The Starz network TV show The Girlfriend Experience follows the exploits of law student Christine Reade (Riley Keough) as she enters the world of high-end Manhattan escorting. A serialized take on a 2009 Steven Soderbergh film by the same name, the Starz version, which debuted in April, is rife with well-lit sex scenes and lingering close-ups of Christine's conflicted visage. But there's too little to differentiate this "happy hooker" narrative from its many thematic predecessors, save for a so-so legal thriller subplot.
That doesn't necessarily make The Girlfriend Experience a bad show; you could do worse on a date night or rainy Saturday. And Reade's character—intelligent, unsentimental, and ambitious—presents a fictional sex worker more nuanced and relatable than most. But despite critical acclaim and good indie-Hollywood pedigree, the show never manages to live up to its hype. Like many of the sexual encounters it portrays, The Girlfriend Experience winds up slick, sexy, formulaic, and impersonal.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Girlfriend Experience".