Lipstick-Smackin’ Good

frey andrew mccarthy2 Lipstick Smackin’ GoodLadies, if you thought you could have it all, you can’t. You can come close—you can have an attractive partner, cute kids, cool job, decent apartment—but it’s not going to be everything put together like you thought. You’ll do the best you can at all these things, but in everyone else’s eyes, it will never be enough. Yes, it’s rough out there.

But…

You don’t have to be miserable. That’s the good news. If you keep up with your friends and maintain a wardrobe of puff-sleeved frocks and Fendi suits, you’ll be able to stave off the worst of grown-up life in New York City. You won’t be alone, and you’ll look great.

At least that’s what Lipstick Jungle, NBC’s new hourlong dramedy based on Candace Bushnell’s best-selling novel, premiering Thursday at 10 p.m., seems to be telling us. Despite the froofy name and the glamorama of the three stars (Brooke Shields, Kim Raver and Lindsay Price), Lipstick Jungle is setting out to deal with some of the dirt of post-Sex and the City life. There’s love and romance, sure. And a lot of drinking. (“Let’s get a bottle!” is practically a refrain.)

But this is really a show about work: at home, at the office, in your head. If you ever wondered what Miranda’s life was really like with Steve and the baby (who believed that Brooklyn dream?) watch Ms. Shields play Wendy Healy, a powerful movie executive with a stay-at-home husband and two kids.

Ms. Bushnell’s Sex and the City was trumpeted as a celebration of being single in the best city in the world. The show provided a weird kind of comfort for a new kind of woman—ambitious, able, alone. In the early years, the show empowered women to swill their cosmos with pride and consider any guy standing within the same four walls as fair game for at least a night. But near the end of its explosive six-year run, Sex and the City was less and less about the joys of singlehood and more and more about the anxieties of singlehood. Even Samantha was in a committed relationship by the end, if not married. The lesson, as taught by Carrie herself in her wretched relationship with Aleksandr (Mikhail Baryshnikov), seemed to be that once you hit a certain age—37? 40?—you’d better go with what you’ve got. If it’s a good-looking asshole who condescends to you and is also way too old, so be it. He wants you to move to France? Go! It might be your last chance at love.

Lipstick Jungle, however, looks at what happens when you’ve got that love in place and take it a bit for granted, at least in the cases of two characters. Both Ms. Shields’ Wendy and Ms. Raver’s Nico Reilly are married, though Nico doesn’t have kids. Yet. (And does she want them? Or is it just that not wanting them makes her feel like something is wrong with her?) In the pilot, she’s approaching her umpteenth wedding anniversary to her professor husband, who thinks her job (she’s editor in chief of glossy Bonfire magazine) is a joke and who also adds insult to that injury by pretty much ignoring her long, delicately fake-baked legs. In a particularly sad scene, Nico is perched on the edge of her bathtub, chatting with her husband, when she pulls up the hem of her pencil skirt to reveal a phone number, in black marker, written on the inside of her thigh. Another man practically branded her, and her husband doesn’t notice. Needless to say, the number comes in handy. Though in very un-Sex fashion, Nico doesn’t blab. The elation and shame that take turns on Nico’s face will strike viewers as more real than any of those screwball high-ecstasy signature moments of Samantha Jones.

Wendy Healy has a different problem. Her husband, Shane (played by British actor Paul Blackthorne), is jokingly referred to as a “love machine,” but he’s resentful of his powerful wife and envies her being out in the world while he’s at home dragging the kids to and from school, cooking, etc. She, in turn, is resentful that he’s resentful. They’re both right, and they’re both so busy that their problems are going to have to be worked out in the wee hours of the night, after the kids are in bed and the BlackBerry finally stops buzzing.