Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Pilot Review: The Girlfriend Experience

The Girlfriend Experience (Starz)
Premiered April 10 at 8pm

I feel like it’s very popular these days for TV characters to be high-end escorts while leading cover lives. A few years ago, it was “Secret Diary of a Call Girl” and “Hung,” and now it’s “You, Me, Her” that do a spectacular job crafting characters and storylines around this premise. When I heard about this show before it started, I knew that it was based on the 2009 film of the same name. What I didn’t remember until I looked up my review is that I gave it an F and described it as being completely devoid of plot or anything of interest. Even though I wasn’t too hooked by the first two installments of this TV series, I wouldn’t be nearly as harsh in describing it. What does stand out is that Riley Keough’s Christine lacks enthusiasm in her everyday life which then leads her to charm her clients by getting them to want more since she isn’t talkative or overly flirtatious or anything like that. During her interview, she came off as almost robotic, and she got shut down right away when she tried to take initiative and impress her boss because he doesn’t even want to know she exists. I’m not familiar with Keough, and she’s far less electric a lead than Billie Piper, something that could work well for her but didn’t get me in this first sampling. I loved Paul Sparks in his immortal role as Mickey Doyle on “Boardwalk Empire,” and I don’t think this is quite as great a role for him. It’s also interesting to see Mary Lynn Rajskub from “24” in the cast, though she hasn’t had much to do just yet. I understand why this show could be intriguing, but at this point I haven’t seen anything that distinguishes it from the series I mentioned above, and all three of those were far more enticing even from the start.

How will it work as a series? The second episode isn’t an entirely accurate depiction of the show in regular weekly format since things are still getting going, but I do think that’s part of what will define this show, exposition happening over the course of the whole season and show. It’s much improved from the film’s tedious and lackluster pacing, but still not enough to convince me that it’s worth watching.
How long will it last? Other reviewers seem to have liked the show a lot more than I did, and Starz is looking to define itself as an original programming network, so I suspect that they’ll want to invest in this show and help it become one of their edgier defining series. I’d expect a season two renewal very soon.

Pilot grade: C+

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