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Secret Diary of a Call Girl Second season Review


Until we have a memoir from Ashley Dupre, the young woman who immortalized former Gov. Eliot Spitzer as Client No. 9, well have to make do with Secret Diary of a Call Girl'' for singularly obvious insights into the world of big-money, private-client, always-keep-some-Veuve-Clicquot-in-the-fridge sex work.


This British series, which began its second season on Sunday on Showtime, is based on a book derived from a blog by an anonymous writer who called herself Belle, the name deployed by the show's heroine during her working hours. Belle (Billie Piper) is actually someone named Hannah, a verbally agile college graduate for whom the notion of a day job never took.


As Belle established during Season 1, she isn't in the flesh game simply to make a living (or feed nasty habits). She is in it to live well, to upgrade, presumably, from shopping at Marks & Spencer to having a personal shopper at Harvey Nichols. Belle lives in a pretty apartment with modernist furnishings and a Domino magazine palette - this is about prostitution in the name of better design. Who could ever know how Carrie Bradshaw paid her Barneys bills, but at least Secret Diary of a Call Girl isn't afraid to follow the money.


Belle's got bucks, but she doesn't have female friends; she has protegees. This season she has taken on a young woman named Bambi (Ashley Madekwe), who hits the luxury retail market as soon as her calendar starts filling up. She thanks Belle for her tutelage with a Balenciaga.


She also steals one of Belle's clients and winds up in a bad situation that reveals some of the yuckier bits about prostitution - the gross guys who might also be lunatics - that the series, in its That Girl world view, previously seemed reluctant to acknowledge.


The first season also failed to produce a narrative arc - it strung together cliches that looped no place - ending with Belle realizing that she wasn't made for the next level of her profession: courtesanship. A wealthy client had set her up in a swanky riverfront apartment, and with a high-end agency, expecting her to languish around in hotel rooms for him when he traveled on business.


But Belle got bored after one trip to Scotland, which seemed to me the inevitable result of her having no interests. Belle didn't even try killing time renting Pretty Woman in her room (forget falconing) before she ditched the whole idea and ran right back to her old place to return to the excitement and diversity of independent contracting. Long live freelancing!


Back to being self-employed, in the season premiere, Belle mistakes a handsome doctor in a hotel bar for a client she has never met before. He is smitten and pursues her despite her elusiveness, and then falls in love, even though when they go out, she appears to say virtually nothing. The season-long dilemma revolves around whether she can muster the courage to tell him that she is not the kind of legal secretary who types depositions and whether she can really have a relationship, given how much she enjoys, you know, her work.


Actual dates baffle her. Who pays? What follows is a neutralization of assets - sure, there's a story line, but one that only convinces us what a dull doorknob Belle really is. It isn't sex and money she really loves; it's efficiency.


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