Review: Lipstick Jungle

by Paul William Tenny

Lipstick JungleLipstick Jungle is what Sex and the City would be if it had been an hour long and had no sense of humor. And no nudity.

I really can't say it any plainer than that
Folks, shows like this are nothing more than soap operas with cameras that aren't bolted to the floor that happen to air at night rather than during the day. Having seen both shows but not being a fan of either -- that is to say I've not seen a whole season but I've seen enough to know what I'm looking at -- I'd say that Lipstick is more or less a longer, slightly darker version of Sex and the City.

That shouldn't be a surprise to anyone since the series is based on a novel that was written by the co-creator of the well known HBO property. What is surprising is what a blatant ripoff the show is of the concept, even if the co-creator owns said concept, it's so stunningly unoriginal that it might as well still be called Sex and the City, just with less sex and more angst. Not that I'm complaining here, the more drama the better is my motto and I'm more likely to watch Lipstick than I was City, but still, it's pretty obvious that once HBO was done with City, Candace Bushnell simply took the property to another media giant, changed some names and jobs, and picked up right where the old series had left off.

Bushnell gives new definition to the philosophy of milking an idea until its dry.

The thing that probably stuck out the most was how much better suited Brooke Shields is to drama rather than comedy, and soap operatic drama rather than, say, 24 style drama (the same could be said of Kim Raver.) When she's trying to be funny it feels oddly forced, but moody and generally unhappy she plays naturally if not a tad stuffy.

Moving on here, the cast works, the writing is fine though not stellar, and that's really all a series like this needs. Episodes have no discernible plot (intentional or otherwise) and the season has no arc. While that works fine for pay-cable half-hour shows, on a network this is territory best exploited by the likes of Sorkin and Mamet where situation and character become art which gives rise to recognizable though not entirely predictable plot and tone. In less skilled hands, all you get is the theatrical equivalent of a boneless chicken.

Sure, it tastes great, but it's just not natural.

If I hadn't seen it for myself, I never would have thought that the City concept could be stretched out to a full hour. You'd think that something so aimless would fall apart pretty quickly when we're so well trained to expect the formula of the one-hour drama. Raise the stakes, the big reveal, all that stuff. Lipstick Jungle has none of it and yet I managed to get through the two episodes that NBC sent me without wanting to blow my brains out, and hey, that has to count for something.

It may not be a mainstay, but NBC could do far worse than keeping this show around for a few more seasons. I might even watch it every once in a while.
in Television


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