Following on from the surprising brilliance of the first season of the completely original and brilliantly sterile The Girlfriend Experience, excitement in our household for this week's start of the second season was high, so I was surprised to find out that the excitement was not equally high across the household.
That first season took place in a series of expensive luxury settings of curious emptiness and quietness, largely devoid of any visual interest, often devoid of people, with a colour palette dominated by slate and gunmetal. Its central character was an escort, or a prostitute, or a woman who sells her services as a companion who offers, but does not limit her offering, to sex.
This woman, played by Elvis' granddaughter Riley Keough, was easily the most complex and surprising protagonist of any television series released last year. She was completely unfathomable. To some extent she was a blank slate, a cipher on to which her clients and viewers both projected their fantasies, which was obviously partly the point, but she was also more than that - fiercely intelligent, completely compromised in every way, emotionally stunted, mature beyond her years.
When I told my wife that the new series was coming up, her reaction was a metaphorical shrug. "I don't know why you liked it; it's not even very good," she said, in direct contradiction of the opinion I believed we had agreed on following last season's viewing. Then she said, "It's just because of all the sex, isn't it?"
That stopped me dead. "But," I started to protest, internally, while she stared at me judgmentally. I hesitated, mentally ran through the possible arguments about the show's quality: the sparseness, the monochrome sets, the character complexity and the nuanced exploration of fancy prostitution with neither judgment nor condescension nor some kind of fantasy whitewash.
But, as I stood there, silently considering her accusation, I retained a steadily decreasing commitment to these arguments.
Sky's publicity for the show didn't help. It read: "Your guilty pleasure" or something equally viewer-shaming.
The series had been based on the movie made by Steven Soderbergh and the implied patina of sophistication he imposed on the whole thing, along with the early favourable reviews, I had figured, gave me moral permission to express appreciation for a show that claimed artistic integrity while peddling some reasonably heavy and occasionally quite freaky soft porn.
Why, as a writer/producer/director would you choose to make a show about a character who sells sex?
Because you believe there are issues that need to be your exploration of the issues will include scenes of graphic sex with which you can potentially lure large numbers of viewers?
More to the point though, why, as a viewer, are you choosing to watch this particular show? And more specifically, why am I choosing to watch it? Is my interest in this particular show derived from the fact it's dramatically and morally intriguing, or because it's really really sexy?
I could choose to believe that it's not really necessary to disentangle the two. But if that's the case, then why am I trying so hard to do it?
The Girlfriend Experience season two is showing on Neon now.