Secret Diary of a Call Girl

Secret Diary of a Call Girl is a British drama television series that aired from 27 September 2007 to 22 March 2011 on ITV2, based on the blog and books by the pseudonymous Belle de Jour. It stars Billie Piper as Belle, a high-end London call girl.

Secret Diary of a Call Girl
Created byLucy Prebble
Directed byYann Demange
Susan Tully
Peter Lydon
Fraser MacDonald
China Moo-Young
Alex Garcia Lopez
Wayne Che Yip
StarringBillie Piper
Iddo Goldberg
Cherie Lunghi
Ashley Madekwe
Callum Blue
James D'Arcy
Lily James
Gemma Chan
Paul Nicholls
Narrated byBillie Piper
Opening theme"You Know I'm No Good" (instrumental)
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series4
No. of episodes32 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)Greg Brenman
Avril MacRory
Michael Foster
Billie Piper
Producer(s)Jacquie Glanville
Elinor Day
CinematographyGavin Struthers (series 2)
Running time22 minutes
Production company(s)Tiger Aspect Productions
Silver Apples Media
Artist Rights Group
ITV Studios
DistributorEndemol UK
Original networkITV2
Picture format16:9
Audio formatStereo
Original release27 September 2007 (2007-09-27) 
22 March 2011 (2011-03-22)

The series was written by Lucy Prebble, who is also the author of the plays The Sugar Syndrome and Enron. The series has been compared to Sex and the City by many critics, mainly due to its humorous approach to sex.[1][2]


The rights to the blog were bought by Silverapples Media (Avril MacRory and Paul Duane), who co-produced the series with Tiger Aspect Productions. The series was initially developed with Channel 4[3] and when Channel 4 passed on the project, ITV took over. The series aired in a late-night 10pm slot, as part of ITV2's "XXL Thursday" programming block.

The theme song is an excerpt of "You Know I'm No Good" by Amy Winehouse. The song runs whilst the intertitle plays, showing Belle applying make-up and getting dressed, interspersed with shots of urban London.


The series, set in London, revolves around the life of Hannah Baxter (Billie Piper), a seemingly normal young woman who lives a secret life as a call girl, under the pseudonym Belle. The series focuses on her professional and private lives and the complications as they collide. However, she receives help and advice from her best friend Ben (Iddo Goldberg). In the second series premiere, a new call girl Bambi (Ashley Madekwe) is introduced; Hannah becomes close friends with her and frequently gives her advice regarding prostitution and her personal life.

Hannah, as the main character, also narrates the series, sometimes through voiceovers but more frequently by breaking the fourth wall. During the first series, the episodes are held together by a light story arc; however, Series 2 and 3 rely heavily on story arcs, usually in the form of Hannah's romances, namely with Alex and Duncan.

Cast and characters

Main characters

  • Billie Piper as Hannah 'Belle' Baxter (series 1-4): a young, attractive university graduate who, under the pseudonym Belle, has made a name for herself as a successful high-end escort. Hannah is secretive about her job to her family and friends, pretending that she is a night-time legal secretary, although she thoroughly enjoys her work.
  • Iddo Goldberg as Ben (series 1-4): Hannah's best friend and former boyfriend from their university days. Ben is the manager of a London bar and is at first unaware of Hannah's real job. Ben is in a relationship with his girlfriend Vanessa who does not care for Hannah. Over the course of the series Hannah and Ben are in a relationship, but ultimately Hannah ends things in the series finale.
  • Cherie Lunghi as Stephanie Charlton (series 1-4): Hannah's agent in the first series. Stephanie runs a successful escorting agency, Discreet Elite, and is a shrewd businesswoman who can sometimes come across as cold-hearted and unfeeling.
  • Ashley Madekwe as Gloria 'Bambi' White (series 2-3): a naive young escort who is mentored by Belle and later becomes a close friend. Bambi has had a hard life and mainly wants to escort for the money. She marries Byron, her former client, in the series 3 finale.
  • Callum Blue as Alex McLoud (series 2): a doctor whom Belle mistakes for a client. Alex is immediately attracted to Belle but does not realise that she is a prostitute. They are in a relationship, even after he finds out that she is an escort, but eventually break up.
  • James D'Arcy as Duncan Atwood (series 3): Hannah's publisher after she has become a best-selling author. Hannah soon develops feelings for Duncan and starts a relationship with him. After it is revealed that he sleeps with escorts frequently, including Bambi, Hannah breaks up with him.
  • Lily James as Poppy (series 4): Stephanie's daughter who does not know what her mother does professionally.
  • Gemma Chan as Charlotte (series 4): one of the girls working for Discreet Elite. Charlotte is dominant, unfriendly, and used to getting what she wants.
  • Paul Nicholls as Det. Sgt. Harry Keegan (series 4): a client of Discreet Elite who has an exceptional interest in Belle.

Recurring characters

  • Toyah Willcox and Stuart Organ as Gail and Niall Baxter (series 1-2): Hannah's parents who are unaware of their daughter's profession.
  • Joanna Bobin as Jackie (series 1-4): Hannah's sister who is unaware of her sister's profession. Jackie is married and has an infant son. When she learns that her husband was unfaithful, she temporarily moves in with Hannah and has an affair with Ben.
  • Ace Bhatti as Ashok (series 1-2): One of Belle's favourite regular clients until he chooses to see another escort.
  • David Dawson as Byron Seeborm (series 3): a young, rebellious aristocrat who hires Bambi as an escort and then falls in love with and marries her.


Critical response

The show [...] uses London in somewhat the same way Sex and the City used New York – we see a lot of bright lights, fancy restaurants, and expensive apartments – though there is a sadder, more wistful quality to the photography here, as if Belle were living in a kind of London fog, which, of course, she is.

The New Yorker, noting the similarities between the two shows.[4]

The series was mainly well received by critics, with Tim Goodman of The San Francisco Chronicle saying, "there's surprise at how much you've underestimated its quality."[5] It was graded A− by Entertainment Weekly, which said, "you will find a rather fascinating drama." Entertainment Weekly also commented on Billie Piper's portrayal of Belle, saying, "Piper is extraordinary, intermittently talking right to the camera in a straightforward, conspiratorial manner, the way a prostitute who's really good at her job would talk to a client."[6] It was less well received, however, by The New York Times, which said, "Secret Diary has amusing touches, but not enough to sustain an entire series."[7]

Whilst reviewing Series 3 of Secret Diary of a Call Girl, Gerard O'Donovan of The Telegraph opined that the show focuses too much on Piper's character, saying "All the characters, apart from Belle (Piper), are about as two-dimensional as cardboard cut-outs – and no more engaging."[8]


The series was attacked by some feminists, as Belle sells her body and some stated that it objectified women.[9] The series was also accused of glamorising and being a misrepresentation of prostitution.[10] Feminist Rosie Boycott, writing for the Daily Mail, accused the programme of objectifying women and falsely portraying prostitution, saying "It is impossible to imagine that any one of these women entered 'the game' out of free choice. Yet according to Belle, the heroine of the series ... she loves sex and money and so prostitution was a natural career choice."[9]

Piper hit back at the claims saying, "We've only been exposed to the drug-fueled, sex traffic side – but the fact is, there are middle-class, cultured, well-read women who take part in this job."[11][12] Cherie Lunghi also noted the complaints and said in response "Series two is good because it brings the less glamorous side out into the open",[13] as the second series dealt with serious issues such as the prospect of rape within prostitution.


Both series 1 and 2 consisted of eight episodes: the series was commissioned for a third series, even before the second series was aired. Series 2 became complicated to film due to Piper's pregnancy and body doubles were hired.[14]

The filming of series 3 began at the start of 2009, once Piper had recovered after the birth of her son, Winston, in October 2008.[15] Piper also stated she would be taking on the role of executive producer of the upcoming series as well.[16] Ahead of the series 3 premiere ITV2 aired a one-off interview between Piper and Brooke Magnanti, who had written under the Belle de Jour pseudonym, entitled, Billie and the Real Belle Bare All.

After the end of Series 3, ITV had not commissioned a fourth series, as well as there was speculation, even amongst the cast,[17] whether or not Secret Diary of a Call Girl would return. However, on 4 May 2010, Katie Begley of the Daily Star reported that Piper and the cast would return for a fourth series, as well as that Piper would earn £2 million for the new series.[18] The following day the Daily Mail stated that Piper had signed a £400,000 contract, earning £50,000 per episode of the fourth series.[19] Piper has stated that the fourth series is to be the final,[20] but Piper commented that there have been talks to create a film adaptation of the series.[21]


The series was first broadcast on 27 September 2007 on ITV2 in the United Kingdom. It was watched by 1.9 million, a record (which has since been beaten by Bionic Woman) for ITV2.[22]

In Canada, the first series began on Showcase on 22 November 2007. The second series debuted on The Movie Network on 19 January 2009.

In the United States, Showtime aired the first series of eight half-hour episodes beginning in June 2008, with a commitment for an additional 12 episodes. Robert Greenblatt, Showtime's president of entertainment, initially considered buying format rights and recasting it with American actors, but he ultimately decided that the original was "fantastic"; Greenblatt also noted that "it's very hard to find American actresses who are comfortable doing nudity."[23] The second series aired on 18 January 2009. On 6 November 2009, Showtime announced that the show's third series would return on 25 January 2010 at 10:00pm. Showtime scheduled the fourth series to premiere 7 April 2011, at 10:30pm.

Home media

The first series was released on 7 January 2008 on Region 2 DVD.[24] Series 2 was released in the United Kingdom on 2 March 2009 and like the first series classified 18. On the same day, a four disc box set edition consisting of both series 1 and 2 was released.[25] On both sets, much of the popular music was replaced due to high licensing costs.

The entire series is also available to download on iTunes and to stream on Netflix UK and Lovefilm UK.

In the United States the Region 1 version of series 1 was released on 6 January 2009. Series 2 was released soon afterwards, in June. Again, much of the music was replaced due to high licensing costs.[26]

The television series is rated R18 in New Zealand as it contains sex scenes and offensive language.


The first series averaged 1,242,125 viewers in the UK. The following weekly viewership statistics are from the Broadcasters' Audience Research Board.[27]

SeriesEpisodesOriginally airedAve. viewers
First airedLast aired
1827 September 2007 (2007-09-27)15 November 2007 (2007-11-15)1.24
2811 September 2008 (2008-09-11)23 October 2008 (2008-10-23)0.98
3828 January 2010 (2010-01-28)11 March 2010 (2010-03-11)0.83
481 February 2011 (2011-02-01)22 March 2011 (2011-03-22)0.65

The series premiered in the United States on Showtime to the highest ratings the cable channel had seen in four years for a television premiere. The series debut reached almost one million viewers, its closest rival, Dexter, premiered to 604,000.[28] The showing held on to an impressive 70% of its lead-in audience that tuned in for the fourth-series premiere of Weeds.

International versions

On April 8, 2012, the Chilean network TVN premiered their own version of "Secret Diary..." entitled "Diario secreto de una profesional" (The secret diary of a professional).[29]

A Dutch remake, called Dagboek van een Callgirl (Diary of a Call Girl), premiered on 26 March 2015 on Net 5. Sanne Langelaar portrays Anne, who secretly works as call girl Jolie. The show is set in Amsterdam. The first season adapts several scripts from the first and second series of the UK series.

A Spanish version of the television series, titled 700€ Diario Secreto de una Call Girl, was broadcast on Antena 3 in 2008.


  1. Franklin, Nancy. "Working Girl". The New Yorker. Retrieved 9 October 2012.
  2. Goodman, Tim (16 June 2008). "'Secret Diary of a Call Girl' – watchable fun". The San Francisco Chronicle.
  3. BBC News, Piper set to star in TV sex drama, 2007-02-12.
  4. Nancy Franklin (30 June 2008). "Working girl – a British take on the world's oldest profession". The New Yorker. Retrieved 22 December 2009.
  5. Goodman, Tim (16 January 2009). "TV reviews: 'Conchords,' 'Big Love,' 'Call Girl'". The San Francisco Chronicle.
  6. "News Review: Secret Diary of a Call Girl". Entertainment Weekly.
  7. Stanley, Alessandra (16 June 2008). "Old Love, New Love, Ev'ry Love but True Love". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
  8. O'Donovan, Gerard (28 January 2010). "Secret Diary of a Call Girl, ITV2, review". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
  9. Rosie Boycott (25 September 2007). "Why do so many modern women think being a sex object is cool?". Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 14 January 2010.
  10. Sherwin, Adam (8 September 2007). "Billie Piper drama is accused of glamorising prostitution". The Times. London. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
  11. Deacon, Michael (6 September 2008). "Secret Diary of a Call Girl". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
  12. Wyatt, Edward (16 June 2008). "'Secret Diary of a Call Girl' series imported by Showtime". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
  13. "Cherie Call girls are cold inside". The Sun. London. 3 September 2008. Archived from the original on 22 November 2011.
  14. "Body double to fill in for pregnant Billie Piper as she reprises racy call girl role". Daily Mail. London. 16 May 2008.
  15. Beth Hilton (27 May 2008). "ITV2 orders third series of 'Call Girl'". Digital Spy. Retrieved 27 May 2008.
  16. Billie Piper (2 February 2009). "Billie to cut workload after Secret Diary Of A Call Girl". ITN. Retrieved 2 February 2009.
  17. "'Secret Diary' cast unsure over fourth run – TV News". Digital Spy. 12 March 2010. Retrieved 9 October 2012.
  18. Kaite Begley (4 May 2010). "Billie Piper to get £2M for fourth call girl series". Daily Star. Retrieved 5 May 2008.
  19. "Billie Piper is the world's highest paid 'prostitute' as she signs a £400,000 deal to reprise her role as Belle de Jour". Daily Mail. London. 5 May 2010. Retrieved 5 May 2010.
  20. Archived 17 December 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  21. Blackburn, Jen (11 June 2010). "The Secret Movie of a Call Girl". The Sun. London.
  22. "The Secret Diary of a Call Girl A Ratings Hit! | Unreality TV". 28 September 2007. Archived from the original on 11 November 2012. Retrieved 9 October 2012.
  23. US networks look to British TV for content that can be Americanized into domestic hit, an Associated Press article via the International Herald Tribune
  24. "Secret Diary of a Call Girl: Season 1 (UK – DVD R2) in News > Releases at DVDActive". Retrieved 9 October 2012.
  25. "Secret Diary of a Call Girl [DVD]: Billie Piper, Aleksandar Mikic, Jamie Sives, Aislinn Sands, Iddo Goldberg, Rachel Fielding Thom Fell, Scarlette O'Harlette, Toyah Willcox, Stuart Organ, Joanna Bobin, Robert Purdy, Fraser Macdonald, Peter Lydon, Susan Tully, Yann Demange, Belle de Jour, Chloe Moss, Julie Gearey, Katie Douglas: Film & TV". Retrieved 9 October 2012.
  26. "Secret Diary of a Call Girl – Season Two DVD – IGN". Archived from the original on 15 February 2012. Retrieved 9 October 2012.
  27. "BARB weekly ratings". Broadcasters' Audience Research Board. 7 November 2007. Archived from the original on 5 October 2008.
  28. Plunkett, John (18 June 2008). "Secret Diary of a Call Girl's US debut is a hit with viewers". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
  29. Espinoza/Publimetro, Sergio (3 April 2012). ""Diario Secreto de una profesional": El estreno hot de TVN". Retrieved 7 June 2016.
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