"It's clearly not your mother’s Lifetime anymore" tease ads for the new series The Client List. The show, in which Jennifer Love Hewitt essentially plays an empowered hooker, is something of a departure for a network best known for "poorly shot films about weepy women in jeopardy," says Troy Patterson at Slate. Based on the 2010 TV movie of the same name (which earned Hewitt a Golden Globe nod), The Client List focuses on Texas mom Riley Parks who's forced into work as a masseuse after her husband leaves her. Quickly learning that clients leave bigger tips when she offers extra services, Parks becomes skilled at doling out happy endings. Viewers got their first taste of her talents on Sunday night. "Delicious trash" or just trash?
It's escapist fun: The Client List is "deliciously trashy, campy," and "generally quite fun, whether one chooses to laugh with it or at it," says Brian Lowry at Variety. The dialogue is unapologetically punny — "This job is all about flexibility," quips the massage parlor's manager. The male "customers" are delectable eye-candy. And Hewitt creates a charming, relatable character who's easy to root for. Furthermore, it's a refreshing change for the network. The Client List offers something that's typically absent from Lifetime's menu: "A happy ending."
"The Client List"
But lacks any substance: The Client List is the softest of soft porn, says Patterson. "Softer than Charmin, softer than lingerie ads." It's pure fantasy, often blatantly unrealistic. But it's "so cinematographically spiffy that its genial meaninglessness seems almost beside the point." Hewitt portrays Riley Parks with inoffensive "upbeat blandness," typical of the show's "just fun" vibe. Those looking for anything approaching an insight should look elsewhere.
It's all too chaste: "It's hard to imagine a less sexy show about prostitution," says Mike Hale at The New York Times. Unlike recent, more appealingly explicit series — Hung, Secret Diary of a Call Girl — The Client List suffers from a lack of steam and seems to unfold in "a combination of the Steel Magnolias hair salon and a particularly luxurious women's gym." The writing is "stock Lifetime dramedy," with an implausible running plot device that sees Hewitt's character offering marriage counseling to her, ahem, paying customers — a laughably sculpted lot who "appear to have walked over in a group from Chippendale's."
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