June 4, 2013


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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MISTRESSES:  Monday 10PM on ABC – If Nothing Else Is On…

These days, primetime soap operas usually try to be something else as well:  comedies (Desperate Housewives), musicals (Glee), thrillers (Revenge), medical dramas (Grey’s Anatomy) or legal (The Good Wife) or military (Army Wives), etc.  But MISTRESSES is an unapologetically flat-out soap, its title as accurate as it is generic.

The show is based fairly closely on a successful British series of the same name, adapted for US television by K.J. Steinberg, whose shows include The Nine (which she created) and Gossip Girl, with the pilot directed by Cherie Nowlan.  It concerns 4 friends, all of whose lives end up embroiled with extramarital affairs.  Savannah (Alyssa Milano) is a successful lawyer whose husband reacts badly to the news that he’s the one responsible for their inability to conceive; luckily her law firm also employs Dominic (Jason George).  Her sister Josslyn (Jes Macallan) is a real estate broker whose short-term relationships include one with her married boss.  Karen (Yunjim Kim) is a psychiatrist who’d been providing out-of-office services to a longtime patient now dead of cancer; his adult son Sam (Erik Stocklin), who doesn’t know about the relationship, has developed a fascination with her.  And April (Rochelle Aytes) represents the other side of the equation, a widow who discovers that her late husband had been seriously involved with someone else.

Mistresses efficiently goes through its paces, but it’s limited by a lack of scope and imagination.  The hour is spent doggedly cutting back and forth among the 4 stories, none of which, in the end, are all that interesting.  The characters are all superficially defined, with little, at least in the pilot, to them beyond the relationships they’re having, have had or are about to have, and there’s no supporting cast of note.  Although the show features the PG-13 level of sexuality acceptable on American broadcast television, there’s nothing especially sexy about it, and little heat to be found between the various couples.  Similarly, although we accept that the 4 protagonists are friends (or in the case of Sarah and Josslyn, sisters), they seem to be so only because the show’s decreed them to be.

The actresses are all fine, and beautiful, which seems a fair thing to note on a show that defines them purely in terms of who they’re sleeping with.  It’s good to see Milano again in what, by my count, is the 5th network starring role of her career, and Kim joins the army of ex-Lost stars settling for lesser roles now that they’re off the island.  The two of them and Aytes bear the serious storylines, while Macallan gets to provide the pilot’s scant humor.

Mistresses could serve as a glossy entertainment to occupy the eyes on warm nights when the broadcast networks have nothing else to offer besides reality competitions, but there isn’t really much here, just a bare-bones exercise in predictable romance.  It’s as perfunctory as a hot-sheets motel.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."