First Watch: Mistresses – “Pilot” (Season 1, Episode 1)

Following the unnerving trend of adapting British programming to American airwaves,  ABC brings us Mistresses. This isn’t the first time a U.S. network has tried to import the product into America — Lifetime tried in 2008. Mistresses looks like the British version of Desperate Housewives, which begs the question: why do we need to see Desperate Housewives again? At least that show had a murder mystery at its core.

The cast is a mixed mag with new new-comers and veterans: Alyssa Milano as Savi Davis, Rochelle Aytes (fresh out of her cameo from Desperate Housewives) as April Malloy, Yunjin Kim as Karen Yates, and Jes Macallan as Joss Carver. The ensemble is similar to Sex and the City; a group of successful woman all dealing with their own personal problems, while listening to their friends’ issues.

These ‘issues’ span the spectrum of serious — Savi, a Lawyer, grows further from her husband due to fertilization problems; April, a recent widow, believes her husband’s ghost is calling her on the phone; Karen, a psychiatrist, was sleeping with a patient who was married and dying of cancer; and Jes, a Realtor, sleeps with too many men, or something. Karen, by far, has the most interesting story line because it carries the weight of real stakes and consequences. She provided her patient, Thomas Grey (John Schneider, who also had a recurring role on Desperate Housewives), with enough morphine to commit suicide. That is malpractice, maybe of the criminal variety. If she gets found out, yes, Mrs. Grey and her son will hate her, but she would also lose her license, her career, and her way of providing for herself. She might even face prison time. Comparatively, everyone else has everyday problems. But, maybe Karen should lose her license: she violates basic patient confidentiality of Eric Grey, Thomas’ son, by telling Eric’s mother exactly what he said during his session. If you’re going to break rules in a show, try not to break rules well established by every other series in the medium.

I’d like to report the dialog as snappy and well-written. Because it is — when one of the women is talking to a man. Otherwise, they come off as whiny and shallow. Speaking of shallow, every man in this show is way better looking than any of their female counterparts. That’s the first sign that this series was made for women.

I did have one “well, at least they did that right” moment: when April asks a man out. She was continually freaking out about how the “cute dad” (because he didn’t earn a name, yet) wasn’t asking her out. He points out to her, though, that she could ask him out. And she does. I loved that moment; it proved gender stereotypes, at least in this series, false — for a brief moment. And then that moment evaporated.

All in all, Mistresses is a pretty bland and obvious reach to a demographic of married women. The drama is “Organic”: it’s personal and boring. Karen’s plot begins as intrinsically more interesting, but the writers dumb it down to “Oh, and you might lose your job, also.” I suppose they did this out of the interest of fairness and equality to the other characters, but it’s time we realize not all drama is created equal; some stories are compelling and interesting, if not original, and some stories aren’t. Mistresses falls into the latter category.

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