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Reviewed by Will Harris
n a sense, there’s really no reason for me to write a full-length review of “Mistresses,” BBC America’s latest contribution to the guilty-pleasure pile.
When I was working my way through the four-disc set of the series, which includes the first two seasons of the show, I made a comment about my current viewing on my Facebook page. Jeanne Jakle, TV critic of the San Antonio Express News (not to mention significant other of our own Ross Ruediger), responded by saying that it possessed “just enough sluttiness and sleaziness to offset the soapiness,” adding that “the British accents made it seem classier than ‘Sex and the City.’”
Now, I don’t know about you, but these two phrases alone would’ve been enough to make me want to check it out. Still, the more discerning viewer might prefer to have a bit more information about the series before diving headlong into “Mistresses,” and we here at Bullz-Eye live to serve.
America has already endured its share of “Sex and the City” knockoffs, and the two with the highest profiles – “Cashmere Mafia” and “Lipstick Jungle” – have already been knocked off the air. In Britain, however, they’ve tried a different tactic, avoiding the lighthearted feel of Stateside series and staying almost entirely serious with their gaggle of gal-pals. There are four female characters in “Mistresses,” and although there are occasions where their storylines will leave you begging for a little humor, you can’t say that they don’t manage to remain enthralling as a result.
As a physician, Katie’s the closest thing the group has to a grown-up; too bad her idea of maturity involves sleeping with a married patient and, after he dies, finding her way into an affair with the man’s son. Trudi is a 9/11 widow who’s trying to raise her two children and considering stepping back into the world of dating, but she’s hesitant because she doesn’t want to fall in with someone who wants her solely for the sizable settlement she received after her husband’s death. Jessica’s a party girl and the queen of the one-night stands, which makes her the envy of the rest of the girls, but they’re a bit shocked when her flirtation with the same sex seems to be the love she never knew she was looking for. And lastly, there’s Siobhan, the married one in the bunch. It almost goes without saying that she’s the unhappiest one of all, doesn’t it?
Just as the title of the series implies, there’s a fair amount of infidelity going on within “Mistresses,” though it’s different from character to character. Katie’s is the most obvious, of course, but the woman with whom Jessica is enthralled – Alex, played by Anna Torv (now best known for her role as Agent Olivia Dunham on “Fringe”) – is engaged to be married to another woman, and Siobhan seeks sexual gratification outside of her marriage when her husband’s desire to have a baby abruptly moves from overscheduled and unromantic coitus to a total lack of sex drive. And what of Trudi? Well, the problem here is that you can’t say too much about her situation without giving away the best (and, ultimately, the harshest) storyline of the season, so let’s just say that, yes, there’s cheating involved on her end as well.
If there’s a problem with the second season of the series, however, it’s that you can’t help but feel that either these are the unluckiest women in all of Britain when it comes to love, or they’re among the most foolish. It’s been said that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, but, wow, talk about having problems with short-term memory! Katie has further problems with a younger man and a married man, while Siobhan still can’t manage to get things right in her marriage. You can almost excuse Trudi for her issues, though, given what she’s been through in the past. The real exception here is Jessica, whose unexpected actions in the season premiere set up her surprising storyline, and whose shenanigans during the course of the subsequent episodes definitely keep you guessing.
“Mistresses” isn’t groundbreaking television, but, well, it’s like Jeanne said: it’s unabashedly a soap opera, but you get a healthy soupcon of sexiness, and the accents class it up enough to make you feel okay about watching it. All told, the first season is by far the better of the two, but by then, you care enough about the characters to stick around through the second as well.
Special Features: Although we receive no commentaries, we do get two features, one for each season of the show included in “Volume One.” The first is “The Making of ‘Mistresses,’” which offers a half-hour look into Season One, while the second, “Sex, Lies, and Infidelity,” takes the Mistresses and their significant others and gets their opinions on the topics addressed in the show as well as their thoughts on their characters at the end of Season Two. Both are top-notch, which is just as we’ve come to expect from BBC-produced bonus material.