Lipstick Jungle (2008) TV First Episode


New ladies in the City

AKA: Two Mirandas and half a Charlotte

It’s incredibly unfair to judge a show on its very first episode. However, watching this at legal speed rather than on dodgy downloads tends to mean that we’re taking ‘em as they come. In Lipstick Jungle’s case, it’s clear that there’s a lot more work to do, and it needs to get over its ‘tick all the boxes’ obsession as it markets itself as the shiny replacement to the majestic glossiness of Sex and the City.

In Lipstick Jungle, we’re following the hugely complicated love-lives of three New York heavy-hitters, who just happen to be women. They get introduced in a fairly efficient data-blast from an E! Entertainment-style show, which is profiling the ’50 most influential ladies in Manhattan’. To my mind, they are best described in Sex and the City terms as – two Mirandas and half a Charlotte.

The “Charlotte” is Victory Ford. The youngest (or so it appears) leading lady with a once-successful fashion brand. Although she feels her current show is closest to being everything she’s ever wanted, the reviewers and the bosses are very unhappy. This sends her into the doldrums and she starts doing stupid thing – like dating Andrew McCarthy (clearly a beginner’s Mr Big character in all this). Luckily she has best mates who are ALSO on this fabulous list, who are more than willing to support her.

Victory Ford takes a phone call from 80s heartthrob, Andrew McCarthy,

whose character name in this I, er, can’t remember…

There’s Brooke Shields as Wendy Healy, an easily-flustered Studio Executive who can’t keep her movie directors in line. She has even more trouble with a Photographer husband (the guy from lacklustre urban-wizard show) who resents like her extreme success and whinges like a little baby about having to help out at home and ‘clean up cat sick’, whilst she schmoozes or whatever. Frickin’ wuss. He’s also got the MOST irritating Brit accent ever captured on the small screen.

Then there’s, Nico Reilly (Kim Raver), who is best remembered as Audrey from 24. She plays a highly strung Magazine Publisher who gets affronted when she thinks the Brit boss Julian Sands (another 24 actor!) is listening to a younger male editor instead of her. Whilst she points out repeatedly that EVEN THOUGH she’s a woman, he SHOULD trust her, I kept on expecting Jack Bauer to charge through the glass doors and shoot Julian Sands repeatedly in the kneecap. Sadly, nothing like that happened. But here’s hoping. *Fingers crossed*

L-R: Wendy Healy and Nico Reilly take time out at their mate Victory Ford’s fashion show

I think the worst thing about this opening episode is the way EVERY SINGLE THING is a MASSIVE FEMINIST ISSUE. Ahem. And it was handled in a way that loaded the speeches into the character’s mouths. The actresses clearly did their best here, but surely there must be subtler ways to get this across? And with all the wining and getting into huffs that they do, is it really possible that these are the three of the ‘Fifty Most Powerful Women in Manhattan’?

Perhaps this is where the escapism side comes into play, but there’s a fine line between escapist cashemere and Ugly Betty belly-button-fluff.

On the plus side, sex isn’t being treated like a ‘monster of the week’ as it was for the first 3 seasons on Sex and the City. It can’t get quite as naughty as SATC could on HBO but y-gud does it try! My concern is that it’s going to be concentrating on nothing but soap-dish relationships instead. We’ll be fine as long as none of them run off to Paris with some Russian who seems to hate her. *Paging series 6.5 of Sex and the City, oh yes*

To continue this unavoidable comparison to Sex and the City, and despite my own whines, Lipstick Jungle does its darndest to fill the gap. Anyway, the good news is that it isn’t ABSOLUTELY cringeworthy. The actresses are pretty strong, and their chemistry will no doubt improve. There’s a real effort to try and make the women friends and supportive of one another, which is actually nice to see – I feel that this could well explain how it’s survived to a second season.

Love, life, and great shoes. You’d think they’d be really happy but, you’d be wrong.

Cos no one is ever rich and happy in a TV show. Oh, hell no….

While I doubt I’ll obsess over it, I think I’ll be trying a few more episodes and be extremely grateful that this isn’t YET ANOTHER Desperate Housewives/Ugly Betty dabble in the shallow-end of drama. This is more of a Champagne Bath for the brain – although we have yet to see if it’s going to Cava or Moet… but the bubbles sure are pretty.

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