Showtime taps Call Girl

Now, here’s a way to make an end-run around a writer strike: Just buy a series that’s already been produced.

The downside, for Showtime, is that there’s already a Web site that lets you watch episodes of “Secret Diaries of a Call Girl.”

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Billie Piper as Belle, sort of a modern Moll Flanders if you will

For years, American producers have snatched up British ideas like “The Office” and “Coupling,” and Americanized them with varying degrees of success. Today, Showtime announced it has purchased the UK half-hour comedy and will air it as-is.

Taken from best selling, real life diaries, this series on the life of a high-end call girl leading a double life became an immediate ratings winner in the UK. Showtime airs the first season’s 8 half-hour episodes beginning in Spring or Summer 2008, with a commitment for an additional 12 episodes.

To her friends and family she is Hannah, a legal secretary clocking in regular hours and enjoying a “normal” life. To her clients, she is Belle, the answer to all of their fantasies. Her challenge is to keep her two lives separate. Inevitably they begin to blur.

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Belle assumes many identities for her clients, so now I’m thinking maybe she’s closer to a Sydney Bristow on “Alias.”

The real Belle, whom actress Billie Piper met and worked closely with pre-and during production, published her diaries in 2005 and, despite many attempts to discover her true identity, remains anonymous.

“When Chris Albrecht (formerly of HBO) called me to take a look at this show we were intrigued,” said Showtime’s Robert Greenblatt. “Initially we thought we should make an American version of it, but we fell in love with the original episodes, were captivated by Billie Piper’s Belle, and decided to bring it to Showtime as is. American audiences will be transfixed by the series poignant, sexy, comedy meets drama elements and the series’ will fit in perfectly with our line-up of original programming. It is also a pleasure to be back in business with my old friend Chris.”

And it doesn’t hurt they they don’t have to count on the writers coming back to work any time soon.

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