TV Review: 'Cashmere Mafia'
Breezy show won't make anyone forget about 'Sex'
Now, folks involved with the show, including Darren Star, who created "SATC" for HBO, have been saying for some time that "Cashmere Mafia" shouldn't be compared with that other series, it's not a copy, it's its own thing. And I'd be willing to go with that, if the show itself didn't make it so bloody hard not to think about its predecessor.
The breezy, bouncy score could fit right under any one of Carrie and Miranda's walk-and-talks through New York. In between scenes in the pilot, there's a street-level shot of the Chrysler building that looks like it was lifted directly from the "SATC" titles. Close your eyes, and even some of Miranda Otto's line readings sound like she's channeling Kim Cattrall.
There are, to be fair, some differences. Two of the four principal characters -- Otto's hotel executive and Frances O'Connor's investment banker -- are married and have kids, and the show spends as much time at work with the four leads (Lucy Liu and Bonnie Somerville are the other two), long-time friends and powerful businesswomen, as on their personal lives, which are unsurprisingly hectic.
As we meet Liu's Mia Mason, she's locked in battle for the publisher's job at a magazine group with her newly minted fiance (guest star Tom Everett Scott, who sparks well with Liu and whom the series would do well to bring back). Otto's Juliet Draper finds out her husband (Peter Hermann) is cheating on her with an acquaintance, O'Connor's Zoe Burden is feeling her last name, what with work and family and unreliable help, and Somerville's Caitlin Dowd, a marketing executive for a cosmetics firm, is sorting out feelings for the new person in her life: a female colleague (recurring guest star Lourdes Benedicto).
The way "Mafia" handles the tentative steps Caitlin takes toward her new sexuality is interesting. Her friends' reactions range from supportive to a little judgmental, partly because they know she hasn't been very good at any kind of relationship in the past. Caitlin herself isn't that sure of things either, and I think her exploration of those conflicted feelings could make for compelling drama.
I'm not sure, however, that "Cashmere Mafia" is reaching quite that high. This is not a weighty show. It bebops along from conflict to conflict, pausing now and then for a sharply delivered line or a well-timed reaction shot, but once it's over there's not much that sticks with you.
One thing that did stick with me, though, was the sense that, inasmuch as there are bad guys in "Cashmere Mafia," they're other women: the stay-at-home mom who passive-aggressively questions Zoe's parenting and hits on her husband, the equally powerful woman who's sleeping with Juliet's husband, the flaky assistant and the entitled nanny. The men come off mostly hapless, although Julian Ovenden, who play's Zoe's architect husband, shows signs of a backbone in episode two.
The show has improved from the mostly joyless pilot sent to critics over the summer; it's lighter on its feet and funnier than the first try. That may be a hopeful sign for things to come, but it still adds up to not very much. As an hour-long diversion from time to time, "Cashmere Mafia" might be fine. But I'm not ready to commit.