Review: ‘Secret Diary of a Call Girl’ on Showtime is hot

Billie Piper plays a real sex and the city girl in “anonymous” London, her sophisticated home base she relishes.  We voyeuristic wingmen get the guided tour of her life as a top shelf professional escort in Showtime’s latest, "Secret Diary of a Call Girl." <P></P> <P>Or, you can call her a whore, prostitute, no matter; it’s all semantics to Belle, the alter persona of Hannah, a “legal secretary” to her family and friends, but vocationally a mistress of the night replete with a sectioned wardrobe, living spaces, and cell phones to keep personal and work life separate. </P> <P>The Showtime series is based on the best selling diaries of a real-life, a high-end London call girl, and the show is a <EM>may-jah</EM> hit in the United Kingdom. </P> <P>Like mafia wiseguys who prefer the "Henry Hill" life to a straight one, our educated anti-heroine makes no bones about the nature of her job; she is too lazy and uninspired to have a "9 to 5", and flat out digs what she does, all the percs, adrenalin rushes and dosh (cash) it nets her.  Hannah knows it’s not a "forever" gig for Belle.</P> <P>“Belle” deftly gives us the insider details on her preparation and maintenance as a servicer of men.  The amusing voice over tells us in a world where young girls don bikinis and Grandmothers wear “f*ck me” boots, she has to wear the business suit with a touch of lace underneath:  Feminine, classy, fabulous but above all forgettable to dodge a watchful hotel security team.  </P> <P>My initial impression was that this was a titillating gloss and latex glorification of the sex trade life.  After making it through the eight episodes, the entire first season, the complexity, humor and conflicted pathos that Hannah / Belle wrestles with is a compelling little adult tale.  </P> <P>Good female writers ensure this.   </P> <P>***image4:center***</P> <P>This series is hot, not for prudes or those prone to “feminist polemics” to quote one working girl accomplice of Belle.   This is a great effort for and by women that unapologetically revels in an alternative sexual life, and doesn’t succumb to standby maudlin hand wringing of saving our lusty heroine from her life of sin, but celebrates her freedom (financial), and the right to not to follow the traditional female sanctioned arc of marriage then children.  </P> <P>Both life paths have their downfalls, both have their advantages.</P> <P>Producer Chrissy Skinns spoke about the series. “The Belle of the blog and books is bright, direct and funny…all in all, a strong portrayal of a contemporary woman.  Our Belle is equally intelligent, confident and witty, but perhaps displays a bit more vulnerability.  </P> <P>She is fictional and that is an important distinction to make, particularly as we were keen to preserve the real Belle’s anonymity.  So the series is not an adaptation of the book, but rather it became an excellent springboard.”</P> <P>***image6:right***</P> <P>Skinns continues. “We have created a dramatic narrative and the stories each week reveal something about Belle’s life: from literally what her work day entails, to the difficulty of balancing her professional life with her personal life, which is mainly focused on her relationship with her best friend, Ben (Iddo Goldberg).  The writers have mined the humor of these situations, as well as finding incredibly touching moments as the two worlds collide.”</P> <P>***image3:right***</P> <P>Piper (Hannah/Belle) is effortlessly sexy and works the camera like a champ.  She looks at us directly via the lens to relay her curiosity, shock and excitement.   Her “agent” is played spot on by a calculating Cherie Lunghi (Stephanie), Hannah’s mate (pal) Ben slowly finds out who Belle is, and even gets in on some action later in the game; their scenes are terrific. Hannah’s mum, dad and sister all play their parts nicely, with confusion, suspicion and a touch of judgment; for they truly are in the dark about her real profession, but get a sense it isn’t kosher.</P> <P>***image5:right***</P> <P>A moment of praise for the amazing crew that dresses the sets and characters for the show. Set decorator Alice Felton does a great turn with the visually divided living spaces of Hannah and Belle, as does art drector Fiona Gavin, and production designer Greg Shaw. The entire art department should be applauded. </P> <P>Also of note is the sharp, diverse costume design for the series, overseen by costume designer Ralph Holes, who I hope to see at the next Costume Designer Guild awards.  Hair and makeup are also top drawer – thanks to Steve Smith and his crew.</P> <P>Writers Lucy Prebble, Julie Gearey, Nicole Taylor and Katie Douglas turn in dry, ironic humor with their witty dialogue in "Secret Diary of a Call Girl" that makes for a very enjoyable Monday night, following the excellent series “Weeds,” another Showtime original that shines with great female talent behind and in front of the camera.</P> <P><EM>This is not a show for the impressionable or easily offended, for grown-ups only.</EM></P> <P>Showtime knocks another one out of the park.<BR></P>Note the date on this article may be incorrect due to importing it from our old system.

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