TV on Disc: Jennifer Love-Hewitt works 'The Client List'
The Lifetime original series of middle-class anxiety and racy melodrama
"The Client List: The Complete First Season" (Sony) – For a series created by the Lifetime network for an overwhelmingly female audience, its star, former horror movie princess Jennifer Love Hewitt, sure spends an awful lot of time in lingerie.
I guess that goes the territory. Ms. Hewitt plays Riley Parks, a licensed massage therapist and mother of two who is suddenly left broke and desperate when her unemployed husband runs off without a word. Her legitimate massage income isn't enough to save the mortgage from default, so she signs up to take on a few select clients who pay for a little extra service on the side. Yes, she's a suburban single mother with a secret life as a prostitute in a classy day spa with a legitimate massage business and Loretta Devine as a sassy but maternal boss who looks after her girls and her business with equal dedication.
Based on the 2010 Lifetime original movie starring Hewitt and Cybill Shepard (the only other member of that cast to transition to the show), the series changes the names, brings in a new supporting cast, and avoids the more lurid elements of the TV movies but is still essentially a racy soap opera with a Texas drawl, a lot of girl bonding and family crises, and a few hunky cowboys. What grounds it is the setting of real-life anxieties: a bad economy, employment, fears of losing a home, and of course holding a family together after a spouse abandons you.
The show isn't quite so bold as to seriously address the business of sex workers, even within this relatively safe and protected environment, and Riley's conflicts are all exactly what you would expect: fear of judgment, sexist double standards, and issues of self-esteem. But in a curious twist, she's not only a hit with the clientele, she at times repairs the broken relationships of her clients. Yes, the show does suggest that there is something healing, or at least legitimate, in this form of therapy.
Along with Shepard's unlucky-at-love mom, Riley's support group consists of best friend Lacey (Rebecca Field) and brother-in-law Evan (Colin Egglesfield), a hunky young guy who, clearly, is more responsible, attentive, and protective than her deadbeat husband Kyle (Brian Hallisay). So of course, after making appearances via flashback and dream sequence, Kyle returns by season's end, with no good explanation for why he's been gone nor why he refused to either Riley or Evan even once during his disappearance. I guess all that comes with Season Two, which starts in March on Lifetime.
The title, "The Client List," refers to the customers who request the extra service (supposedly only a fraction of the trade, it sure looks like they are the bulk of the trade), but season's end it also refers to a special list of powerful men whose names in a little black book are all that protect the business from… well, I guess we'll also see that in Season Two.
10 episodes on three discs in a standard case with a single spindle; the three discs stack on top of one another, a design that I'm not thrilled with but with moderately careful handling does the job.