The beauty of cable TV is that, with looser censorship standards and smaller target audiences, it can often serve as a forum for fringe types who might not find a voice on network TV. The horror of cable TV is that you sometimes wish many of these kooks would crawl back under the rocks from whence they came.
As part of its ''Free Your Mind'' pro-tolerance campaign, MTV presents Freaks, Nerds, & Weirdos, an infotainment special designed to make misfit teens feel better about their miserable lives. Encouraging words are offered by up-from-geekdom celebs ranging from the deeply smarmy Sandra Bernhard (''When somebody is blessed with... extraordinary sensitivity and intelligence, it's very threatening to people'') to the refreshingly frank Janeane Garofalo (''People need to have a pecking order. It's the same as the animal kingdom: The lamest of the pack gets eaten''). And while Freaks admirably flashes the number for the Boystown National Suicide Hotline during a discussion of depression, it also attaches a jokey disclaimer to footage of party guests at Wesleyan University's alternative fraternity, Eclectic House, shocking each other in a homemade electric chair (''Do Not Try This At Home...Without Express Written Consent From the Governor!''). Hey, kids, why don't you just stick your fingers in light sockets while you're at it!
Actually, Freaks, Nerds, & Weirdos might not be a bad subtitle for Real Sex 9, the lamest edition of HBO's late-night docu-series spotlighting outré erotic adventurers of all shapes and sizes. Sad to say, the show seems to be running out of steam. Profile subjects include Swedish cable-TV kitten Ylva Maria Thompson, who goes bungee-jumping in the buff (''I would say I'm an exhibitionist,'' she understates) and touchy-feely Maui guru Alan Lowen, who leads his sexually challenged students in a pelvis- thrusting dance he calls ''the wave'' (''It's like you're f---ing the universe,'' he overstates). But when three of the program's five segments feature strippers cross-dressing female performance artists, shameless Fabio wannabes at the Mr. Nude Universe contest, and the aforementioned Ylva this might be a clue that there's no real need for a Real Sex 10. Real Sex 9: C-