STUDIO: Lions Gate
MSRP: $24.99
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 189 minutes
• “Billie Piper – Coming to America” Featurette

The Pitch

Not-so-secret diary of a seedy prostitute and the dangers her precarious lifestyle confronts her with. Namely whether she’ll meet her client in time AND look cute all the while. So I guess Klute by way of Sex and the City?

The Humans

Billie Piper. Cherie Lunghi. Iddo Goldberg. Toyah Wilcox.

The Nutshell

Doctor Who bombshell Billie Piper plays Hannah, the unassuming girl with an ordinary life. In turn, Hannah plays Belle, a courtesan of the highest order who indulges men (and women) in their most outlandish fantasies. Belle plays by the rules, and never, never will let her world collide with Hannah’s. They do of course, or we wouldn’t be here talking about this show.

Showtime and ITV2’s Secret Diary of a Call Girl spins a somewhat romanticized take on this subject. You see, Belle, or rather Hannah, explains to us from the get-go that she’s a whore for the simple pleasure of being her own boss and well, the pleasure in general. She hasn’t been abused or forced to take this career in the slightest. So we get the kind of show only premium cable channels can offer: a character-driven show with plenty of adult material to keep the customer happy.

The Lowdown

Secret Diary of a Call Girl fails in one important regard though: it’s frankly not as interesting as it should be. The title offers a premise amiably intriguing enough, but nothing in the show’s first eight episodes attempts to offer us fresh realizations or insights into the profession itself (or female character studies for that matter).

Perhaps its the fault of this jaded viewer to hope for anything beyond the blasé premium cable adult content on display (which is in sure supply, in case you were concerned a show about prostitution was skimping on bedroom scenes). But even these feel measured and anything but pornographic. Which would be fine, if the remainder of the show wasn’t shot in the soft focus, ultra-lighting, high contrast aesthetic we expect from erotic material. It’s contradictory, which it may very well be meant to be. But too much story analysis and digging will leave viewers empty-handed. We’re left with what’s on the surface, a pretty one thankfully.

What’s to like on the surface? Well for starters, Billie Piper. She’s eye-catching of course, and has the right amount of charm to elevate some silly scenes that could be quite awkward if put in the wrong hands (Belle saddles a client and rides him around the bed rather early in the series). Piper has a solid screen presence and while the clients she meets are rarely engaging, we’re still invested enough in how her character will react to some of these foils. Piper’s former boyfriend turned best friend, Ben (Iddo Goldberg from last year’s Defiance), provides a nice anchor for Hannah’s non-professional life. He becomes acquainted with the actuality of what it is his friend is really up to when she says she’s working late as a legal secretary, initially responding a little disdainfully, but eventually develops a curiosity for Hannah’s work, even going so far as to aid her with a pair of clients.

We get a lot of fourth wall breaking in this show. Hannah interjects with a fair share of factoids about the motivations behind some of the idiosyncrasies and procedures of prostitution. These can be fun and usually aren’t intrusive – in fact, I’d go so far as to say more explanation might be welcome. Why would a high-class hooker like Belle invite complete strangers to her apartment for sex but go at such great length to conceal her identity? I mean, I buy these little camera confessions. It just seems odd for a show (apparently based on true memoirs even) about divulging professional secrets seems so spare on the reveals. There’s a lot of fun foreplay, but the sex certainly doesn’t live up to what we were teased with.

The best recommendations I’ve heard concerning this show are usually terse one-word compliments. Words like “fun”, “light” (those coming from our message board’s own Brendan Leonard). And that’s fair. The show does have it’s fair share of quirks and smirks, but nothing that you’ll carry away and tell strangers on the bus about. There are plenty of moments where we have Hannah writhing alone in her bed, bored and lonely. Sure, it may be a fun job she has, but it all seems rather sad. Hannah plays Belle because, as she admits, she wants to be with people where she doesn’t have to be herself – it’s all an attitude. And like the show, it’s a lot of bark and no bite.

The Package

As I mentioned earlier, the show has an aesthetic to it that works for and against it. It’s forcibly stylized and heavily lighted to the point of being claustrophobic even. But the look of the transfer itself? About what you’d expect from every other TV on DVD release. The sound’s a little better; we’ve got a 5.1 track that’s not exactly demo material, but hey! Directionals! Unless your show has the words “Lost” or “Battlestar Galactica” in the title you usually don’t hear much in the way of sonic variety so I guess we should just be happy they put in some extra effort to give us some rear speaker business. Good for them. Spanish and English subtitles look good, in case that was a concern.

The sole feature here is an interview with Piper called “Coming to America” about, you guessed it dear reader, Secret Diary of a Call Girl‘s reception stateside. It’s one of the most boring interviews you’ll ever watch. Piper’s honest in it and briefly touches on what her family and friends think about her being in a show where she has sex of a different kind each episode (they’re thrilled, of course). But it’s promotional fluff. You can probably skip it.

5.9 out of 10