Four overly-aroused middle-aged women living in New York City. Ring a bell? If you’re drawing a blank, then you probably haven’t seen HBO for the past 10 years. Everyone and their brother, or in this case sister, has seen an episode of “Sex and the City.” The show was tremendously successful – hell, there’s even a “Sex and the City” movie coming out this summer.
Now, how does this sound? Four, slightly more attractive, overly-aroused middle-aged women living in New York City. That’s the not-quite-novel concept behind ABC’s “Cashmere Mafia.” “Cashmere Mafia” is pretty much “Sex and the City” – note that the two even have the same executive producer, Darren Star. But the show’s lack of creativity may not be such a bad thing. ABC’s just trying to give “Sex and the City” fans more of what they want to see on network television. There’s even a small chance that ABC can improve on a battle-tested TV formula like CW’s “Gossip Girl” did with Fox’s “The O.C.”
In order to accomplish this difficult task, “Cashmere Mafia” puts a lot of stock in three potentially compelling elements — BlackBerries, University alum Lucy Liu and a girl who is trying to discover her true sexual identity. The portrayal of the four women as hard-working top executives is incessantly hammered home: to decide when they should meet for drinks all four women must whip out their BlackBerries to glance over their schedules. While the simultaneous checking of personal planners gets old, the group’s fixation on their jobs makes for somewhat captivating plot lines. For example, in the pilot, one of the girls faced off against her husband for a promotion that ultimately led to their separation. The work-a-day world gives another dimension to “Cashmere Mafia,” making it more like “Sex, Jobs and the City.”
Liu is the primary draw here as the three other mafia members, Frances O’Connor (“Bedazzled“), Miranda Otto (“War of the Worlds“) and Bonnie Somerville (“NYPD Blue“) have little TV or film experience. But, the show’s success won’t hinge on Liu’s performance, but on how the girls interact with one another. While the four have the potential to form an entertaining quartet, they still have a long way to go until they get to the same league as the “Sex and the City” group.
The most intriguing element of the pilot came in the form of Somerville’s character, Caitlin Dowd. She breathes life into a show that would otherwise be too repetitive. Dowd is a marketing executive with a tough New York accent and is without a husband or kids. In the pilot, she begins a relationship with another woman. Somerville, not Liu, is the primary reason for watching the show because her character provides much-needed breaks from segments dealing with jobs, husbands and children.
As hard as it may try, it seems all but certain that “Cashmere Mafia” will never overtake its predecessor in popularity or fame. But by utilizing the “Sex and the City” formula, with moderate tweaking here and there, “Cashmere Mafia” should draw in enough viewers to achieve some success.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Wednesdays at 10 p.m.