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Thanks, Belle, It’s Been A Pleasure
Posted by richard | May 26, 2011

One of the many oddities of the delightfully odd Secret Diary of a Call Girl is that the British TV series sparked far more hostility in its home country — where it was still a huge hit — than it did when it came to America.

SDCG’s final episode airs tonight in the U.S. and Canada, where it has attracted a sizable following but barely a ripple of outrage since Showtime began importing it in 2008. In fact, Secret Diary‘s debut on Showtime set a record for the network, even beating the equally naughty (and much more American) Dexter.

Back in the UK, where the show has already wrapped up, SDCG was a constant lightning rod for haughty prudes over its four seasons. The tabloid press — despite its ceaseless appetite for busty Page 3 pinup girls and football WAGS — grumbled about Belle du Jour’s weekly romps as if she was single-handedly pitching the Commonwealth into a moral abyss. Pundits accused the show of glamorizing prostitution and even the Archbishop of York publicly scolded the show (no doubt before switching over to a Benny Hill rerun).

When it was learned, quite by coincidence, in the show’s second season that the anonymous author of the original Belle du Jour blog and books was — gasp! — a research scientist with a PhD and not some drug-addled wastrel, Britons struggled to make sense of the incongruity. Smart girls surely don’t like sex. Or money. Or fun.

Of course, millions in the UK and North America loved SDCG immediately and saw it for what it was — a rather silly sendup of Western sexual tastes, our obsession with fashion and money, and our chronic inability to forge substantive relationships between sexual partners.

Many TV writers drew parallels between SDCG and Sex and the City, but the comparison was a bit flattering. Secret Diary’s plotlines were ridiculously thin, repetitive and lacking in drama. (An eagerly-anticipated trip by Belle to New York a few weeks ago — imagine the possibilities! — fizzled pathetically.) And when the show tackled more serious issues associated with organized prostitution, the storylines were stiff and improbable.

But that’s hardly the point. There were two thing to love about SDCG: the outrageous and daring performance of Billie Piper (whose salary was roughly equivalent to what SJP tips her doorman); and all that glorious lingerie.

Secret Diary — despite airing through the recession — made splurging on ridiculously luxurious knickers not only fashionable but defensible. And many, many designer lingerie brands owe her a huge debt of gratitude for it. It also introduced many curious-but-timid viewers to S&M toys and gear, and made bondage not quite acceptable but at least familiar. And familiarity, as we all know, breeds consent.

We tried to assemble a catalogue of the show’s most memorable outfits but there were too many and the show’s producers didn’t always do a great job of identifying its suppliers (imagine Sex and the City NOT milking those wardrobe tie-ins!?!).

Some brands, however, got special treatment. This season, luxury/concierge label Harlette provided much of Belle’s intimate wardrobe; last year, it was the Aussie brand Pleasure State that supplied many of the goodies. UK erotic stylemaker Agent Provocateur has also figured prominently.

What we’ve come up with, below, is a gallery of images showing Belle/Hannah/Billie in some of her most revealing and memorable moments and states of undress: doing a backseat striptease, tricked out in judge’s robes, bonking a cross-dresser, fulfilling a vampire costume fetish, and delivering a beatdown to a wrestling freak. And, of course, the unforgettable “food sploshing” episode (last photo), which nearly killed the baked beans industry overnight.

Thanks, Belle. It’s been a pleasure.

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