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Jennifer Love Hewitt’s ‘Client List’ equal parts sex and silly

Jennifer Love Hewitt plays masseuse who gives little extrspecial clients “The Client List.”

Jennifer Love Hewitt plays a masseuse who gives a little extra to special clients on “The Client List.”

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9 to 10 p.m. Sundays on Lifetime

Updated: May 7, 2012 8:16AM

In Lifetime’s new drama “The Client List,” Jennifer Love Hewitt plays cash-strapped Texas housewife Riley Parks, a mother of two whose husband has just gone AWOL.

Rather than downsize her house, get financial help from her mom (Cybill Shepherd) or go on welfare, Riley reluctantly decides to perform, ahem, manual labor to pay the bills.

Riley is a masseuse but here’s the rub: The tips are a lot bigger when she delivers a little something extra to a select group of male clients at a Sugar Land, Texas, spa. This leaves Riley in a moral quandary, having to hide her true profession from family and friends.

“Being sort of a feisty young lady from Texas comes naturally to me because that’s sort of who I am,” said Hewitt (“Ghost Whisperer”), a Lone Star State native.

It’s all that sexy stuff that took some getting used to.

“I’ve actually learned how to wear lingerie better,” said Hewitt, 33, whose wardrobe is proof that not everything is bigger in Texas. The busty actress shows plenty of flesh in the titillating series.

“We do sort of walk right up to the line of inappropriate, and then we cut out,” she said. “We sort of let people take it wherever they want to in their own brains, and we don’t do all that work for them, which is nice.”

Viewers don’t get to see exactly what Riley does in the treatment room to bring home the big bucks, but we sure get to see a lot of her clients. And wouldn’t you know it: They’re all hotter than a Houston summer. Lifetime long ago dropped its signature “television for women” tagline, but you can bet that this female-friendly basic cable network will make sure Riley’s massage table stocks more six-packs than a 7-Eleven.

Turns out only out-of-shape schlubs and old ladies get regular massages. It’s the male models addicted to P90X who need to pay for sexual favors. We’re also led to believe that what these guys really want is someone to talk to. Sympathetic, intuitive Riley is like a therapist — in a negligee with a bottle of oil.

“In all my years, I’ve never known one of my girls to save a marriage,” says the spa’s plucky owner, Georgia (Loretta Devine of “Grey’s Anatomy”), after Riley persuades a client’s wife to stand by her man. (The wife had earlier spray-painted “whore” on Riley’s minivan.)

The 10-episode “Client List” stems from a Lifetime movie by the same name. That film, which debuted in 2010 and averaged an impressive 3.9 million viewers, garnered a Golden Globe nomination for Hewitt. She said she got the idea for serializing “The Client List” while at the awards ceremony.

“I was sort of sitting there at the table, and it kind of dawned on me that maybe we really should sort of honestly think about making it into a series,” said Hewitt, whose duties include directing and executive producing the TV show. “I went back to my producing partners the next day, and I was like, ‘Let’s come up with a pitch and see what we can do.’ ”

“The Client List” follows Riley’s double life both at the spa, where she’s surrounded by a mostly saucy group of co-workers, and at home, where she’s devastated by the disappearance of her husband. Not so devastated that she doesn’t start crushing on her hunky brother-in-law, played by former Crete resident Colin Egglesfield (“All My Children,” “Melrose Place”).

After watching two episodes, I’ll admit to being mildly curious about what happened to Riley’s husband. But I can’t bring myself to sit through more of this silliness to find out if there’s a happy ending.

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