It’s hard to decide who is most contemptible in Cashmere Mafia, the series that premieres January 6 on ABC. The weak, shadowy men who cheat on their wives because they are so threatened by female success? Or the stay-at-home adulteresses and gold-digging divorcées who play adversaries to our title “heroines”? Or does the prize go to the mafia members themselves, four women whose martyred lives suggest that a balanced, reasoned existence is something thoroughly impossible to attain?
It’s depressing to think of this Darren Star show as a follow-up to Sex and the City, as Cashmere Mafia, with its four female friends, will inevitably be described. Sex and the City felt like New York. Its characters were ironic, self-deprecating, and funny. While their city was presented as impossibly glamorous, it was also realistically lonely and tough. Cashmere Mafia feels like Phoenix, or Cleveland, and no amount of “meet me at the Spotted Pig” can make up for this miss.
Watching it made me think about an early Sex and the City episode in which Miranda realizes that she’s a smart-lady beard for a serial modelizer, trotted out to assure his friends he’s not shallow. She’s invited to dinner parties and ditched the second Lotus opens. It was about the push and pull between beauty and brains, and a city that values both but sometimes gets confused.
Cashmere Mafia, on the other hand, proceeds as if it were written by someone very far away imagining a cold, hard city in which a woman can get a schmaltzy marriage proposal on a Monday and then be dumped five days later because she beats her fiancé out for a job. No matter, though! Because by episode two I’d already forgotten that “Mia,” played by a ridonkulously costumed Lucy Liu, had ever been engaged at all. That’s as good an indication as any that we will never grow attached to these glossy caricatures, with their snotty nannies and endlessly bleeping PDAs.
What year is it? I kept wanting to scream. I’m sure the creators of the show consider themselves very feminist, very sisters-are-doing-it-for-themselves. These ladies went to business school! They open their Rolodexes for one another! They rule your co-op board! But every woman who is not in the title clique is portrayed as a slutty husband-thief addicted to alimony and Botox. The female conversations and accomplishments that run through Cashmere Mafia ring so false that it’s abundantly clear the show is written and directed mostly by men. You have to hope that Candace Bushnell’s Lipstick Jungle, the similarly premised NBC show set to premiere February 7, at least gets its women right.