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One of the appeals of ABC's Scandal is the so-wrong-it's-right relationship between Olivia Pope and President Fitzgerald. She's a single, professional woman, but he's the President, and he's married. Sure, it's a loveless marriage, but there's certainly an element of fantastical naughtiness to it, which likely draws viewers in. But there are other elements of Scandal. Politics and corruption play their role, filling in the spaces between Liv and Fitz's steamy roller coaster ride with suspense and drama. It's that balance that keeps Scandal rolling forward, paced and designed in such a way that we tune in for numerous reasons each week. For ABC's new drama Mistresses, it's all about the romance. And while there is some appeal to the dramatic romantic lives of a group of gorgeous female friends, there's also a level of stress that comes with watching people get caught up in infidelity, which is the case for some of the leads. And with few nonromantic elements worked into the plot, I'm curious to see how the concept holds up as the first season ensues.
Based on a British series, Mistresses comes from Rina Mimoun, K.J. Steinberg, Robert Serter and Douglas Rae, and centers on the romantic exploits of a group of very beautiful women living in Los Angeles. Savi (Alyssa Milano) is an attorney who's trying to conceive a baby with her husband, but also finds herself in a flirtatious relationship with a co-workers. Karen (Yunkin Kim) is a therapist who gets caught up in a romantic relationship with one of her patients, who's also married and dying. April (Rochelle Aytes) is a recent widow who's still trying to get over her husband, when she discovers a secret he was keeping from her. And then there's Josslyn (Jes Macallan), Savi's free-spirited sister, who works in real estate and is a serial dater and has no shortage of romantic suitors.
Knowing the theme of infidelity in the show, I wondered if this might be a series that glorifies the steamy nature of a secret, sordid affair. It doesn't really do that, which is a good thing. Oh, it banks on the sex appeal for sure, but in addition to a few dimly-lit, steamy but safe-for-network-TV love scenes, we also see the unnerving side of infidelity, and the kind of damage it does to relationships and families. Which means, the hook is less in wanting to be these characters as it is in watching their problems from the comfort of our living room, and getting caught up in it while maybe being a little bit grateful that our romancing lives aren't quite as complicated… assuming they aren't.
Wondering if the unfaithful characters are going to get caught is part of the draw, and there's a fair amount of suspense and tension in that, but the show doesn't tread much darker. It would be surprising if Mistresses found itself in Unfaithful or Fatal Attraction territory. But there's a slow tension brewing as we see the four leads deal with their romantic struggles, and that should be enough to hold viewers' attention. Beyond that, the cast is great and the pacing is decent for this kind of drama. Mistresses is set up with most of its focus on romance and relationships, with a little bit of attention paid to female bonding, all of which makes it a great fit for the summer season, when viewers are often looking for lighter TV. If you need a bit more than relationship problems to hold your interest, you probably won't find it here. But those up for indulging on the romantic exploits of a group of beautiful women should give Mistresses a shot when it premieres tonight (Monday, June 3) at 10:00 p.m. ET on ABC.