These days, when you absolutely positively need a good melodramatic women's picture--featuring actual grown-up women instead of the relationship pangs of twentysomethings--the BBC is one of the few places to turn. And just as the BBC's Skins does pretty amazing things with a standard American setup--the high-school drama--Mistresses takes the four close friends who like to get together, drink, and gossip idea of Sex and the City/Desperate Housewives and mixes in a liberal amount of soap opera turns such as parental drama, financial anxiety, medical subplots, and extramarital affairs to give the four main characters plenty of reasons to fret and whine over wine.
The first season aired in the UK in early in 2008, but didn't hit BBC America until this past February. And earlier this month all 12 episodes came out on DVD, enabling non-cable subscribers the opportunity to get to know the four Bristol women that Mistresses follows. Dr. Katie Roden (Sarah Parish) carried on an affair with a terminally ill patient--whom she helped out of this mortal coil at the request of him and his wife, who doesn't know about the affair--whose son knows his father was seeing another woman, but not whom. Trudi (Sharon Small) lost her husband on Sept. 11, and nearly a decade on she still, for some reason, believes he may be alive, even after she gets a $2 million check from a bereavement fund. Seemingly happily married solicitor Siobhan (Orla Brady) and her chef husband (Raza Jaffrey) live in a stunning multi-floor home, but their unsuccessful, ongoing efforts to get pregnant has wrecked havoc on her libido. And party planner Jessica (Shelley Conn) prefers bedding married men who eventually have to return with their tail between their legs to their wives.
Just don't confuse the above enthusiasm for the program as an indication of its artistic worth: Mistresses isn't quite righteous trash, but it does get more and more outlandish as it progresses. Passionate lesbian relationships, descents into anonymous sex rendezvous in posh hotels, former mistresses coming out of the woodwork, court cases, new affairs, and a seemingly endless array of silk negligees--if Mistresses is to be believed, the fortysomething women of Bristol are as lusty as the high-school women of Twin Peaks. It gets daft enough to make you begin to wonder what kinds of fun Douglas Sirk could have with a cable-TV series right about now.
The four-disc package contains the usual making-of featurettes and behind-the-scenes interviews, including one with Anna Torv, who plays a woman whose wedding Jessica is helping to plan and who is better known in America as the dogged Agent Olivia Dunham on Fox's Fringe. Such extras are barely of interest to Mistresses' fans, but the program itself is a welcome dose of soapy silliness during summer's dry TV days.