Tuned In

Pay-Cable Whore-Off!

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Well, I’ve been waiting my entire career to be able to use that headline, so I guess I can retire now. It’s been great knowing you.

So: This summer Showtime is debuting Secret Diary of a Call Girl, a British production based on a memoir, which promises to be like Sex and the City, except more overcast and with the whole relationship between sex and money a little more overt.

And so: there’s this other network, HBO, which you might recall has had this little problem lately of beginning to run out of shows. And you have to figure it would be a little cheesed to see Showtime getting into the “new Sex and the City” business, HBO being the home of the old Sex and the City and all.

How to answer back? How do you answer the competition’s new Sex and the City with something even Sex and the Citier? Why, you get the guy who made the original Sex and the City! And you find an extremely similar memoir novel set in Manhattan! And you get him to make a hooker comedy all of your very own!

OK, so when I read that Darren Star was shooting a pilot of Tracy Quan’s Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl, I thought: Damn, is this what his career is now? First, you’ll recall, there was this whole business of his Cashmere Mafia essentially swooping in on the premise of NBC’s Lipstick Jungle, by the author of SATC, Candace Bushnell. Is he becoming a knock-off factory? Is he going to shoot his own version of Heroes next, with costumes by Patricia Field?

But it turns out that, according to the account in The Hollywood Reporter, the chronology is more complicated. HBO’s Call Girl had been in development at the network under previous honcho Chris Albrecht. After he left under inauspicious circumstances last year, he sold the British Call Girl to Showtime.

So I think we can absolve Star here of anything except for returning to somewhat-too-familiar material. (And I’ll bet that, after the Spiitzer scandal, this won’t be the last pilot deal about “sex, money and power colliding,” preferably while wearing something leather.) Still, the fact remains that, whoever thought of what first, HBO will be working on a comedy pretty similar to something Showtime will already have aired. And the other news from the story was that Barry Sonnenfeld is shooting an HBO pilot for a remake of British dark comedy Suburban Shootout. From what I remember of the original, it was too high-concept for my taste, but I’ll reserve judgment on Sonnenfeld’s version.

Nonetheless: remember when you used to watch HBO for shows that somebody else hadn’t already done?