Lipstick bungle

The Candace Bushnell-based series is no better than a cheap knock-off
By ELLEE DEAN  |  February 11, 2008

insidelipstick
LOOKING HOT: Three sexy, successful, and stale characters.

In NBC’s new series Lipstick Jungle (Thursdays at 10 pm), lurk three sexy, successful, and stale female protagonists, one part Manhattan, one part Manolo Blahnik, and based on characters created by Candace Bushnell, author of both Lipstick Jungle and Sex and the City. Brooke Shields plays Wendy, a movie executive with high-profile clients like Leonardo DiCaprio. Kim Raver plays Nico, a magazine editor married to an older man, but halfway through the episode, sleeping with a younger one. After the affair, she rides through the city sniveling in her town car. And Lindsey Price plays Victory Ford, an up-and-coming fashion designer with, oddly, no sense of style (feathers, hairspray, and tin foil?).

Fashion sense aside, it’s impossible to discuss Jungle without making comparisons to Sex and the City. Jungle looks like a knock-off — three women trying to be Carrie Bradshaw. Producers do their best to copy the career, the clothes, the coital dilemmas: Victory Ford’s character is asked out on a date by “bazillionaire” Joe Bennett, played by ’80s icon Andrew McCarthy (Pretty in Pink, St. Elmo’s Fire). Bennett rescues Ford from a bad branding deal in Tokyo by fetching her in his private jet. Cue the comparison: Bennett to Mr. Big, SatC’s rich, older male icon, who also rescues Carrie from a disaster in a foreign city. Watching an episode of Jungle becomes like playing a game of Guess Who.

Each NBC character resembles an HBO character we’ve seen before: Wendy is like Miranda (though sometimes she looks like Charlotte); Nico is like Samantha; Ford is like Carrie. So much so that it’s hard to focus on the bleary plot-line. Ford dons a pink tutu for her date with Bennett. The belted tutu, its dappling of flower petals, is reminiscent of the gown Carrie wears her first night in Paris for her date with Aleksandr Petrovsky (also a rich, older man). Ford is a carbon copy — so are her clothes, so are her chauffeured cars.

In the book Lipstick Jungle, Bushnell uses her characters, not their cars or couture, to philosophize about the modern woman, her modern relationships with men and her family. The characters become unique through a series of circumstances aimed at asking pop-feminist questions. Can a woman maintain an eighty-hour work week and a stay-at-home husband? Do unconventional relationships and gender roles work? Again and again, in the novel, Bushnell asks what is “healthy?” Are 50-thousand-dollar ponies healthy? Are 25-million-dollar sell outs healthy? Is divorce ever healthy? But in Jungle, and other copycat sitcoms, producers seemed to have missed the point, asking instead: what looks hot?

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