Let’s just get this out of the way right up front: MISTRESSES ain’t DOWNTON ABBEY. It’s not even DALLAS. But what ABC’s new summer series is is the kind of female-friendly fun rarely found on network television these days. It’s like getting the very best elements of SEX & THE CITY, a Lifetime movie and THE BOLD & THE BEAUTIFUL all in one frothy quick-paced package.
Unlike so many modern pilots, MISTRESSES knows the importance of hooking viewers right from the start. The first five minutes let you know exactly what they’re offering by immediately setting in motion several storylines, all of which revolve — in one way or another — around relationships. That’s right, despite what one might think from the ads, the series isn’t about sex, but rather relationships. Marriages, friendships, affairs… heck, even the emotion-fraught tie between doctors and patients.
Where SEX & THE CITY often relied on crassness and cable-friendly naughty words when its leading ladies gathered to dish the dirt, MISTRESSES manages to give its characters playful dialogue that never feels like it’s trying to hard. In fact, one of the biggest strengths of the series is how quickly we feel the bond between the women. They feel like women who might actually be friends in the real world. We’re not simply told they’re friends, we actually feel the connection immediately. That’s a tough act for any show to pull off, let alone one that is at heart as fluffy as a ball of cotton candy.
But what really sells MISTRESSES is that it’s… well, fun. Sure, Yunjin Kim’s Karen is dealing with the loss of her married lover, but before things get maudlin, we’re mocking Rochelle Aytes’ April — who may or may not be getting calls from her late husband — for getting so awkwardly tongue-tied around a hot guy that she says, “That sounds… divine!” (“Did you just say ‘divine?’” asks one of her pals. “What are you, the Queen?”)
The dialogue is funny without sounding sitcomy, and the whole frothy concoction zips along at a great pace. A whole lot is thrown at the proverbial wall, and while not all of it sticks and much of it is predictable, this is the kind of primetime sudser that summer — home to some of the worst reality shows and endless reruns — cries out for. It’s the television equivalent of a great beach read… and without all that sand or a need for sunscreen.