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Belle de Jour Billie is unlikely turn-off

I never thought I'd find myself saying this, but I think I've gone off Billie Piper. Winsome, lovely, funny and vulnerable as Rose Tyler in Doctor Who, she's all at sea in Secret Diary of a Call Girl.

As Hannah/Belle de Jour, the formerly anonymous author (in reality, Dr Brooke Magnanti) of the blog-cum-books that inspired the series, Piper has little to do but sashay around the place looking sultry, wriggling in and out of various costumes, and occasionally delivering a straight-to-camera aside while servicing one of her clients.

All of this she does agreeably enough, even if you never really believe for a moment that you're watching anything other than the wholesome Piper, with her wraparound smile and caramel-brown puppy eyes, playing at being naughty. Piper has many talents; being dead sexy, alas, isn't one of them.

Coy

The series is not especially sexy, either; more saucy in that coy, almost embarrassed British manner. There's plenty of sex alright, implied more than shown, and a mild amount of nudity (though the star is tactfully filmed and the camera tends to cut away before things get too steamy), yet anyone tuning in to be turned on will be disappointed.

The books themselves, which are apparently fairly explicit, ruffled a few feminist feathers. Secret Diary of a Call Girl is so tame, so tongue-in-cheek, it will upset few people and please even fewer. It's quite terrible, to be honest.

The performances are over the top, the production style garishly reminiscent of cheapjack 1970s British sex comedies and the whole, larky tone of the thing pitched at the level of the Confessions movies.

The sex is about as erotic as a cold shower in Stockholm in the middle of winter and the odd stabs at poignancy, such as when one of Belle's clients can't do the business because a small bruise on her cheek wrecks his fantasy, are embarrassing. Still, someone must be watching it, even on the backwater of ITV2, because it's into a third series. I honestly can't imagine who, though.

Those bloody Mitchells, they're like the Borg from Star Trek.

Not just because Phil is as bald as a peeled egg (which he is) or because they all behave in exactly the same way (which they do), but because just as one of them falls off the perch -- or in Archie's case, is knocked off the perch -- another one comes along to take their place.

Archie's supposedly long-lost son Danny turned up just as the old man had been put in the ground. Being a dark-haired, posh, college boy type, he's very much not in the familiar Mitchell mould.

Everything else about the occasion was, though; the horse-drawn hearse; the bickering and screaming; Peggy wearing what looked like a charred pork pie atop her white-blonde bird's nest; Roxie dressed like she was auditioning for Chicago, and hatchet-faced Shirley, miniskirt hitched higher than the London Eye, looking like she'd just rushed to the church from the matinee performance at Raymond's Revue Bar.

Business as usual, then. Duff, duff, duff

TOMORROW: Pat reviews the final of Celebrity Big Brother (C4)

STACEY'S STARS

Secret Diary of a Call Girl *

EastEnders *