Case Number 15364

SECRET DIARY OF A CALL GIRL: SEASON ONE

Lionsgate // 2007 // 189 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Christopher Kulik (Retired) // January 6th, 2009

The Charge

It's her business doing pleasure with you.

Opening Statement

"Why do I do this? I love sex...and I love money!" -- Belle du Jour (Need she say more?)

Facts of the Case

Hannah is a British girl living a double life. Her friends and family have no idea she's an exclusive, high class call girl named Belle Du Jour (Billie Piper, Doctor Who). She charges by the hour, while her madam (ahem, agent) makes 40% of all gratuities. Over the course of the First Season's eight episodes, we meet her sexual clients and friends, while also learning what it's truly like after she kisses you goodbye on the cheek.

The Evidence

Part situation comedy, part erotic drama, and part intimate confessional, Secret Diary Of A Call Girl has its virtues, but mostly drowns in its own martini. It's not that I was turned off by the steamy subject matter. Nor was I extraordinarily bored with all the heavy breathing and breaking the fourth-wall factoids and tips. I was curious to see what living a life like this really was like, as it seems adventurous and dangerous at the same time. This is one of those shows that I would label as generating a perverse fascination, as we are tempted to take a peek behind closed doors, into a world which we've never ventured.

Alas, it was nothing special. Sure, there are plenty of kinky positions, champagne drinking, flavored condoms, and Viagra, but there was nothing stimulating for the senses. Of course, one of the objectives is to show that this girl is nothing more than an actress; a plaything who enjoys what she does and yet -- at the end of the night -- lives a fairly normal life. Perhaps the Second Season (and upcoming Third) contains more insight and imagination, but this intro offers hardly any revelations. Perhaps it's because the show follows familiar in-call/outcall padding and procedures, that it ends up just being another story about a hooker who dresses to please and satisfies the sleaze. Hundreds of movies and series have already explored this dark side of society (Klute, The Happy Hooker, Dangerous Beauty), that it now seems like leftover material from thirty years' worth of Penthouse prose.

The genesis of the show is admittedly intriguing. The "diary" of the title isn't the traditional version, but rather an online blog which gained popularity in 2003. The authoress (?) claimed to have been retired, and there's no proof as to the identity and authenticity of the stories. Series creator Lucie Prebble attempts to bring a freshness to the screen, by showcasing a different aspect of the job with each episode (all-nighters, threesomes, S&M, couples on couples) while also seeing how each of these job requirements affect Belle in her private life. Her best friend/former college boyfriend Ben (Iddo Goldberg, Defiance) is both disturbed and intrigued by what Hannah is doing, despite having a degree. In Episode 7, he even volunteers to be Belle's partner in a foursome (despite being engaged), just to see what's really like...a radical change in attitude from the previous episode. It turns the seams so much it's just plain unrealistic.

Admittedly, I haven't watched premium cable in years. In fact, the only show I've ever watched from the Showtime arena is Faerie Tale Theatre, and that debuted over 25 years ago. In my review, I hailed the picture quality as pristine as one could hope for. For some reason, this 2007 show looks like it was filmed with about a hundred lights, resulting in an uneven, almost claustrophobic balance between light and dark, black and white. The colors are flat and anemic, and the extreme brightness of many shots gives the show a feeling of strobe-sickness combined with squints. It's obvious the filmmakers were trying to create some kind of erotically fresh mood, but it's visually very bland. It's bad enough we have to deal with a title song crooned by junkie Amy Winehouse. Still, the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix gives ample and equal sonic scream to the front and rear speakers. Every musical chord, human moan, and dirty word can be heard quite clear. Subtitles are available in English and Spanish. Aside from Winehouse, the worst offender is the special feature, which consists of a strikingly uninteresting interview with the lead actress, lasting a mere 7 minutes. Blah!

The Rebuttal Witnesses

There was one thing which kept my attention throughout Secret Diary Of A Call Girl, and that would be Billie Piper. Sure, she's a genuine looker who glows in lingerie, but she's also quite sincere -- delightful even -- as Belle du Jour. She's also quite funny, and manages to provide amusing moments when you least expect them. Her camera confessions may not be original, but at least you buy them when she speaks out. Quite simply, Piper is the best thing about the show, and yet she doesn't quite make it watchable. Goldberg is also quite good as Ben, the sweet, trusted friend, even if many of the couple's conversations tend toward soap opera cliché. Sorry, but Belle being worried how her client's going to feel after she ditches him at an adult party is not my idea of well-written drama. Piper, nevertheless, provides enough humor, charm, and class (ironically enough) to this role it's hard not to notice.

Closing Statement

Not only does this show lack surprises, but its stories also are no longer "secret." My recommendation is watch Piper for a few minutes then change the channel, as Secret Diary Of A Call Girl: Season One offers virtually no rewards.

The Verdict

Guilty of having a lousy picture and being a major tease to one's intellect. Piper is free to go because of her worthy efforts, but Winehouse is ordered to return to rehab until further notice.

Review content copyright © 2009 Christopher Kulik; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 77
Audio: 94
Extras: 45
Acting: 84
Story: 72
Judgment: 69

Perp Profile
Studio: Lionsgate
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)

Subtitles:
* English
* Spanish

Running Time: 189 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Featurette

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt1000734/combined

* Official Site
http://www.sho.com/site/secretdiary/home.do