Old Show, New Season: “Lipstick Jungle”

I can’t really tell you that I was a huge fan of the first season of “Lipstick Jungle,” neither when it aired nor after it was released on DVD; I liked it well enough, but while I enjoyed the three female leads individually, I had some serious issues with the premise that they’d actually be friends. Still, when it was announced back in June that Mary Tyler Moore would be appearing in the show’s second season, playing the mother of Brooke Shields’ character, Wendy, I didn’t hesitate in deciding that I’d be interested in checking out the season premiere.

If you watched the first season of “Lipstick Jungle,” then two of the three primary storylines of the Season 2 premiere will not surprise you…well, not in general, anyway.

Although the season finale found Nico Reilly (Kim Raver) trying to put her affair with photographer Kirby Atwood (Robert Buckley) behind her and repair her marriage – a decision which came about almost entirely as a result of the guilt she felt when her husband, Charles (Christopher Cousins), had a heart attack – things between them suddenly grow cold again when Charles presents Nico with a framed partially-nude photograph of someone who reminded him of her. That, of course, is because it is her, in a photograph taken by Kirby. Is Charles testing her, knowing full well that it’s her, or is Nico being paranoid? Meanwhile, Victory Ford (Lindsay Price) has spent the past several months trying to build up her business with the help of her new publicist, Dahlia (Rosie Perez), and without the assistance of her ex-beau, Joe Bennett (Andrew McCarthy).

As it happens, the woman who could turn the world on with her smile isn’t the main thrust of the episode, although she does enjoy a few moments where she plays against her wholesome and sweet image (which she also did successfully in “That ’70s Show”) by being the kind of mother who likes to point out her daughter’s flaws over and over again. My wife has taken to calling this kind of behavior “poking the bear,” and based on Wendy’s forced smile during these moments, it’s pretty clear that the bear is going to attack sooner than later, especially since Wendy’s also dealing with her daughter’s decision to dabble in adulthood by getting a fake ID.

The best and worst parts of the first season of “Lipstick Jungle” involved its male characters. McCarthy had a lot of fun playing the rich and egotistical Joe, while Wendy’s husband, Shane (Paul Blackthorne), struggled to deal with the realization that he was stuck riding his wife’s coattails, whether he wanted to or not. (We’ll presumably see the repercussions of her behind-the-scenes assistance in his songwriting career later this season.) But this is definitely a show where the women are prone to being painted in a sympathetic light, even when they’re clearly the guilty party, and by the time the season premiere ends and Nico’s storyline plays out, it’s pretty obvious that things aren’t going to be changing anytime soon.

I have to say, though, that despite my occasional annoyance with the show’s man-handling (ho, ho, HO), the episode is consistently entertaining throughout. The Nico and Victory plots reward the viewers who’ve been there from the beginning, while Wendy’s relationships with her mother and daughter feel extremely realistic, with the latter trying to grow up too fast and the former no longer certain where her place in the world is. There’s a slightly silly plot about something Nico does in an attempt to liven up her marriage that feels too much like an attempt to “Sex and the City” up the show, but even that results in a great line later, when Wendy is incredulous at Nico’s actions and Nico retorts, “You once green-lit a film about a crimesolving chicken!”

In a nutshell, “Lipstick Jungle” is still a show that’s predominantly for the ladies, but there’s enough going on for the guys – not least of which is a trio of three hot actresses – to make a lot less painful than it could be.

  

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