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Reviewed by Will Harris
he term “cat fight” might not be politically correct, but it’s as apt a phrase as any to describe the unofficial battle between ABC’s “Cashmere Mafia” and NBC’s “Lipstick Jungle,” the two “Sex and the City” wannabes which simultaneously attempted to win the hearts of network TV viewers in early 2008. Although “Cashmere Mafia” had the advantage of premiering first, as well as the Darren Star seal of approval (the co-creator of “Sex and the City” served as one of the show’s executive producers), at the end of the day, it was “Lipstick Jungle” that survived to win a sophomore season.
Of course, “Lipstick Jungle” had considerable legitimacy as well, its premise having been derived straight from the pages of a book by Candace Bushnell, author of the original “Sex & the City” novel. Here, however, it’s a trio of female characters rather than a quartet, and their lives are decidedly different than those of Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda. Rather than a collection of single women who are constantly out on the town, we get instead Wendy Healy (Brooke Shields), who’s married with children, Nico Reilly (Kim Raver), who’s married but not entirely happy about it, and Victory Ford (Lindsay Price), who’s single but not particularly afraid of commitment.
These lovely ladies all have one thing in common: they’re powerful businesswomen. Wendy’s a movie producer, Nico’s in publishing, and Victory is a fashion designer. Despite this, however, their camaraderie in the early episodes of the series leaves you very skeptical that these three women would ever be friends. Oh, you can buy that Wendy and Victory would hang out, and you can even accept that Victory and Nico might go out on the town, but when the trio start gal-palling it up as a trio, it rings utterly false. A certain amount of this can be blamed on the fact that the actresses themselves had to create the friendship out of thin air; as the series progresses, the friendship begins to feel at least a bit more real. Still, these people have nothing in common except the power they possess in the business world, and it’s very hard to believe that bond would be sufficient in the long term.
The drama within the series flip-flops between home and office rather well, particularly with Wendy and Victory. Their two professions mesh well with each other, since Wendy makes the movies and Victory clothes the stars for the premieres. Their significant others make for good drama as well: Wendy’s husband (Paul Blackthorne, late of “The Dresden Files”) struggles with the fact that he’s living his life in his wife’s shadow, while Victory is dating Joe Bennett (Andrew McCarthy), a billionaire who finds that the things his girlfriend wants from him are incredibly hard to fit into his schedule. Nico, unfortunately, is the one you’re left disliking from the word “go,” as she finds herself unhappy in her marriage. But rather than discuss it with her husband, she falls easily into an affair with a photographer. We’re given offhanded suggestions that her husband might be seeing someone on the side, but even if that proves to be the case, it’s not like that would excuse her actions.
Sorry. That’s the guy in me talking.
Despite the enjoyable male characters in the show (Julian Sands also appears as Nico’s boss at the publishing house), it’s no surprise to find that “Lipstick Jungle” is absolutely, positively intended for the ladies. If it continues to evolve as it has within these seven episodes, it might bode well for its long-term hopes, but given that the series only got renewed by the skin of its teeth as it was, it had better bring its A-game from the moment Season Two premieres.
Special Features: There are 12 minutes worth of deleted scenes from throughout the seven episodes, some of which would’ve been nice to see within the context of the show, since they further flesh out the characters and their relationships. For instance, there’s a scene where Nico’s husband is raring to make with the sex, but when she excitedly suggests that they do it in the kitchen for a change of pace, he dryly suggests that the sex itself is a change of pace, so it might as well take place somewhere comfortable. No other bonus material is included beyond these deleted scenes, however, lending credence to the theory that this was a rush-job release designed for the sole purposes of getting viewers psyched about a second season.