A few months ago, someone sent me the pilots to two upcoming TV series: Lipstick Jungle and Cashmere Mafia. They were oddly, even spookily, alike. I sort of vaguely knew their genesis: that Sex and the City author Candace Bushnell was behind the former, and Sex creator Darren Star behind the latter. Read this juicy New York Times story about the falling out between these two former buds that led to their creation of two competing shows.
I was a midling fan of Sex; I enjoyed the tart writing, the lively characters, and of course the scenes of the city I lived in for years and still commute to. I recognized myself and my friends in some of the characters and situations. Had my circle of gal pals not gotten hitched in our 20s, we’d be Carrie, Samantha et al. Above all it was good, escapist fun.
To my grave disappointment, both the new shows sucked. They’re like the twin, slightly dumb daughters of a glamourous, successful woman, each raiding mama’s wardrobe and elbowing the other to win her spotlight. As I watched the episodes on my computer, I kept flitting away to check on e-mail or jot down notes for an assignment or make a call to my child’s school. (Read Jim Poniewozik’s analysis of the two shows in this week’s TIME here—but do pick up the paper version; there’s a really fun sidebar by Tiffany Sharples at the various jobs held by the characters in the shows, with median salaries and the percentage of women actually holding them.)
And then I realized why I don’t like these shows: they’re about me.
Oh, come on, you say. I’ve seen your picture. You’re not exactly Lucy Liu. You work at a magazine; you don’t run one. You live in a three-bedroom in New Jersey, not a Manhattan penthouse. Your lips are too chapped for lipstick, and though your sweater is cashmere it’s got dog hair on it. Most importantly, you wore Kenneth Cole boots today without even a hint of a heel.
True, true. But if I recognized a romanticized version of my single self in Sex, I see a nightmare edition of my life in 10 years in Lipstick and Cashmere. This could be me in a high-power, high-visibility job, with a male colleague out to unseat me, an assistant out to sabotage me, a husband conducting an affair and a nanny writing a tell-all memoir of my rotten parenting. The only thing I’d have going for me would be this cabal of shallow, high-strung, heinously good-looking friends. And some really expensive shoes. Gawd.
Listen. If I were the studio exec listening to either pitch, I’d buy it hook, line and stinker. I’d like to think the creators of both Lipstick and Cashmere started out with honorable intentions: to portray a coda to Sex, to explore what happens when these women really do get everything they wished for. It’s not that the problems and triumphs of professional, working mothers in their 40s don’t merit a glossy TV treatment. It’s that I don’t want to watch it.
So I’m tuning out. Even though the pickins are awful slim these days what with those selfish writers in Hollywood wrapping up their months-long holiday, I’d rather jam my TimeWarner DVR with fantasy. Give me the stories of hard-bitten moms protecting their sons from robotic terminators, of polygamist families in Utah, of stinking rich high schoolers on the Upper East Side. As a working, pregnant mom in a stressful line of work, I have enough drama in my own life. Give me someone else’s for a change.