Nothing comes off well in Cashmere Mafia, ABC’s flaccid new drama about four megasuccessful, hard-charging women and their lover named BlackBerry (”If it had a vibrator attachment, you wouldn’t need me,” complains one of the nonelectronic men). Not the cast members, who play two equally tired stereotypes: the harsh, revenge-seeking careerists, and the girly girls who go all aflutter at the sight of an engagement ring. Not feminism, particularly the third wave. Not the English language or the laws of anatomy (one woman threatens to punch a man’s ”balls off”?). And certainly not exec producer Darren Star, who has struggled in vain — for close to a decade now — to recapture the zeitgeist he nailed in Sex and the City (see: Miss Match, The $treet, and Kitchen Confidential). This time around, he hasn’t even bothered to change the archetypes.
Lucy Liu is Mia, an aggressive magazine publisher and orchestrator of the titular quartet — power-playing pals since business school. (She’s the Carrie, naturally.) Bonnie Somerville, late of Kitchen, is tough-talking serial dater Caitlin (the Charlotte at heart, trying to be the Samantha), a cosmetics exec who spends less time at her job than she does contemplating whether she’s a lesbian. As Juliet, Miranda Otto (the Miranda, a namesake right down to the red hair) is the COO of a hotel group, and befallen with every put-upon woman cliché: mistaken for the secretary and saddled with a cheating husband and snooty daughter. And Frances O’Connor is Zoe (she’s the?well, she’s actually Diane Keaton in Baby Boom), a harried mother of two whose ear must be permanently deformed from the wireless earpiece she wears.
It all should work in a Desperate Career Women sort of way, but it really, really doesn’t. The humor is forced: A sample Mia sex-pun groaner is ”Kinda like a little bone voyage.” And the plundering of SATC touchstones, down to the jaunty music and slo-mo shot of the four women sashaying down a red carpet, are distractingly blatant. (This particular staging doesn’t simulate Sex as much as it looks like a challenge from America’s Next Top Model.)
Is it fixable? It should be. The cast is talented enough. And after all, SATC didn’t get good until season 2, when Carrie stopped talking directly into the camera. Perhaps the strike is a blessing to new shows like this: The writers will have some time to see their creations on screen as we do, and pen punchier, more original scripts accordingly. Although Zoe says, ”That whole ‘having it all’ thing? I think it’s a crock,” it shouldn’t be — especially for TV viewers. C-