The Client List: An Early Look

What’s coming up on Sunday? Jennifer Love Hewitt returns to TV in a new series based off the Lifetime TV movie (that earned her a Golden Globe nomination), The Client List. The show, with the same name, takes a slightly different take on the events, and it should be interesting to see how it breaks out of the mold from both the movie and the real-life events. The show premieres on Sunday at 10/9c.

I’ve had the opportunity to watch the first episode. If you don’t know anything about the show (and don’t want to), you may want to stop reading. I don’t try to spoil here, but some things must be said, and let’s face it, I gotta say them. Keep reading after the break if you want my thoughts.

Early on, you can see it branching away from the movie. Whether it’s to give flexibility to the series, add suspense, or to make sure “Riley” (no longer Samantha from the movie) becomes her own person, it’s not really clear. But from the outset, things are very different.

Not surprisingly, Riley finds herself in hard times with her family, particularly in income. The stress has brought some recent fights to the surface between her and her husband, who later leaves her. Riley’s forced to provide for her family, and when the opportunity presents itself, she finds herself giving “extras” to her massage clients, racking up big tips in the process.

I can’t say that the series grabbed me from the get-go. Riley’s relationship with her husband was barely touched upon before he leaves her (and no, that’s not really a spoiler, if you’ve been reading any descriptions of the series). Since we saw little between the two of them except a fight, we know little about them. Her husband comes off as frustrated and angry, unlike the defeated Teddy Sears from the movie (I know I shouldn’t compare, but I just love Teddy Sears).

Then, while she does try to work at the massage clinic ethically, she crosses the line pretty fast when money gets tight. While the expressions on her face might indicate emotional conflict, the episode just moves to fast to explore it, leaving a whirlwind effect — and honestly, leaves the viewer wondering exactly what this series is meant to do. Is it just to show a desperate Riley living the life of a part-time prostitute? Or is there more to the series? This episode leaves the rest of the series unclear.

But in that fuzziness, there’s certainly room for growth. Since we don’t know what is to happen, there’s intrigue in finding out what’s next. And in a series, there’s opportunity to explore other characters. Of course, from her Eli Stone days, I’m naturally drawn to Loretta Devine, who runs the massage clinic, and I can’t wait to see what they’ll do with her. In fact, if they had moved a little slower in the first episode, we could have seen the bond between her and Riley form that much more, which would have given a solid reason why Riley might trust her enough to cross the line in the workplace.

There’s also a gaggle of other girls. In the film, we met only one and focused in on her. But here, we have the opportunity to get to know them all and get a camaraderie of sorts developing between them (or a frenemy situation, as one particular scene starts to make you wonder about).

Ultimately, I can’t say I have the highest hope for the show, though I may tune in for a few episodes to prove myself wrong. The final moment of the first episode makes you wonder what really will happen to Riley in the next few months, and clearly, there’s a lot of dilemma and emotional expressions yet to come. But unless they get to some deep character development soon, it appears to be a poor excuse to put Hewitt in lingerie week to week.

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