Ten years ago, perky actress Jennifer Love Hewitt tried to jump-start a music career with a song titled "Bare Naked." Now she's trying that attention-grabbing tactic again with a sleazy new Lifetime series called "The Client List." She plays a massage therapist who turns tricks.
That network has adopted a new slogan: "This is not your mother's Lifetime." That's appropriate for a new drama with a single-mother whore at its sympathetic center. We learn she was forced into being a sex worker when her husband mysteriously left her -- you know, the way of the world for single moms.
Hewitt first made "The Client List" as a TV-movie in which the sex worker ultimately learned the error of her ways. Not any more. It's now a weekly series with no storyline of error and redemption in sight.
After tremendous hype, its debut -- on Easter Sunday, no less -- scored 2.8 million viewers, second only to the 2007 launch of Lifetime's show "Army Wives."
Slate.com's review of it is titled "Ultra-Soft Porn." On the show's Facebook page, it asks women to "rate the clients" to see which john is the most attractive. You can rate them "Dud or Stud" and enter to win a $5,000 prize. Somehow, all of Hewitt's TV clients could double as models -- another dose of nonreality.
Speaking of which, the group Licensed Massage Therapists is very upset at how their profession is being merged with prostitution weekly in the public mind. But Hewitt protests that her show only projects "reality."
"At the end of the day, it's a television series," she argues. "I'm not saying every massage parlor in the world gives happy endings, nor do I know which ones do, but it is a part of our society. And even if it wasn't, it's just a part of our story. It's entertainment."
When that line of argument collapses, she claims her sex-worker character is just too lovable to protest.
"I tried to make a joke on Twitter that I wondered why people were not writing to 'Dexter' about killing people, or to 'Nurse Jackie' about taking drugs on the job. Those are big, big television characters audiences love and adore ... so if there can be a serial killer we all like, I feel like a happy-endings specialist is the least of our worries."
Doesn't that quote sum up just about everything that's wrong with our popular culture these days? Are viewers expected to adore serial killers, drug-abusing, adulterous nurses, and prostitutes disguised as massage therapists?