June 18, 2012


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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Tonight’s season finale of Lifetime’s very softcore (so soft it’s basically liquid) prostitution hit THE CLIENT LIST was more guilty than pleasure.  The hour, written by Producer Barbara Nance (from a story by Nance and star Jennifer Love Hewitt) and directed by Hewitt herself, was actually quite bewildering.  After last week’s climactic bombshell of Riley’s (Hewitt) husband Kyle returning as suddenly as he’d left a year before, and considering that it was Kyle’s desertion that had set the show’s entire plot into motion, it was natural to assume that we’d find out all about why Kyle had really left and what he’d been doing for a year.  At first, it seemed like the episode was an exercise in delayed gratification, as Riley stubbornly refused to speak to Kyle, and he insisted that he had to talk to Riley before anyone else, and the hour ticked by.  But when we finally got to the last scene of the season, and it was Riley and Kyle all alone, he didn’t tell her any more than we already knew about his reasons for leaving, and nothing at all about where he’d been.  And what he did tell her–that in a year, he’d never even thought of calling to tell them he was alive or speak to his children–made no earthly sense.  Overall, it was as frustrating as being a client at Riley’s massage parlor who can’t get his full service package.

In fact, very little that happened in the episode made sense.  The very end of the episode had the cops coming presumably to arrest Riley for the “spa’s” side business in prostitution, but who did they expect to arrest when the place was closed in the middle of the night?  (It was only by chance that she was there.)  And why would there be any arrest at all, when the lead cop had asked for a bribe just a few scenes earlier, and while Riley hadn’t been happy about it, she also hadn’t said no?   (Nor should she have, considering that she was just watching the parlor temporarily while boss Georgia (Lovetta Devine) was out of town.)  Even in a show that doesn’t exactly hold together with tight narrative logic, this hour was too scatterbrained for comfort.

This was also the least sexy episode of Client List by far:  Riley had only one client in the episode, and he (Paul Dooley) didn’t just want a plain old traditional massage, but insisted on keeping his shirt on during it–then promptly died before Riley even touched him.  This prompted a guest spot from Betty White, doing her old-but-still-horny routine as the dead man’s wife.

Client List has been idiotically enjoyable during its soapy, silly run, but unfortunately this season finale was its least effective episode.  The show has been a substantial hit for the network, compatible both with Army Wives and Drop Dead Diva, and one hopes the creative powers that be steer the show back to its Kyle-less, low-cut massage-ful beginnings, because a series about the love triangle between Kyle, Ryle and Kyle’s brother Evan (Colin Egglesfield), where Riley is prevented for legal or other reasons from doing her “job,” would be too dull for words.

The folks at Lifetime know about the appeal of guilty pleasures–during tonight’s season finale, they were already running promos for this fall’s TV-movie starring train-wreck-extraordinaire Lindsay Lohan as Elizabeth Taylor–so presumably they understand Client List needs to be rescued from its misguidedly high-minded finale.  One Army Wives on a network is enough.

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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."