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June 16, 2008 |

By Seth Freilich | TV | June 16, 2008 |

Back in February, Showtime announced that it had snagged the British “Secret Diary of a Call Girl” as a partner for the new season of “Weeds,” both of which premiere tonight. Now foolish me, I presumed that “Diary,” being paired up with “Weeds,” was a comedy. In fact, it aired in England as the lead-in to the third season of “Entourage,” all the more reason to think it’s a comedy. But a comedy it is not. Nor is it a drama. It’s really not much of anything.

Based on the blog of a supposed British call girl, “Diary” is about Hannah, a high-class British escort working under the name of “Belle.” The show largely focuses on Belle’s professional life, with episodes centered on her first time acting as a dominatrix, her attendance at a sex party with a client, the long boring downtime that comes with working an all-nighter, etc. Hannah/Belle is played by Billie Piper, whom the nerds in the audience know as one of the good Doctor’s companions on “Doctor Who” (and whom one or two you may even know as a former English pop star). There’s quite a pocket of people who immensely dislike Piper, although I’m not sure why. I don’t think she’s anything special, mind you, nor do I even think she’s particularly good. But I don’t find her particularly bad or distasteful either. To me, she’s just one of the many actresses out there who is just right in the middle.

Which is exactly how she comes off in “Diary.” The show basically rides on Piper’s back, both because of her heavy talking-to-the-camera narration, and because she’s in just about every scene. It’s a pretty heavy burden to place on the former pop star, and while she’s not compelling as Hannah/Belle, she’s serviceable enough. In fact, the show’s meh-ness has more to do with its writing than with Piper. And the problem with the writing is that “Diary” thinks it’s a cleverer show than it is. Much of the dialogue comes in the form of Hannah/Belle narrating in-scene to the viewer, explaining various aspects of her profession. I thought this would be annoying, but it actually works pretty well. Trouble is, I found myself rolling my eyes at least once an episode at some terribly corny or obvious narrated line being said by Piper (the one that sticks out at the moment came at the end of an episode about group sex, where Hannah/Bell tells us how numbers have never been her problem, unless it’s one plus one, which she’s never been able to add together … because her personal relationship don’t last, you see?). And even when the writing isn’t quite that cheesy or on the nose, it’s still just a bit bland on the whole, never funny, not really dramatic … just, meh. And is it clever or funny to have Hannah/Belle tell us she’s “high class” while narrating from the toilet? Turns out, not so much.

But here’s the thing — I wound up watching all eight episodes of the show anyway. By about Episode Three, I had seen enough to write my review. And yet, I kept right on watching the run of episodes. I wasn’t glued to my TV, mind you, as I used this time to catch up on some work and do some other around-the-livingroom-and-kitchen stuff. But I easily could’ve stopped watching “Diary” and started watching one of the many things backlogged on my DVR (or one of those same three motherfucking NetFlix DVDs that I’ve literally had now for about two years). Yet I didn’t. I think this was in part due to the fact that a small part of me desperately wants to be British, and there are therefore a lot of set-in-London shows which I have sat through despite their lack of quality — I just like watching British stuff. But it’s also because, while the writing wasn’t particularly good, the subject was just interesting enough and different enough from the other shows out there that I was just a smidge curious to see where the story would go.

And although it didn’t really go much of anywhere, I can’t actually say I regret sitting through it all. At the end of the day, I think I found “Diary” to be a harmless enough diversion, although others entirely disagree with this sentiment. Back in February, I asked our Canadian and British readers for their take on the show, and folks weren’t exactly in love with the show:

Alex: It’s shit.
Alex the Odd: …[T]he show is indeed shit. Please refrain from watching it, Billie Piper really doesn’t need any more encouragement.
Elizabeth: It blows huge, hairy chunks…. Do yourself a favour, don’t watch the show.
Jo ‘Mama’ Besser: Tedium wears a garter…. SO.SO.SO.SO.BORING.VERY.BORING.SO.BORING.BORING.

So there you go. It’s a show that you very well may loathe, and I wouldn’t blame you. And it’s a show that you almost surely won’t love (I don’t see anything in this show that could make someone gaga). So if you’re not interested in the show, you won’t find me telling you to try it out anyway. And if you are interested and start watching, don’t feel bad if you can’t make it through an episode, because you won’t really miss much of anything. But if you leave it on despite yourself, and find yourself not hating it, don’t feel bad. I’m right there with you.

Seth Freilich is Pajiba’s television editor. He’s thinking he may need to change his moniker to “the TV Courtesan.”

Escort, Hooker, Prostitute, Whore. I Don't Mind What You Call Me. That's Just Semantics.

"Secret Diary of a Call Girl" / The TV Whore
June 16, 2008

TV | June 16, 2008 |

Seth is a Senior Editor and sometime critic. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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