"The Client List" is a bit of a departure for Lifetime (not that I'm complaining, mind you) and certainly a rather interesting choice for actress Jennifer Love Hewitt after several seasons of "Ghost Whisperer" on CBS.
"Client" stars Hewitt as Riley Parks, a young Texas housewife and former cheerleader who finds herself in trouble when her husband isn't finding work due to an injury and they're getting deeper and deeper in the financial hole.
She eventually spots a potential opportunity at a "massage therapy spa" outside town called the Rub (is it just me, or does a massage parlor called "The Rub" kind of scream both what it is and "police raid?"). She's stunned to find that the women in the spa provide a "happy ending" to the gentlemen that come through the door. While she's initially shocked, she realizes she needs the money and starts to turn on the charm as the operation becomes more and more lucrative and she becomes more and more popular.
The series is based on a real story that happened in Texas, which was originally the basis for a Lifetime movie (also starring Hewitt) and has now been somewhat revamped as a TV series (Lifetime apparently realized cleavage = consistent ratings. It also helps that Hewitt looks better here than she did ten years ago.)
Soon enough, Riley's husband has hit the road (although, of course, he's not gone for good) and Riley is successfully working for Georgia (Loretta Devine). Supported by her well-meaning and frequently married mother (Cybill Shepard), Riley tries to keep the details of her work a secret as long as possible and manages to become both a physical and psychological therapist to her various male clients (and because Lifetime has to figure out how to market the show to its traditional female audience, Riley's male clients are, shall we say, not exactly realistic? I'm guessing in real life most of her clients would not look like models.)
There's also the threat that the police may become wise to what is really going on at the Rub (maybe if it was called "The Special Rub" they would have raided it earlier.) The series does show some downsides to the line of work that Riley has found herself in, but they're often glossed over in the way that one would expect from a Lifetime movie (or a Lifetime show that was previously a Lifetime movie.) It's not realistic to expect this to show reality, but sometimes it goes a little too far in the other direction.
Hewitt is reasonably good in the role - clearly this was created as a starring role for Hewitt's assets, but she manages to give the character some depth and emotion (she managed a Golden Globe nomination for the TV movie version, and I managed to not just make a "globes" joke.) This isn't exactly tremendous material - it's been done before (in this case, also literally in the TV movie.) Shepard is solid in her supporting role as Riley's mother, but it's really the kind of role that the actress has done before and could probably do in her sleep. Same for Devine, who's good in the role but is capable of more.
"The Client List" is standard stuff, a sexy and glossy soap opera that doesn't dwell on the downside of the main character's profession that much. Hewitt offers a fine performance and there are some solid supporting efforts, but the material isn't anything to write home about.
• Season 1
1 1-01 08/Apr/12 The Rub of Sugarland
2 1-02 15/Apr/12 Turn the Page
3 1-03 22/Apr/12 Tough Love
4 1-04 29/Apr/12 Ring True
5 1-05 06/May/12 Try, Try Again
6 1-06 13/May/12 The Cold Hard Truth
7 1-07 20/May/12 Life Of Riley
8 1-08 03/Jun/12 Games People Play
9 1-09 10/Jun/12 Acting Up
10 1-10 17/Jun/12 Past Is Prologue
VIDEO/AUDIO: The series is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture looks a little - seemingly by intent - soft, but at least appeared consistent and clean. The picture didn't show any instances of pixelation or edge enhancement and colors looked warm and rich, with no smearing or other faults. Flesh tones also looked accurate and natural. The 5.1 audio is straightforward and dialogue-driven, with clear, well-recorded dialogue.
Extras: Deleted scenes and some enjoyable outtakes. Nothing much. The TV movie or audio commentary would have made for good extras.
Final Thoughts: "The Client List" has been done before and while the material is thin and smoothed-over in Lifetime movie fashion, Hewitt looks good and she and some of the other players provide satisfying performances. A light recommendation, primarily for fans of Hewitt and/or soapy fare.