Slap the title “Mistresses” on a TV show, and you’re making a pretty clear statement.
It sounds salacious, of course. Just as it’s intended.
The new prime-time soap (Tuesday, 9 p.m., ABC/Channel 4) is based on a British series of the same name. And ABC is clearly hoping the title will bring viewers to the show.
At the same time, the producers insisted “Mistresses” isn’t quite as lustful as the title makes it sound.
“The way the material is treated is not glib,” said executive producer Rina Mimoun. “It’s not a bunch of ladies whoring around. It’s not the way the show is set up.”
“If we could choose our tag line right now, it wouldn’t be, ‘The joys of adultery,’ ” said executive producer K.J. Steinberg. “It would be, ‘You can’t help who you love.’ ”
It’s not as if “Mistresses” invented adultery as a storyline in soap opera. That’s as old as the genre itself.
“Mistresses” is about a group of female friends who have all made a big mistake in their lives.
Savannah (Alyssa Milano) is a lawyer whose troubled marriage to Harry (Brett Tucker) isn’t helped by her flirtation with a colleague, Dominic (Jason George). Josslyn (Jes Macallan) is a party girl who has no interest in a committed relationship.
April (Rochelle Aytes) is a recent widow who discovers her late husband wasn’t faithful. Karen (Yunjin Kim) is a psychiatrist who got involved with a terminally ill patient, Tom (John Schneider). And his son, Sam (Erik Stocklin), is now obsessed with her.
Their intertwined storylines follow the women as they make some missteps and then have to try to navigate the consequences.
“It’s one mistake for each of them that has sort of snowballed into a bigger and bigger mess,” Mimoun said.
It’s sexy and soapy and fun — kind of like a trashy novel you read while lounging on the beach. Don’t take it too seriously, just relax and have a good time with it.
And don’t assume that “Mistresses” exploits scantily clad women. As Milano pointed out, “For my scenes, most of the guys are naked.”
Well, not altogether naked. This is network TV. But largely unclothed, certainly.
If you’ve seen the British series, you’ll see similarities and some major differences. Both shows start at pretty much the same place, but the American “Mistresses” moves faster and is less dark. Even though there are some wicked plotlines.
“The title encapsulates what we are trying to say,” Steinberg said. “At first blush, it sounds salacious. If you scratch the surface of what it is, there’s so much more.”
Well, not that much more.
“Mistresses” is frothy fun — if you like soap operas.
Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.