Billie De Jour

By | September 27, 2007

Billie Piper flew straight under my radar during her brief career as a pop star. Just like so many other acts she was plucked from obscurity to perform for us and disappeared pretty quickly. In the process I believe she earned the distinction of being the youngest solo artist to chart a UK Number one.

I was highly sceptical when she reappeared on Dr Who as his street-wise companion “Rose”, but quickly warmed to her performance. I’m a Dr Who companion snob so from me that’s praise indeed. Later incarnations of the Dr have had some pretty weak company in the Tardis. She also appeared in the Miller’s Tale, part of the BBC’s excellent modern adaptation of the Canterbury Tales, proving she definitely she wasn’t a little girl any more.

Tonight I watched Billie in The ITV2 adaptation of “Belle De Jour, The Diary of a London Callgirl”.

Oh dear.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

Well I should have known better I suppose. To expect anything other than the bloody car crash of a programme that I just witnessed shows what an optimist I am.

The other “Name” in the first episode was Cheri Lungi. Cheri is someone I fell in love with when watching John Boorman’s Excalibur. She was the sexiest Guenevere you could possibly imagine, directed by a man who sees the world ever so slightly differently from everyone else. I could wax lyrical about what I believe is a real classic of a movie but I’m not going to because it’s tonight’s disaster that I’m actually writing about. Suffice to say that Cheri still has it, IMHO anyway.

Back to Billie. As Suze put it, she’s grown up and played the part impeccably. She managed to breath life into a script that already had rigor mortis, bravo girl. Billie carried the whole 22 minutes of desperate TV dross like a trooper. Larry Olivier would have been proud.

Billie appears to have developed the ability to maintain here former cheeky innocence and yet smoulder like a discarded cigarette butt in a pile of waste paper. You know she’s going to flare up and consume someone.

The scenes were staged to titillate. Billie, sorry Belle, in the bath, Belle giving a blowjob, Belle having sex (with her knickers still on, not even pulled to the side), Belle giving a BJ again. Belle getting kinky with a saddle and bridle.

Yawn.

The script alluded to exploitative “agent” (Lungi) taking her percentage, being a hard cow, but I wasn’t convinced. The scene with Piper, Lungi and several other escorts around a table in an expensive restaurant looked like something out of Sex In The City. Sarah Jessica Parker may have whored herself into the perfume market but I don’t remember her standing on a New York street corner “dipping” to look into car windows.

Safe sex was alluded to (a plus point here as most TV sex avoids the subject of barrier protection altogether), but condoms are never seen out of the packets, certainly not on an erect penis (because of UK broadcasting regulations). There are no awkward fumblings, no “Oh, shit it just ripped” moments. New condom technology, apparently, means the prophylactic leaps from pack to prick without human intervention.

The whole thing is “filmed” (OK I know this is done in post-production) in what can be best described as distant-blur-o-vision, with the colour saturation turned up. The style of shooting and in-scene narration by “Belle” alludes towards the style of Hotel Babylon. Sorry it’s been done and executed by professionals in the Hotel B series. I assume the producers were aiming for the same cheesy not-quite-real effect that Babylon carries off so well.

Then there’s “Belle” getting “feelings” for one client, but not wanting it to happen because she doesn’t want to reveal the real Belle – Hannah. Based on tonight’s showing I don’t have any faith that the programme will explore that theme in anything but the most primitive way. That particular series of clichéd vignettes softly lit, cigarette smoke-wreath Billie rolling on a bed was sooo clumsy.

The programme will, I’m sure, be repeated to hell and form a cheap alternative to paying for subscription satellite TV channels (which in the UK can only carry softcore porn).

The biggest sin committed by the commissioning editors at ITV and the producers of this dross is that it could make the profession of Escort seem appealing to young women (and men maybe) if it doesn’t buck its ideas up and show the down sides of the profession.

Finally, and this will give me nightmares, it’s a series so there’s more to come.

Personal Services based on the life of Cynthia Paine might be a more grounded alternative to this unfortunate episode in TV history.

Tags: Belle De Jour, Billie Piper, Rose Tyler, Dr Who, ITV, ITV2, Cheri Lungi, John Boorman, Excalibur, Sex In The City, Sarah Jessica Parker, Hotel Babylon, dipping, Cynthia Paine, Personal Services, Canterbury Tales, The Miller’s Tale