'Secret Diary of a Call Girl': Tricks of the Trade

I'm not just talking about how Hannah has to stop servicing that cute punter Daniel because she slips and tells him her real name. Or about how she obviously is still in love with Ben, but won't admit it. I'm referring to how Hannah doesn't want to connect with people at all — how she says she likes London because of ''its anonymity,'' how she refuses to leave Ben a phone message when she so clearly needs to talk, and how she claims ''the best partner is one I don't have to be myself with.'' Not allowing herself to ''get close'' or be ''the real me'' isn't a call girl's rule for Hannah (like it was for Julia in Pretty Woman), it's a twisted compulsion. And that's why I love the show.

Well that, and because it got Billie Piper back on U.S. television. If you know (and already love) Billie, just bear with me here. If you don't, make up for it now by watching the video for her 1998 British single ''Because We Want To'' (one of my colleague Michael Slezak's most guilty pleasures). Check out ShakespeaRe-Told, adaptations of four plays, and her recent Mansfield Park to see her do the classics. And for Pete's sake, get started on the 2005 season of Doctor Who. I've been following Billie for what seems like forever, so expect a lot of clips and news on her in the next few weeks. Last year she married one of my favorite thespians, Laurence Fox, scion of the Fox acting dynasty — dad is James Fox — and costar of Mystery!'s über-excellent Inspector Lewis. Hey, while you're at it, you should check it out, too, on PBS.

Call Girl is the perfect role for Billie, methinks: (a) She can more than handle its complexity and (b) Her dazzling array of teeth works great for both sides of her character. (As Belle, she's a wolf. As Hannah, she's a chipmunk.) I won't even start on Cherie Lunghi, the actress who plays the madam (you may remember her from Hotel Babylon) or Iddo Goldberg (the fit Israeli actor who portrays Ben). They're wonderful additions to just about everything. I'm just thankful that Showtime imported Call Girl without recasting it like its sister network CBS is doing with Worst Week of My Life or ABC did with Life on Mars. Now, if some channel could just start airing Strange and The Fixer. An Anglophile can dream, can't she?

Anyway, I'm stoked to hear what you guys think. Too racy? Not racy enough? Are you with the U.K. reviewers who balked at the show? Or part of the millions who made it ITV2's highest-rated series ever? Adore Billie? Or hate her? (If so, get ready to explain yourself.) Got any recommendations for other Brit shows you want to share with me? Ready for next week when Hannah visits an upscale orgy and then, afterwards, her family?

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Originally posted Jun 17, 2008

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