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Fantasy, and nothing more
on 7 February 2008
Phew, a lot of people seem to have got their knickers in a twist over this one... and in so doing, they're playing right into ITV's eager hands. (Innuendo entirely intentional.) How dare they! Suggesting that prostitution is a glamourous, enjoyable and entirely safe profession! How can they promote such a vile notion? How dare Billie Piper, with her adoring youthful audience, take on so irresponsible a role? How dare they suggest that this is how things are in the real world?
Answer: 'Secret Diary of a Call Girl' is NOT representative of the real world, in any way, shape or form. It's about as indicative of the realities of the sex trade as the 'Bad Boys' movies are of police work. And we, as grown human beings - and yes, grown ups are the target audience here (over 18's at least) - should have the common sense to be able to recognise this. Alright, so it's based on what are supposedly the real-life memoirs of a professional high-class call girl; I haven't read the blog/book, though from what I understand it their veracity has been brought into question. To put it bluntly, that's neither here nor there. This isn't a documentary. This is a bit of saucy, late night escapism, the kind of which we don't often see from a major British television broadcaster. And, as such, I'm happy to admit that I rather enjoyed it.
It's clear from the get-go that 'Secret Diary of a Call Girl' is designed as lightweight, easy entertainment. For starters, the episodes are only about 25 minutes long. Obviously that doesn't allow a lot of time for intricate plot and character work. What it does allow is for the show to get straight to the meat of the matter, figuratively and literally. It's a show about sex, and it doesn't shy away from that. Within the opening minutes of the first episode, we have our nymphette protagonist stripped down to her Victoria's Secrets, speaking with her mouth full - and that's just the beginning! Let's not be coy about this, for, after all, the show's marketing certainly wasn't: the main draw here is the promise of the hitherto sweet and innocent leading lady getting nude and naughty, Billie following gamely (again, pun intended) in the footsteps of innumerable former child stars such as Drew Barrymore and Alyssa Milano, taking a sexually explicit role in order to show us she's all grown up now. And that shouldn't be taken as a negative, for she certainly does a good job, handling the very provocative dialogue and content with confidence. And as for the nudity... one of the smartest moves on the part of the programme makers is the way the show teases the viewer with Billie's body, practically making a burlesque routine out of it: starting out with only a few tantalising glimpses of nakedness, keeping the audience tuning back in hungry for more as just that little bit more of the young star's anatomy is exposed episode by episode, until finally all is revealed mid-series, in a two-girl one-guy threesome scene...
Now some of you are calling me a perv. Fine. I'm not even going to deny it. Once again, that's what this show is really all about: unabashed titilation. To expect a hard-hitting insight into the realities of prostitution is to completely miss the point. 'Secret Diary of a Call Girl' isn't aiming to be Ken Loach; it's aiming to be for the new generation what 'Emmanuelle,' 'Nine and a Half Weeks' and 'Red Shoe Diaries' were for generations past. And I think it's pretty successful in that. So sue me.