Still reeling from the perfumed stink of Cashmere Mafia, ABC's dramedy about four high-powered Manhattan gals who have it all and want more, I've now been ravaged by Lipstick Jungle, NBC's new dramedy about three high-powered Manhattan gals who have it all and want more. Do they sound similar? Well, you may have heard this story already: Mafia's don, Darren Star, was the original executive producer of Sex and the City, adapted from Candace Bushnell's 1997 book. Star and Bushnell were palsy-walsy up through the time she was writing her 2005 novel Lipstick Jungle. Then they went their separate ways and landed deals with different networks to produce essentially the same show; bruised feelings and fractured friendships reportedly ensued.
Lipstick, to give it some credit, has a better cast than the cold yet bubbleheaded Cashmere. I certainly buy Kim Raver (24's Audrey Raines) as the editor of a Vanity Fair-like magazine. Her face a series of razor-sharp planes that resemble a cubist-period Picasso portrait, Raver radiates the gleaming but rotting intelligence of a person whose self-worth hinges on landing a Prince William cover shoot.
The always charming Brooke Shields does what she can to make sense of her kinda-brilliant, kinda-ditzy movie-executive character, Wendy Healy. In the pilot, Wendy desperately tries to land Leonardo DiCaprio to star in her studio's movie about Galileo before DreamWorks tackles the same subject. Only in TV-land would a 17th-century-astronomer biopic be a hot property; one can imagine Wendy's dream ad campaign: ''Reach for the stars with Gali-LEO!''
The third member of the power trio is a fashion designer named Victory Ford (Kewpie-doll-faced Lindsay Price, from good Lord Pepper Dennis), who spends most of the pilot episode weeping over the bad reviews for her most recent clothing line. '''Out with the old, in with the ewww' that's just mean!'' she wails. No, babe, that's just lousy writing. Indeed, Lipstick Jungle is full of awful lines. You think, no way can they top Raver's ''When they smell fear in this town, it's over,'' but then Price anguishes, ''I'm way too close to my product, but I don't know how to be any other way!''
The chums spend a lot of Sex and the City-ish time dishing while walking, eating, or drinking; they all have man problems (their guys are sensitive wimps, including Andrew McCarthy's mega-billionaire, whom I call Mr. Small). And really, if my main reason for preferring Lipstick to Cashmere is that I'd rather spend time with Brooke Shields than Lucy Liu, wouldn't I and by ''I,'' I mean you be better off reading a book? And a better book than Lipstick Jungle? C-