecognizable and totally groovy in ’70s leisure suits (also: he can totally rock a pinky ring). And he is in the market: He looks like a used-car salesman, but he has a dozen magazines (sample titles: Giant Jugs, Milky Moms). He more or less understands Joyce’s mission: “feminism — making s— fair and equal for the chicks.” Plus, he makes a strong pitch, comparing politics to a pill and naked men to peanut butter. (And who doesn’t like peanut butter?!) On the surface, prim and proper, pussy-bow-wearing Joyce is horrified, but she knows Doug is right: There are loads of magazines full of naked women, but none featuring naked men.

Much of the early comedy in “Minx,” at least in the first five episodes provided for review from the 10-episode first season, relies on Joyce’s prudishness — for instance, her extreme initial discomfort during a nude male centerfold casting call. (She ultimately confesses she’s only ever seen “two…and a half” penises. “In very dim lighting.”) And her elite education makes for a few eye-rollers as well. Imagine showing up to a porn publisher on your first day with homework for your co-workers: Joyce brings “Lady Chatterley’s Lover,” “The Kinsey Report,” and “Our Bodies Ourselves” (don’t miss the “eye-opening section on vulvas”). Later, she reads Anaïs Nin to a potential centerfold model.

If you’ve never worked in the publishing biz — staying up till the wee hours to get an issue to the printer — you might not find yourself totally invested in Joyce & Co.’s drama. But if you remember pasting up magazine pages with a ruler, X-Acto knife and rubber cement, or scrambling for stories to fill holes at the last minute — the match-the-man-with-the-penis game created by model-turned-“Minx”-staffer Bambi (Jessica Lowe) is particularly clever — you’ll almost feel like you’re a part of the “Minx” staff.

Speaking of penises…they are a big — no pun intended — part of the show. Essentially, they’re everywhere. The pilot episode’s scrapbook-style (presumably prosthetic) penis montage is actually quite something.

“Am I supposed to look away?” gasps Shelly (the divine Lennon Parham) when a model drops trou during a Michelangelo-themed photo shoot. “You’ll get used to it,” Bambi replies. And you do. As Joyce astutely comments at one point: “Oh, for Pete’s sake, they’re just penises minding their own business!”

“Minx” premieres March 17 on HBO Max.

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