Episode 1: Pilot
By: Carlos Uribe
The lives of four female friends and their sex lives.
The ABC network used to have a popular drama called Desperate Housewives that was about the misdeeds of the women in the neighborhood. It had a serious plot-line but a lighthearted tone that had a satiric bent. The first season was simply a delight and it had a magic to it that every season since then had tried to capture. The show gradually faded in the ratings until it was ended after eight seasons and the series was translated into multiple foreign soap operas. The network has tried to find a suitable replacement since the show has ended. Mistresses feels like the next attempt except it's airing in the summer. The network has found some success in airing Canadian shows during the summer but this is one of their own productions. It is possible that Mistresses might find the ratings to come back for a second season but it won't find the success that Desperate Housewives had. It's hard to capture the magic of the first season of Desperate Housewives and Mistresses doesn't even come close. It tries. The music suggests that all of the scandals are supposed to be the fun part of the show, there's a lot of intriguing situations, and the acing is solid. The problem is that the pilot is confusing, the characters are weak, and the plot twists ended up being predictable. I saw that the person calling the widow was the son of her dead husband's mistress, I saw that the son of the guy who died was in love with the therapist, and I saw that the frustrated wife was going to sleep with her co-worker. The whole lesbian bit at the end with the real estate agent that's sleeping with her boss was likewise seen from a mile away. Desperate Housewives was a delight because it had a certain energy this show lacked but also because it had a layer of mystery. It was a bit unpredictable and that's why people got to excited about it. I can't imagine people getting as excited about Mistresses. It's not a bad pilot but it does have problems.
Mistresses is currently struggling with balancing it's tone. On one hand, there will be scenes of sex scored to great music that's exciting. On the other hand, there's just a whole bunch of cliched and predictable soap opera elements between them. Okay, sex is also a predictable soap opera element but it's the only one that Mistresses is really having any fun with. The other elements don't exactly feel like a chore but they do seem like anything you could find on any other show. The actual narratives are pretty well thought-out. The whole therapist situation was pretty well executed up due to the complexity of the situation. The widow struggling to move on had too many scenes of basically any romantic comedy ever but it did end with a promising note of the mistresses' son. The wife whose trying to put the spice back into her marriage ends up cheating on her husband isn't the most original idea, nor the most feminist one, but it did feel organically developed. The final plot with the real estate agent sleeping with her boss and afraid of being committed to him as a mistress was the weakest but hopefully the writers can lead her to more compelling material. The biggest problem with the pilot wasn't the narrative. The tone might need some help but that could be fixed over time. The biggest problem is that for the first five minutes of the show I was completely lost. I might have liked the music but I had trouble telling who was who and what was going on. It was just going by too fast for anything to really register. By the time things slowed down, I was able to gradually catch up. The idea behind the first five minutes isn't bad but I think it needed another few rounds at the editing table to clear out confusion.
Mistresses is a show that really depends on the four main characters because this is about their sins. Here's where Mistresses is at it's weakest. The tone problems and confusion are problems with the pilot but the strong narrative makes up for those two elements. The biggest problem with Mistresses is that the characters simply aren't very interesting. The therapist, Karen Kim, is in a compelling situation but she herself is bland. It's hard to imagine two generations from the same family falling in love with her. Josslyn Carver is sleeping with her boss because her character archetype is that she likes having fun. That's basically it. There is nothing interesting about her that grounds her beyond just her desire. The widow, April, is basically defined by her dead husband. She believes she's haunted by him and she hasn't been able to move on for that reason. The final character, Savi, is basically a character who wants to be sexualized. I'll...let that sink in. Mistresses really lacks in the character department which makes it kind of a chore to go through the whole episode. Yes, the plots are intriguing but their spineless without the proper characters. I don't want to spend time with any of these characters so I'm not going to see how it all turns out. As a small note, the acting was pretty good and they did have good chemistry with each other. It's just the way their written that is very weak. Mistresses needs more developed lead characters if it wants to survive.
As for the side characters? They are just as undeveloped as the main characters, if not more. A lot of them aren't actually their own characters but rather people who act based on what the narrative needs them to do. The son and the mother of the dead man the therapist is treating never feel like real characters. The actors do a good job of portraying their grief but their actions are all determined by where the writer needs them to go. The same can be said of the man whose trying to date the widow. He has some good, funny lines but he's not really a person but rather a typical romantic comedy male. The husband of Savi is basically just as one-dimensional and offensive as she is: he's the kind of man whose ego needs to be kept up and who feels really hurt when his semen turn out to be defective. The only character that really stands out is the co-worker of Savi. He's not very deep as well as his whole personality is based around trying to sleep with Savi but his sexual chemistry with her was pretty strong. Mistresses joins another line of pilots where none of the characters are really developed that well.
Mistresses is a show that has some promise. The plots are intriguing, the music is good, and there's potential for some summer fun. It just needs to significantly flesh out the characters and find ways to make them compelling. Simply having them in scandalous situations is not enough, they need to be able to stand on their own two feet when nothing is happening to them. The show needs to work on it's tone balance so that it's good. Mistresses is a decent outing that might be fun if you like this kind of show but it's still needs to work on improving itself.