Okay, like every fight between tough bitches, the battle royale between Cashmere Mafia and Lipstick Jungle could only remain buried underneath rumor, speculation, and outfit comparison for so long. Next week, Jungle debuts on NBC. Its stars, Brooke Shields, Kim Raver, and Lindsay Price, as well as its creator, Candace Bushnell, have been gearing up for a showdown against the similarly themed Mafia since the announcements of both shows last year. Now, it’s no secret that the two series are trying to inherit the viewership gold mine that was Bushnell’s Sex and the City. One has four sexy, powerful New York women who have fabulous lives and wardrobes, and one has three. But how do they really compare to one another? Short answer: Cashmere sucks, and Lipstick merely gives you an over-the-pants hand job. But how do they handle the legacy of their grand, Jimmy Choo–clad matriarch? Only time will tell. Or, you know, us. Because we got our hands on the first couple of episodes of Jungle, and we thought you’d like to know how each of them fare against one another when dealing with the subjects that Sex and the City held so dear. Which show will truly inherit the Dolce & Gabbana sequined underpants that Carrie was wearing on the runway when she fell, in the best episode of any television show, ever?? Below, a tale of the tape.
Cashmere Mafia: Remember when Carrie cheated on Aiden for Big? (That’s like asking your grandmother whether she remembers when hamburgers were a nickel.) Cashmere star Miranda Otto’s character, Juliet, is also faced with the prospect of an affair, but out of revenge against her cheating husband, instead of love. Not only does she not have the balls to have one, but she pretends that she did in order to fix her marriage. Not very Carrie-like
Lipstick Jungle: Kim Raver’s character, Nico, is tightly wound and kind of a bitch. She’s like Miranda, except she’s a magazine publisher instead of a lawyer and a little less lesbionic. Her bitchiness is due in part to the fact she and her academic husband haven’t had sex in a very long time. (We know this when we see him brushing his teeth in front of her.) A good rogering from a hot twentysomething changes her mood considerably. Hot sex as a cure-all? Very Sex.
Victor: Lipstick Jungle.
Cashmere Mafia: Unlike on Sex, where Miranda’s getting pregnant was apocalyptic news, several characters already come with children attached. Hence, issues like over-the-top birthday parties, nanny hiring, and private-school interviews take up airtime, in lieu of in-depth looks into whether someone should comfort a baby with a vibrator.
Lipstick Jungle: Same deal. Brooke Shields’s character, movie-producer Wendy, has two. So far they seem to be there in order to be catalysts for fights between Wendy and her inexplicably Irish husband and to show that a WORKING WOMAN CAN HAVE IT ALL (paging Bonnie Fuller!). But at one point it was clear that they were trying to get us to care that her older daughter may have an eating disorder, so maybe their roles would develop and Lipstick would become an intergenerational tour de force à la Gossip Girl. We could live with that.
Victor: Lipstick Jungle.
Cashmere Mafia: Like Samantha before her, Bonnie Somerville’s Caitlin tries swinging both ways, only to face getting hit on by men and getting overwhelmed by baby-and-cuddle-centric lesbian norms. Also, Lucy Liu’s Mia fires her atrocious gay BFF in an early episode, something we always wished Carrie did to Stanford.
Lipstick Jungle: Gayless so far! And one of these bitches works in fashion. A glaring issue, one that can only be remedied with a guest appearance from Heatherette. On roller skates.
Victor: Cashmere Mafia. Duh, like the Velvet Mafia wouldn’t be involved.
ON NEW YORK:
Cashmere Mafia: Once you get past the weird coincidence that the elementary school on Mafia is the same set as Constance Bernard and St. Jude’s on Gossip Girl, you’ll be happy with the site shoots from the show. The stars walk down recognizable streets, visit familiar parks, and properly tout popular restaurants and bars in the city, except for (like in SATC) their “main hangout,” which could be anywhere.
Lipstick Jungle: Lots of nice exterior shots, and Nico meets her boy toy at Marquee, although it’s pretty unrecognizable, as it is not full of douchetards. She also works at a magazine called Bonfire, which is supposed to be like a tongue-in-cheek Vanity Fair. In Sex and the City, Carrie wrote for a magazine, too, but it was Vogue.
Victor: Cashmere Mafia.
ON MR. BIG:
Cashmere Mafia: Sadly, there appears to be no Mr. Big equivalent. Everybody is either married to a hot man, single and dating, or a lesbian.
Lipstick Jungle: There is a Mr. Big, and he’s a bajillionaire named Joe Bennett, and he’s played by Andrew McCarthy. Unfortunately he is dating Lindsay Price’s character, the fashion designer with the improbable name of Victory Ford, who is so annoying and cutesy we can only hope she’ll eventually be killed off in a freak chiffon-related mishap.
Victor: Lipstick Jungle. Just because Victory is dating him.
ON MIRANDA, CHARLOTTE, CARRIE, AND SAMANTHA:
Cashmere Mafia: On this show, everybody is Miranda: successful, busy, with a lesser husband. There’s no sex fiend like Samantha, and there’s no conflicted heart and soul like Carrie. It could be argued that Juliet is a little like Charlotte (an idealist when it comes to family who is painfully brought around to face reality), but she doesn’t smile nearly as much. On the plus side, there are four of them, and, seriously, for this show, that might make all the difference.
Lipstick Jungle: On this show, there are only three women, which feels weird until you realize that it leaves room for future plot points, like some evil foreigner coming in and making them all talk shit about each other or two of them deciding to be best friends and starting to alienate the third. Hello, we’ve had roommates before. But there are shades of Sex characters in all of them. Like we said, Nico is Miranda. Wendy is a Charlotte-Carrie hybrid: She’s Pollyannaish, yes, but she has depth, as indicated by her hairy, balding house husband, and she’s basically the main character because, hey, she’s Brooke Shields. Victory Ford wears dumb enough outfits to be a Carrie, and she’s one-dimensional enough to resemble Samantha, but she is neither Jewish nor an old whore.
Victor: A tie. Because we are tired old queens. We don’t have the energy to split (graying) hairs.
Cashmere Mafia: Patricia Field is the costume designer on Mafia, as she was on SATC. But the show, surprisingly, is sartorially very different. Much of the time we see the girls, they are at work. They can’t wear outrageous giant flowers, fluffy Manolos, or bras that are incredibly, distractingly visible. (Just because SJP was pregnant, did it mean that every outfit had to include big black straps??) But when Field does get adventurous, it’s mostly Lucy Liu who is the victim. Her accessories and that ridiculous plaid golf outfit she wore in the pilot are just painful to see. Can we say, Samantha Wore Shoulder Pads?
Lipstick Jungle: We just had to double-check and make sure Patricia Field didn’t style this show. One of the opening images is a pair of leopard ankle boots click-clacking on the sidewalk, and Victory the fashion designer looks like a sixties flight attendant at all times, barring her date with Andrew McCarthy, wherein she wears a pink fluffy evening gown that she may or may not have stolen from Barbie. The others are more tame, but then, they’re Business Ladies.
Victor: Cashmere Mafia, by a nose. Or an ear. Accessories are all, ladies.
Final Tally: Okay, so it’s a tie. They each have inherited a little bit of the best and a lot of the worst of Sex and the City. But let’s be honest: We’ll watch them both anyway. Lipstick Jungle is more real because the characters don’t find a pithy, sexy way to win in every situation they’re in at the end of each episode. It’s also more likable in that way. Brooke Shields is in her first appealing role since Blue Lagoon, and you don’t even need to see her teenage breasts. But Cashmere Mafia is campy and terrible, and we love that, too. Especially when you consider that Miranda Otto, in her pearls and Carolina Herrera, is the same actress who killed the king of the Nazgul in Lord of the Rings by crying, “I AM NO MAN!!!!” They’re both winners in the backup heats. But they’ll never, ever be as good as Gossip Girl. And that’s our final word.