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Sweet Tart: An Advance Review of Season Three of Showtime's "Secret Diary of a Call Girl"

The musings of ambitious call girl Belle de Jour (Billie Piper) have made for some tongue-in-cheek and witty narration but the third season of Showtime's British series Secret Diary of a Call Girl finds art imitating life as Belle--or Hannah as she's known outside of the bedroom--authors a tell-all book about her life as one of London's most sought-after, er, companions.

Season Three of Secret Diary of a Call Girl, which begins tonight on Showtime, finds Hannah grappling with her newfound notoriety while also attempting to remain anonymous. It's a conundrum tantalizingly set up in the season's opening episode, in which she goes undercover at her own book launch party, only discover that her publisher Duncan (James D'Arcy) has hired a staggeringly stupid blonde bimbo to pose as "Belle de Jour" and read an excerpt from her book.

It's a nice moment that challenges both Hannah and our own preconceptions about who prostitutes are and who they should be. (It's those assumptions that were further dented by the realization that the real-life Belle de Jour is former prostitute turned PhD, Brooke Magnanti. You can read what Piper told me about meeting Magnanti here.)

I had the opportunity to watch the entire third season of Secret Diary back in December and found it to be addictively engaging... and as effervescent as a glass of vintage champagne.

Season Three finds Hannah attempting to begin a new chapter of her life as a famous author while attempting to put the events of the second season (and her disastrous love affair with Callum Blue's Alex) out of her mind. But once again, Hannah finds herself falling for someone she shouldn't, this time her dishy publisher Duncan (D'Arcy). But does Duncan want her for her body or her mind? Is he interested in Hannah romantically or in Belle for her lurid stories?

As Hannah finds herself being drawn inexorably towards Duncan, her alter ego Belle, delves deeper into the prostitution scene, accepting engagements from clients in an effort to generate more material for a second book. Over the course of the season, we see a Belle willing to try more and more as she continues to pound... the keyboard in search of more exciting and sexually adventurous chapters.

But there are new complications in Hannah's life besides for her attraction to Duncan. An unexpected houseguest--in the form of her married sister Jackie (Joanna Bobin)--throws Hannah's carefully ordered world into chaos. Besides for attempting to keep the two areas of her life separate, Jackie's entry into Hannah's life leads to a major fracture between her and best friend Ben (Iddo Goldberg), particularly when Jackie and Ben begin an affair.


Adding some comic relief is Belle's protege Bambi (Ashley Madekwe), a fellow prozzie and the closest thing Hannah has to someone who understands her situation. Hannah, Bambi, and Ben have formed a little troika of trust and friendship and it's quickly torn asunder by the arrival of Jackie. But Bambi has issues of her own, not least of which is her odd relationship with client Byron (David Dawson), an eccentric aristocrat who seems interested in dating Bambi... but who is paying her for her services.

And that's all I'll say about the plot of the well-crafted third season, which has some very funny moments, some unexpected plot twists, and a hell of a lot of soul-searching for each of the characters. D'Arcy and Dawson are two very welcome additions to the cast and there's a nice parallel narrative set up between Hannah and Bambi's romantic encounters this season, albeit with some very different outcomes for our two favorite working girls.

Season Three of Secret Diary is a delicious confection, the rare television series that blends dark comedy, sex, and witty dialogue into a fun and frothy package. It's the perfect antidote to your Monday workday blues.

Season Three of Secret Diary of a Call Girl begins tonight at 10 pm ET/PT on Showtime.


Bella Spruce said…
This show is so much fun but (rather unexpectedly) has a lot of heart too. I don't know anyone on this side of the pond who watches it, though, and think it definitely should be getting more exposure. (No pun intended!)

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