Lifetimes The Client List (10 p.m. Sunday) offers a bizarrely syrupy take on a tawdry enterprise.
Jennifer Love Hewitt goes from Ghost Whisperer to John Whisperer in this silly series based on a 2010 cable movie. That film also starred Hewitt, with Cybill Shepherd as her mother. The characters in the TV series have different names – but the same relationship. Shepherd again plays the mother. And the show has the same premise as the movie.
Hewitt stars as Riley, a woman whos devastated when her husband (Brian Hallisay) runs off after she lands a job as a massage therapist at a spa (called The Rub) in an effort to better their financial situation.
Riley soon learns that if she wants to make big money at the spa, she has to be willing to give extras. At first she resists but, after a montage of unattractive male and elderly women clients, she gives in. Suddenly shes rolling in dough and all her clients are chiseled hunks. Because Im sure thats how it works in real life.
The Client List plays hard-to-get about what exactly these extras are that Riley gives the guys. Shes maybe-sorta a prostitute, but the shows tone is light, frothy and downright sentimental when Riley gives emotional support to her male clients.
In one scene, she wears a nightgown the client bought her, but most of the time in the premiere episode shes shown interacting with a massage client who just needs a good listener. Later, she has a sob-sister moment with the mans wife after the woman stalks Riley.
In all my years, Ive never known one of my girls to save a marriage, says Rileys boss, Georgia (Loretta Devine), whos more den mother than madam to Riley and her co-workers.
In the following weeks episode, dewy-eyed Riley tries to play cupid for a young oil-rig worker who misses the love of his life.
The show splits its time between what Riley does at work, which she attempts to keep secret from her family, and her life at home, where her hairdresser mom and best friend Lacey (Rebecca Field) help Riley care for her children. Her kindly, hunky brother-in-law, Evan (Colin Egglesfield, Melrose Place), seems destined to be a future love interest. And theres the ongoing mystery of why Kyle abandoned Riley and her kids. Does he have a secret second family? Was he having an affair?
These mysteries pale compared to the real unanswered question: What exactly is Riley doing at that massage parlor for her good tips? Its a Fifty Shades of Grey world. Playing coy wont cut it.