Lipstick Jungle



10-11 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 7

With the premiere of "Lipstick Jungle," it seems safe to say that if someone is going to have a hit based on female friends in the cutthroat business world, it isn't going to be this season.

"Jungle" follows fast on the high heels of ABC's "Cashmere Mafia," another hourlong drama with "Sex and the City" parentage ("Cashmere Mafia" was exec produced by Darren Star; "Lipstick Jungle" is based on another work by Candace Bushnell, "Sex and the City" author.)

The most amazing thing about both series, but particularly "Jungle," is how they can turn the dramatic and high-stakes business world into something terribly humdrum and dull, yet far-fetched and unrelatable. It is as if NBC thinks that merely watching the co-stars should be enough to attract and hold viewers, and maybe it would have been in the old days of NBC Thursday night dominance. This time, all bets are off.

The three women handle more stress than the heat tiles on NASA shuttles. Wendy Healy (Brooke Shields), president of Parador Pictures, has developed a project for five years only to see it and its star nearly slip away to a competitor. Meanwhile, her husband labors grudgingly in her shadow, trying to get a restaurant off the ground.

Nico Reilly (Kim Raver) is editor of a trendy magazine with an overbearing boss and a sabotage-minded colleague. Although married, she's starved for sex. When she finds some, you just know she's going to pay dearly for it.

Then there's Victory Ford (Lindsay Price), a fashion designer whose career, in the course of two years, has gone from riches to rags. She has a new suitor, though, a mystery gazillionaire (Andrew McCarthy) who estimates the value of his time at $5,000 a minute, roughly comparable to what the show's ad rates might be on the scatter market.

Less credible than a soap yet not quite to the point of self-parody, "Lipstick Jungle" probably couldn't come at a worse time. With foreclosures becoming commonplace and talk of recession running rampant, a show about the pampered rich in their designer clothes signing deals with movie stars and getting their children into the finest private schools might go over like matzo ball soup at an al-Qaida dinner.

None of the characters come off as particularly appealing, but that has less to do with the actors than the lines they have to say and the things they have to do. Shields, in particular, plays it with all her heart. There are nice production values, too. But the show itself is so poorly conceived that you can only pity the viewer who gets lost in this "Jungle."

Universal Media Studios
Executive producers: Oliver Goldstick, Timothy Busfield, Candace Bushnell
Producer: James Bigwood
Director: Gary Winick
Based on the book by: Candace Bushnell
Director of photography: Fred Murphy
Production designer: Stuart Wurtzel
Editors: Susan Littenberg, Kaja Fehr
Music: W.G. Snuffy Walden
Casting: Jason LaPadura, Natalie Hart
Wendy Healy: Brooke Shields
Nico Reilly: Kim Raver
Victory Ford: Lindsay Price
Joe Bennett: Andrew McCarthy
Hector Matrick: Julian Sands
Mike Harness: David Alan Basche
Salvador Rosa: David Norona
Shane Healy: Paul Blackthorne
Kirby Atwood: Robert Buckley