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.