[07/31/07 - 05:11 PM]
The Futon's First Look: "Lipstick Jungle" (NBC)
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

Please note: As a courtesy, please do not reproduce these comments to newsgroups, forums or other online places. Links only please.

Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2007-2008 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere this season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. While it's still a little early for full reviews (some recasting and reshooting will be done on a good chunk of them), we still want to give you a heads up on what you should - and shouldn't - keep on your radar in the coming months.

And as an added bonus this year, each day we'll also take a look at one of the pilots that didn't make the cut. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!

(TBA at midseason)

The network's description: "Based on the best-selling novel by Candace Bushnell ("Sex and the City"), this fun dramedy follows three high-powered friends as they weather the ups and downs of lives lived at the top of their game. Nico (Kim Raver, "24"), editor-in-chief of a hot fashion magazine, wants to replace her boss as CEO. Movie exec Wendy (Brooke Shields, "Suddenly Susan") finds even her most earnest efforts may not be enough to balance career and family. And free-spirited designer Victory (Lindsay Price, "Beverly Hills, 90210") longs to make her dreams come true, and maybe find Mr. Right along the way. Armed with humor and strength, these three modern New York women support one another through the triumphs and tears that are all part of making it big in the Big Apple. Written by executive producers DeAnn Heline and Eileen Heisler (both for "How I Met Your Mother," "Three Sisters") and based on the book by Bushnell, "Lipstick Jungle" is from NBC Universal Television Studio. The pilot is directed by Gary Winick ("13 Going on 30")."

What did they leave out: As previously reported, the roles of Shane Healy and Kirby Atwood are being recast. Robert Buckley will fill the latter role, replacing Will Toale, while the search is underway for someone to take over for Christopher Wiehl. In addition, executive producers DeAnn Heline and Eileen Heisler were let go from the series earlier this month. And for you trivia buffs, "Lipstick" has actually gone through several rotations in front of and behind the camera. Gina Gershon, Matthew Morrison, Melissa George and Scott Cohen were all attached to the project at one point, as were writers Rand Ravich, Jill Gordon and director Nigel Cole.

The plot in a nutshell: A quote from Rudyard Kipling's The Law of the Jungle kicks off the series - "NOW this is the Law of the Jungle´┐Żas old and as true as the sky; And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf that shall break it must die." - only to be replaced by a different one from Katherine Hepburn - "If you obey all the rules, You miss all the fun." And so we cut to a newscast that informs us Wall Street Magazine has released its annual list of New York's 50 Most Powerful Women. Among them - #12 Wendy Healy (Brooke Shields), president of Parador Pictures; #6 Nico O'Neilly (Kim Raver), head of trendy Bonfire Magazine; and #17 Victory Ford (Lindsay Price), the unfortunately named designer. Coincidentally, the trio are also BFFs and have plenty of problems to go around. Victory's latest fashion show went over like a lead balloon and now she must handle the fallout with her Japanese distributor; Nico finds "nothing is exciting anymore" even as she guns for a rival's (David Alan Basche) job; and Wendy has just learned her pet project - a Galileo biopic starring Leonardo DiCaprio - is also being developed by DreamWorks while the director of her latest romantic comedy has decided to add an unexpected gay subtext to the ending. But the problems don't stop at work, there's plenty of boy trouble to go around as well - Victory finds herself being courted by eccentric billionaire/borderline douchebag Joe Bennett (Andrew McCarthy); Nico gets hit on by Kirby (Will Toale), a much younger guy, while her disinterested husband (Julian Sands) sits at home; and Wendy's sad sack husband (Christopher Wiehl) has just asked her for a divorce. Also along for the ride is Edward Herrmann as a corporate titan who owns both Wendy and Nico's companies. Anyway, thankfully they have each other to lean on through their respective rough patches, or something like that. In the end, shrinking violet Wendy gets a spine at home and at work; Nico finds that "something" in her affair with Kirby; and Joe comes through in the end for Victory. Their respective battles won, the trio toast their awesomeness on a rooftop overlooking the New York skyline, unaware of the new problems that await them.

What works: Even as boilerplate fabulous women/cool clothes/cute shoes/girl power/hot guys porn, the show...

What doesn't: ...fails miserably. A "Sex and the City" rip-off in the worst sense, "Lipstick" packages a trio of unlikable characters in mostly preposterous situations - ironic considering Candace Bushnell was the genesis of both. I mean, who wants to watch Brooke Shields chew through a scene in which she passive aggressively tries to bully Leonardo DiCaprio into picking her project? (And more importantly, how is Leonardo DiCaprio letting himself be named-dropped to death in this show?) How is watching Kim Raver break down and cry after torpedoing her character's marriage - just because her husband seems more interested in work, a fact she doesn't even talk to him about - a good time? And where's the fun in seeing Lindsay Price roll over and ask her boyfriend to rescue her in the end? I guess I just don't "get" it. Adding fuel to the fire is that the show isn't even remotely funny - elements like Victory calling the girls to brag she can literally run across her beau's giant bed feel like old second-half "Mad TV" sketches that made fun of "Sex and the City" rather than genuine humor - while risque facets - all three manage to appear half-naked at some point, because you know they're like fabulous and stuff - feel forced and trite. The similarly-themed "Cashmere Mafia," for all its faults, at least tries to be about something rather than this, which just sits on the laurels of its "beautiful, powerful women in New York" premise and assumes you're along for the ride.

The bottom line: You've undoubtedly figured it out by now.

  [july 2007]  


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