How To Review ‘The Client List’ In Five Easy Steps

Jennifer Love Hewitt's new drama, which is loosely based on the massage parlor scandal in Odessa, premiered last night. What did television critics make of the show?
Tue April 10, 2012 12:31 am
Lifetime

Jennifer Love Hewitt's naughty massage drama The Client List,  which is set in "Sugarland" and based on the 2010 movie of the same name, premiered last night. The show is a complete reboot of the film, with Love Hewitt playing a similarly-circumstanced but differently-named character (since that character's story arc was essentially wrapped up in the movie). It also bears little resemblance to  the 2004 Katy Vine TEXAS MONTHLY story that the movie was based on, which happened in Odessa and resulted in the arrest of 68 men.

In both the movie and the series, Hewitt's character is a single mother (her husband takes off under unknown circumstances) who ends up working at a massage business (called "Rub") where some of the therapists give "extras." Below, from the show's reviews so far at Metacritic, the five things you have to do if you want to write about The Client List:  

1. Mention JLH's boobs
"Hewitt's deep-dish cleavage of course is fair game," writes  Ed Bark  of Uncle Barky , and Troy Patterson of Slate observes that "The ideal viewer’s husband will find himself mildly titillated by the views upon Riley’s cleavage." 

“'The Client List' is being advertised with  billboards on which each of Jennifer Love Hewitt’s breasts appears to be the size of a studio apartment," wrote the New York Times' Mike Hale. He goes on to note that the show's actual tone ultimately sends the message Love Hewitt's persona usually sends: "Hey! Eyes up here!"

2. Try hard to sound like you are parodying Texan talk
It seems the "G" key on Ed Bark's laptop has gone missin':

Episode 2 finds Riley cuttin' loose at a country-western bar after sluggin' down a passel of margaritas. She leads a karaoke sing-along with her co-workers before Kyle's gentlemanly brother, Evan (Colin Egglesfield), arrives to drive her home, put her to bed and then get some day-after home cookin' after Riley sobers up. 

3. Make a "happy ending" joke
"In a way, the show should be viewed through the gauzy screen Riley dresses behind -- something that obscures the particulars, thus hiding the flaws. "The Client List" should deliver in something that hasn't always been on the menu for Lifetime dramas: A happy ending." —  Brian Lowry, Variety

"Her performance is sharper than this trifling series requires. Hewitt perhaps strikes the truer note in playing her role as if The Client List is all about light role play... She gets to have it all, in a Cosmo kind of way—to be a bad girl and a family woman. You get the sense she’s headed for a happy ending." — Patterson,  Slate.

"After watching two episodes, I’ll admit to being mildly curious about what happened to Riley’s husband. But I can’t bring myself to sit through more of this silliness to find out if there’s a happy ending." — Lori Rackl,  Chicago Sun Times .

"[G]iving extras to her clients on the massage table is the sure-fire way to make ends meet (in a manner of speaking)." — Matt Roush,  TV Guide .

4. Stick to the euphemisms
The Client List never gives the view any specific idea of just what Love Hewitt's character actually does ("when Ms. Hewitt’s hands slide beneath a client’s towel, you know it’s time for the next scene," wrote Hale) and the reviews were similarly PG. 

Slate's Patterson, who seemed to like the show, was the only reviewer who actually had . . . um, well, the cojones to use the more blunt sexual term, if still obliquely:

In one promotional clip for  The Client List, Hewitt says that her character, effectively a single mother, is forestalling foreclosure on her home by performing an "odd job." If you replace the wordodd with the word hand in that quote, then you will begin to understand the premise of the series. 

5. Wrongly assume all the customers would be ugly
One of the ways you know The Client List a TV show is that all of Hewitt's customers are as pretty as the male cast of Friday Night Lights (or as Hale noted, Chippendales).

"The hottest, buffest young men on Sunday night TV--most of whom do not look like they'd need her kind of services," is how Curt Wagner of  RedEye put it.

"Why again are these hunks paying for it?," echoed TV Guide 's Matt Roush. 
Many reviews also skeptically noted that Love Hewitt's job seemed to be more about conversation and informal therapy than action.

BONUS: Make a happy ending joke that's also a Best Little Whorehouse reference!
"But when her husband disappears and the mortgage is due, she puts on a smile and starts giving the best little happy endings in Texas." -- Hale, the New York Times. 

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