Hannah (Doctor Who's Billie Piper) or ''Belle'' to her clients is a high-class London prostitute who swears she's a whore simply because she loves sex and being her own boss. Many viewers of Secret Diary of a Call Girl will swear this is a slippery male fantasy. I say take Belle at her word, in her world, and you will find a rather fascinating drama.
Showtime's frothy previews are an injustice yes, bare bodies, threesomes, foursomes, and S&M all pop up, but as with HBO's blunt drama Tell Me You Love Me, the sex is both central and totally beside the point. Based on the memoir The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl, Diary is interested as much in the workaday moments of the sex trade: lonely 3 a.m. hotel lobbies; etiquette and hygiene; encounters boring, unpleasant, or strangely sweet, all in leached London light. Piper is extraordinary, intermittently talking right to the camera in a straightforward, conspiratorial manner, the way a prostitute who's really good at her job would talk to a client. Her nonwork life pulls you in too, with her self-conscious confessions to best friend and ex Ben (Iddo Goldberg), and the occasional tease of a world where she doesn't meet her sister's new baby with a Bettie Page wig in her handbag. The series shows the darker side of Belle's work without getting into that porno-punishing crap so often disguised as morality lessons. The series, like Belle, is far too smart to succumb to such an average attitude. A-