April 9, 2012


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Written by: Mitch Salem

THE CLIENT LIST: Sundays 10PM on Lifetime – If Nothing Else Is On…

It’s the very prosaic, unsexy ordinariness of THE CLIENT LIST that makes it somewhat revolutionary. For HBO or Showtime to air salacious shows about the lives of hookers (as they have, with Hung and Secret Diary of a Call Girl) is just in the line of business. But at Lifetime, the network of that barely-updated celebration of 1950s morality Army Wives! And starring one of America’s sweethearts, Jennifer Love Hewitt! Times seem to be changing.

Of course, Riley Parks (Hewitt) is given any number of excuses for why she’s become a massage therapist who routinely gives “happy endings,” which are basically the same reasons why Leslie Bibb’s character works in the pseudo-Hooters of GCB. Riley’s no-good husband Kyle (Brian Hallisay) has deserted her and their kids, leaving her with a hefty mortgage and no marketable skills. Well… one. Notably, while GCB features Kristin Chenoweth and a host of other characters to judgmentally disapprove of Bibb’s actions on a weekly basis, the only character in Client List‘s pilot to scrawl “WHORE” on her car is her fan by the time the episode is over. Client List, while drawn from Lifetime’s hit TV-movie written by Suzanne Martin, doesn’t follow the movie’s arc of recrimination and redemption (it ended with Hewitt’s character earning an honest living as a waitress and hoping she could win her noble husband back). In the series, being showrun by Jordan Budde (who wrote the pilot), giving handjobs is just what Riley does for a living.

Cybill Shepherd returns from the TV-movie (although both she and Hewitt have different character names) as Riley’s outsized mom. This time, though, Riley’s been given a brother-in-law (Colin Egglesfield) who tends to mow the lawn with his shirt off while we wait for him to become a romantic interest for Riley. Meanwhile, the massage parlor features tough-but-fair boss Georgia (Loretta Devine), and an assortment of co-workers familiar from any backstage musical, ranging from the naive to the cynical.

In order to retain its plausible deniability as a immorality play, Client List has also provided Riley with an avocation: when she’s not bringing her customers to one kind of happy ending, she tries to guide them to another, serving as a sort of therapist to advise them on marital problems and give them a sympathetic ear. These are the worst parts of the pilot, but probably aren’t going anywhere.

The Client List isn’t particularly special as a TV show: Budde’s writing is constantly on-the-nose, and Hewitt, while still a very likable presence, doesn’t give her role any particular shading. The fact that it exists at all, and that Lifetime viewers will be watching a sympathetic figure who performs sexual acts for money every week, is pretty much the only interesting thing about it–but that’s something.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."