Billie Piper. Billie Piper naked. Billie Piper as a call-girl. I could just leave this review at that, safe in the knowledge that you’ll be tuning in based purely on those three magical sentences. Yes folks, it’s not even been a year since she last steamed up our screens as high-class escort Belle du Jour but she’s back with a flick of her annoyingly perfect blonde hair.
Based on the real-life blog of the infamous Belle du Jour (who was recently revealed to be Dr Brooke Magnanti, a research scientist based at the University of Bristol), Secret Diary of a Call Girl continues to inform, amuse and titillate in equal measure. The first episode picks up where the last series left off, as Belle struggles to juggle her separate roles as plain old Hannah Baxter and the glamorous Belle du Jour, now a published author.
I don’t know about you, but for me the words escort and call-girl are simply sugared versions of the word prostitute. However, there are no crack dens or dirty punters here. Piper struts from scene to scene in candy-coloured lingerie, having amazing sex with an impossibly handsome client and giggling with friends Ben and Bambi (yes, I know, sickening isn’t it?) on a sunlit street. In a scene that stuck two manicured fingers up to credibility, Belle attends her own book launch ‘in disguise’, attempting to conceal her exotic occupation by wearing what basically consists of the waitress outfit of any man’s wet dreams. It defies belief; it makes a mockery of a very serious issue and is basically an excuse to see Billie Piper writhing around on pink satin sheets.
So why, oh why do I love it so much?
It’s because, deep-down, women want to be Belle. Never, I hear you gasp, never would I stoop so low, never would I degrade myself to that level, to be little more than a toy, never never never. Yet there is a tiny part of me that thrills when Piper turns her sultry eyes to the camera and states quite baldly that she is a whore. There is no sense of shame, no apology or denial in her address, and while Secret Diary very much sugar-coats the world of prostitution, it is difficult not to feel slight admiration for an individual so self-aware of what she is and what she does.
Instead of audiences enduring more girly candyfloss shows, perhaps this edgier approach to chick-flick TV is what has brought Secret Diary of a Call Girl back for a third series.
Or perhaps it’s because you get to see Billie Piper naked. We shall never know.
Catch Secret Diary of a Call Girl Thursdays at 10pm on ITV2
Originally published on The Yorker 31st January 2010