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‘The Client List’ aims for steamy, comes up sappy

If you see a poster for Lifetime’s new series The Client List, you’ll probably expect it to be the erotic adventures of a high-class escort, similar to Showtime’s Secret Diary of a Call Girl. The advertisements for the show almost exclusively feature its star, Jennifer Love Hewitt, lying around in lingerie.

What you’ll get instead is a show that wants to be sentimental and feel-good but falls flat on both attempts, mostly due to its flat, uninteresting characters that you’ll know as much about at the end of the episode as you did in the beginning.

Hewitt plays Riley Parks, an out-of-work mom who gets a job as a masseuse at The Rub, a parlor where some of the clients get more than just massages. Riley is surprised by this at first, but due to her money problems, she agrees to go along with the “extras.”

Her co-workers at the salon have names but no personalities, outside of the double entendres they drop occasionally. When one talks about her tips, she says “The harder I work, the bigger they get.” Riley tells another that she has a firm grip after shaking hands. “That’s why I make the big bucks,” her co-worker replies. They’re not funny, just incredibly groan-worthy and the only real memorable dialogue from the premiere.

Riley then becomes an amateur psychiatrist to a client, helping both he and his wife with their marriage in an annoying, cloying scene meant to show just how good Riley is at this job: she can help men physically and emotionally at the same time! Because this is Lifetime, we’re supposed to care and cheer for her, but since the character is so uninteresting, there’s no feeling attached to Riley at all. She’s just there.

If all of this sounds familiar, it means you watch too much Lifetime. In 2010, Hewitt starred in a made-for-TV movie with the same name and plot, but different characters and a self-contained story for a two-hour movie. This series has at least a full season of episodes to tell its story, though it’s not hard to guess what will happen over the course of those episodes after watching the pilot.

Hewitt isn’t terrible in the role, but her exaggerated Texas accent is. Apparently, the only way the writers could make their characters Texans is to have them say “y’all” a lot for absolutely no reason. We know nothing else about the characters, and the series appears to have no interest in developing them any further.

The Client List isn’t even worthy of being a guilty pleasure show. Nothing about it is fun or sexy or original. Just like most everything else on Lifetime, it’s something that considers itself edgy, but is nowhere near as controversial as the network wants it to be.

There’s nothing special about The Client List, and that is its biggest failure. A show like this can’t be afraid of holding back, but that’s exactly what it’s doing.

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