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Secret Diary of a Call Girl -- An early look

by Kristin Sample, posted Jun 13th 2008 11:03AM
Secret Diary of a call girl
Showtime has a new original comedy series premiering next week called Secret Diary of a Call Girl. I watched five of the eight half-hour episodes slated for season one (Showtime has ordered eight more for next year). In fact, I watched four episodes in one sitting. That should give you an idea of how much I enjoyed the show. It's easy to watch, well-acted, and the subject matter is well...interesting to say the least.

Take an early look at Secret Diary of a Call Girl after the jump.

The Premise

Secret Diary of a Call Girl is based on the real-life diaries (a blog and a book) of Belle de Jour, a high-class London call girl. The comedy series, a hit already in the UK, uses the real Belle's diaries as a springboard to retell the adventures of Belle / Hannah (played by Billie Piper) who is smart, confident and like many modern women, struggling to balance her personal and professional life. However, with Belle / Hannah, the gap between personal and professional life is a bit wider. By day, she is Hannah, an international legal secretary. And at night, she's the answer to all her clients' wildest fantasies.

One thing I liked about the show is that Hannah has chosen prostitution as her profession. In the very first episode she tells us that she's not addicted to drugs, she wasn't completely broke when she started and she was never abused as a child. Here Billie Piper describes meeting the real Belle: "I couldn't do it myself per se, but I can understand how she found herself in that situation and why she continued in it. I'm sure there are many down sides, but Belle enjoyed what she did and felt very much in control of it. That is a major point, being a prostitute was her choice; she wasn't forced into it."

While Belle is in control of her life most of the time, creator and writer Lucy Prebble does a good job of giving us a woman who has moments of vulnerability. Hannah / Belle tries so hard to keep her two worlds from colliding (as she says, for the protection of her family and her clients). However, it's when these worlds two meet head on that the show is most humorous, or in some cases, very touching.

The Cast

Fans of Doctor Who will love that Billie Piper plays the lead role of Hannah / Belle. Not a fan of Sci-Fi myself, I came to this show rather unacquainted with Piper. (I only recognized her from Masterpiece Theatre's Mansfield Park.) Piper is a funny, charming and intelligent actress. Many of her lines are directly to the viewers as she narrates her adventures and explains the ins and outs (pardon the pun) of the business. I enjoyed her performance immensely and I think it was the major contributing factor to my watching four episodes straight through.

Cherie Lunghi plays Belle's agent Stephanie. She is arguably the funniest part of the show. I can't quite figure out the exact reason, but Stephanie reminds me of Karen Walker from Will & Grace. Perhaps it's the brashness or the unashamed talk of anything taboo. For example, Stephanie calls Belle and without any greeting says, "Do you do girls?" She then lists the things Belle will and won't do according to her profile as if she was reading off a list of groceries. Of the series, Lunghi says, "This is a controversial subject but it is handled in an honest way, without making a judgment. It doesn't titillate, sensationalize or glamorize prostitution. It just shows how it is for one woman, and the humor that comes from that reality."

Finally there's Iddo Goldberg who plays Hannah's best friend Ben. Goldberg does a good job in the supporting role; it gets meatier after the fourth episode. But the character is predictable. Ben is not only Hannah's best friend but also her ex-boyfriend. He is currently seeing someone else rather seriously, an unseen Vanessa, but spends most of his time with his "best mate" Hannah. While he is seemingly happy with his current relationship, his true connection is with Hannah. This provides for some male love interest for Hannah and some sexual tension. After all the rest of the show is just the sex, and not so much the tension. I just don't know if developing Hannah and Ben's relationship is necessary for the success of the show. I'm perfectly fine with following her around to different clients and dealing with Stephanie.

Secret Diary of a Call Girl premieres on Monday June 16th at 10:30 p.m., right after Weeds. What do you think? Sound like something you'd watch?

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Wow, I had no idea the US was still to get this as Canada has already aired it. It's absolutely brilliant. As one of the above comments notes, Belle breaks the 4th wall wonderfully. Nothing in the show feels forced at all.

June 13 2008 at 9:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm surprised the show is thought of as a comedy. Hmm?


June 13 2008 at 3:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Damn, how did I miss this? I'm usually on top of stuff coming out the UK. Internets to the rescue!

June 13 2008 at 2:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I know what it was . I just read the story about Aziz Ansari, so the name was on my mind...
I'll have to watch it again as well. (damn, that's a punishment ;)) but I thought itwas just the private part of her flat the guy went to.

And really, I wasn't staring at the architecture...

June 13 2008 at 1:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mike m

I've seen the whole series....and it was pretty good. I recommend it.

June 13 2008 at 1:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

SO Sorry,
I meant Akbar!

June 13 2008 at 1:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Lou's comment
Akbar Fazil

Ok, im going to have to watch that again cause I surely thought they were two distinct separate dwellings. I mean, if it's the same why was it a big deal at the end of the first episode to show she took a client to her residential?

and no worry on the name... Aziz is my brother. AZIZ! LIGHT!

June 13 2008 at 1:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i'm confused... is these the same britain show, or is a remake with the same actors???

June 13 2008 at 1:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to nattyff's comment

It's the same flat. there is a door between the two different "sides" much like the wardrobe where one side was for Belle and the other for Hannah.

Most of the time she does business in hotels, or the client's hotel room. Only rarely does anybody go to her place.

June 13 2008 at 1:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Comedy series ? I remember watching all 8 on their original airing and didn't think it was a comedy. That's not me trying to criticize what is obviously a comedy and offering my opinion that it's not funny. It's just that I think this is as much a comedy as the West Wing or 24.

June 13 2008 at 12:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to RR's comment

Although I thought Billie Piper played a great companion, I wasn't impressed with her acting range. That increased when I saw her in Mansfield Park. However, in Belle, Billie has truly found a character that she connects with -

June 13 2008 at 12:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"Fans of Doctor Who will love that Billie Piper plays the lead role of Hannah / Belle. Not a fan of Sci-Fi myself"

Ahhh not so much, Im a fan of who and I found watching Billie Piper play a whore as about exciting as going to strip club and finding out your sister is the feature dancer.

Of course I chalk this up to my own neurosises, after its all its perfectly normal to visit your sister at work even if shes working the pole.

June 13 2008 at 11:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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