Ever since the timely demise of “Sex and the City,” the networks have been searching for a show to rise up and fill the void. Say what you will about “Sex and the City,” but it was undeniably iconic and hard to replicate. That’s why NBC went to the same well for “Lipstick Jungle,” which is based on another one of Candace Bushnell’s novels. It seems like a foolproof plan to replicate the success of the first show, but with a longer time slot, a different cast and substantially less sex, can the show still thrive? The answer is, well, kind of.
Three successful women, Wendy, Nico and Victory (yes, that’s her name) are among the 50 most powerful women in New York. This suggests that “Lipstick Jungle” should be about empowering women, but that doesn’t stop the show from having two of the three main characters cry on multiple occasions in the very first episode. It seems rather self-defeating, but that isn’t to say it’s not a little bit interesting.
Victory (Lindsay Price, “Pepper Dennis”) is a fashion designer recently snubbed by critics, and she spends a good deal of the pilot sobbing over her most recent failure on the runway. After being consoled by her BFFs, she gets a call from a local billionaire who wants to take her out to dinner. After a few extended moments of incredibly douchey behavior (having his assistant ask her out and pick her up, talking on the phone during dinner, telling her that “he’s chosen her”), she finally caves in when he charters a private jet for her to come see him, and they make out on the tarmac. I’m not really sure what message that sends to little girls, but OK.
Nico (Kim Raver, “24”) is the editor-in-chief of a big fashion magazine (are all women in New York in fashion?). She’s married to a husband who doesn’t appreciate her sexiness so she turns to an illicit affair with some young dude who wrote his number on her thigh at a party – I’m going to have to try that some time. Nico is the most balanced and real character on the show, but the whole affair thing in the first episode seems a tad rushed.
Finally, we have Wendy (an extra-terrestrial looking Brooke Shields, “Nip/Tuck”), who is actually not involved in fashion, but is the president of a movie studio. Her character is a half-hearted attempt at a female Ari Gold, but whereas Ari might actually score a Leonardo DiCaprio cameo on “Entourage,” we are forced to watch Wendy have imaginary phone conversations with Mr. DiCaprio where she “plays hardball” in order to get him to sign onto her new film – it’s quite lame indeed.
Despite some glaring flaws, the show is actually quite well written and executed as opposed to say, “Big Shots,” which is essentially a mirror image of “Lipstick Jungle” (complete with a few cast carryovers). Whereas “Big Shots” is somewhat of a scrambled mess, “Lipstick Jungle” clearly knows its audience. Though it lacks all the sex and swearing of “Sex and the City,” the ultimate premise is the same: successful New York women having adventures. But with decent writing and storylines, the show should be able to keep an audience’s attention for at least a few seasons.
Thursdays at 10 p.m.