Thursday, February 14, 2008

Cashmere Mafia/Lipstick Jungle - Men, Nannies, (and Dr. Melfi!)


It's no fun to be a successful professional woman in Manhattan. The ladies of Cashmere Mafia and Lipstick Jungle seem to bounce from relationship trouble to career hiccups with never a moment to enjoy what they've achieved. The melodrama factor probably won't be dialed down anytime soon; that said, which show does a better job detailing the world these women live in?

On Cashmere Mafia, the characters' offices function as little more than another location for events to unfold. Mia (Lucy Liu) lands a job as a magazine publisher in the pilot but hasn't had many work related storylines since then. This week she arrives at the office to find the place buzzing with news that her ex-fiance Jack (Tom Everett Scott) has landed a comparable position at a rival company. Everyone assumes Mia will be freaked, but she takes the news calmly and even meets Jack for a fence-mending drink. Mia has another purpose in mind: now that the relationship has ended she wants the couple's "sex tape" back. When Mia and Caitlin go to Jack's apartment to reclaim the tape (actually a DVD), the discovery that Jack has a also kept a DVD of Mia's birthday party suggests that she might not be quite as over him as she thought. A confrontation with Jack's current girlfriend (a snarky newscaster) doesn't help matters, but it isn't until Jack comes over and a night together ensues that Mia comes to the brink of letting Jack back into her life.

But of course Jack is only interested in Mia because they're now on equal career footing, and Mia's having none of the hypocrisy. I'd love to see Mia or one of the other Cashmere ladies with a man who's more than an accessory, but I'm not holding my breath. The divorce of Juliet and Davis turns nasty this week, as Davis tries to get his wife out of their apartment. The best marriage in the group belongs to Zoe and Eric, but he's never around. And of course the other relationship that went down the tubes this week was that of Caitlin and Alicia. The now pregnant Alicia reconnects with her ex-girlfriend and dumps Caitlin, oblivious to the fact that her ex just showed up when Alicia had something she wanted.

Last week I wrote that the pilot of Lipstick Jungle paid more attention to what the characters did at work every day than Cashmere Mafia usually does. That held true in the second episode, which I actually enjoyed more than the pilot. Gone were the lectures about how hard it is for women in the workplace.Of course what goes on in a typical Lipstick episode may not be any more realistic, as evidence consider last night's efforts by Nico to land a young member of the Royal Family for a sexy photo shoot for her magazine. Nico, we're given to understand, has been given new confidence from her affair with the younger Kirby and goes over the head of her boss in pitching the concept for the shoot. The gamble pays off, but Nico may have made an enemy in her boss (Julian Sands, much more interesting than the snooty Brit publisher character in Cashmere).

Most of the rest of the episode was devoted to a novel written by an ex-nanny of Wendy's (Brooke Shields) in which endy is portrayed as a vain an absent mother. The novel is to be published by a rival (a brassy Lorraine Bracco) with a grudge who sends paparazzi photos of Wendy to the tabloids. The novel and the publisher aren't as interesting as the fact that some revelations in the book came from Wendy's husband (Paul Blackthorne). I was expecting the revelation of an affair, but was relieved to learn that Wendy's husband only opened his mouth out of frustration after an unexpected business trip forced the cancellation of their child's birthday party. Look for more issues involving status in the Healy marriage in future episodes. I haven't mentioned fashion designer Victory (who is now working out of her house) because her romance with a billionaire is the least well developed of the three characters' storylines.

This round goes to Lipstick Jungle, with its emotional specificity and willingness to let its women be harried. (Note how little time the Lipstick women spend together as opposed to the Cashmere Mafiosi) If it's fluff you want, why not the best?

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