Monday, August 04, 2008

you know i'm no good

summer is the time for guilty pleasures -- and i've got one. it's a tv show called secret diary of a call girl -- based on the book, based on the blog by the pseudonymous high-priced london prostitute belle de jour (or the facsimile thereof, depending on who you believe -- i don't really see why she couldn't be real, but what do i know?). the half-hour drama (originally an ITV production out of the UK) airs on showtime after weeds on monday nights, and it stars billie piper, the once and future rose tyler from doctor who.

i started reading the blog way back when, basically for the sex and b/c belle is a lively, intelligent writer. my fave parts were (duh) the tales from her job and the outings and other social/emotional machinations with her friends. her love life was a little more frustrating to read about, mainly b/c she seemed to hook up with some real tools. anyway, then i bought the book, which was basically the blog with a few extra bits. so, naturally, i had to see the show. it's a lot, er, fluffier than the blog -- in that the show pretty much sticks to the working-girl nuts-and-bolts, the task of hiding her profession from friends/family, and one central relationship of hannah's (belle's "real" name in the show, although IRL we don't know who she is).

the show is tamer and sort of a gloss: entertaining and not very deep, sexy and soapy and a bit of a train wreck, but still watchable. plus it has an amy winehouse tune as the theme song -- although, sadly, the series doesn't really delve into blog belle's serious music jones -- and a lot of underwear and cool outfits to look at (and london!). it's a total softcore confection, with a core lightheartedness that makes every new pushing of belle's boundaries feel like a pleasant sunny romp.

the idea of a hooker who really loves to fuck and make money for it has sparked debate in some quarters about the sex trade and forced prostitution and glamorizing exploitation and blah blah blah. things to which i am certainly not insensitive. but (a) the character of belle isn't being exploited and, while (b) she may arguably have issues with integrating her entire personality/life (mostly out of necessity due to societal mores etc. etc.), ultimately (c) this show is just too frothy, for the most part -- although it has its weird and occasionally even scary moments -- to see it through a political/social lens. besides, that would harsh my mellow.

the blog belle had a lot more friends, which makes the tv belle seem curiously isolated. it's a side effect of compressing the many characters from the blog/book into one dude, ben, who is belle's best mate and former college BF. he is getting married to someone else, but apparently he still digs hannah. anyway, tv belle doesn't really hang out with anyone else besides ben, or go to the pub/restaurants/parties with a bigger circle of friends like blog belle. also, blog belle had a BF, but tv belle does not. she's sort of a cipher, other than being frank about whatever aspect of her call-girl gig she's schooling us in.

billie piper looks great and has a kind of game mischievousness about her, but she isn't always that compelling as belle. she does at times bring a nuance here and there, mostly making hannah seem possibly also still into ben and, on occasion, somewhat wistful about not having a "normal" life ... things that seem very different from the blog belle. anyway, billie does possess a natural charisma, yet she doesn't project the sort of fierce intelligence and wit, and carefree sexuality, that the best blog belle does/did (she still blogs but isn't a call girl anymore). oh, well. i'm still kind of hooked on it.

there were only eight eps in the series, and showtime's airing the last one tonight, but there'll be endless repeats if you're curious.

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