Secret Diary of a Call Girl: Season One review, Secret Diary of a Call Girl: Season 1 DVD review
Starring
Billie Piper, Iddo Goldberg,
Cherie Lunghi
Director
Various
Secret Diary of a
Call Girl: Season One

Reviewed by Jason Zingale

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here was a time when the argument over which premium channel was better was nonexistent, but with the recent drop-off in quality and quantity on HBO, Showtime has since become a force to be reckoned with. Unfortunately, while shows like “Weeds” and “Dexter” have helped raised the channel’s profile over the last few years, its latest addition, the British import series “Secret Diary of a Call Girl,” only serves as a reminder as to why Showtime finished in second place for so long. In the world of cable television, being provocative and edgy just isn’t enough. You also need a great story to go along with it, and though “Secret Diary of a Call Girl” definitely has its moments, there simply isn’t enough going on to justify an entire series.

Based on the book “The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl,” which is itself a compilation of blog entries from its anonymous author, the show stars Billie Piper as Belle, a high-class hooker who, believe it or not, actually enjoys her job. When she’s not screwing guys for money or butting heads with her agent (Cherie Lenghi), however, Belle is actually Hannah, a girl-next-door type who spends her days hanging out with best friend/ex-boyfriend Ben (Iddo Goldberg). Ben doesn’t know about Hannah’s profession (at least, not at first), but when she finally breaks the news in the most indirect way possible (a text message leading to her web site), he’s surprised to discover what she's really been doing behind closed doors.

Unfortunately, that’s about as much plot development as you’re bound to find in the first season, and it’s also why “Secret Diary of a Call Girl” is so difficult to enjoy. With the exception of the last few episodes, the show doesn’t do much in the way of developing the Belle/Hannah character. Instead, it feels like a series of dramatized blog entries, with each episode focusing on a certain aspect of Belle’s career – from threesomes and S&M to the boredom and loneliness of all-nighters. By the fifth episode, however, the show finally begins to come to life, as Belle is forced to deal not only with losing her most loyal client, but the backlash of negative reviews. Urged by Ben to take a break, Belle is only too glad to get back to work when a one-night stand with an overeager stork clerk (played by the new Doctor Who, Matt Smith, in an odd twist of fate) reminds her why it is she loves her job so much.

The final two episodes are equally as good (with Episode Eight laying the groundwork for what looks to be a much-improved Season Two), but that doesn’t mean they’re perfect by any means. The seventh episode, in particular, is a bit perplexing because it features Ben, who has since become Hannah’s confidant, offering to step in as her partner in a foursome, despite the fact that (1) he’s not a professional, and (2) he just got engaged. It’s one of those plot points that feels edgy for the sake of being edgy, and not because it makes sense for the character or the story. There’s a lot of that going on in “Secret Diary of a Call Girl” and it’s hard to imagine that some of it (like the aforementioned example) really happened.

It’s too bad, because Billie Piper is great in the role, and the character deserves better than this. While any man would love to watch the former "Doctor Who" star trot around in lingerie for half an hour, though, most would probably love it even more if there was a story to go along with it. “Secret Diary of a Call Girl” isn’t quite there yet, but if the Season One finale is any indication, it’s certainly heading in that direction.

Special Features: There’s only one extra to be found on the two-disc release of Season One – the Billie Piper interview “Coming to America” – and even that’s not very substantial. A few audio commentaries would have been nice, or at the very least, some kind of behind-the-scenes featurette, but it clearly wasn't in the budget.

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