Tuned In: Power and money motivate women in shallow 'Cashmere'

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ABC's estrogen-heavy schedule, already at lofty levels thanks to shows such as "Grey's Anatomy," "Private Practice" and "Desperate Housewives," spikes again with a preview of "Cashmere Mafia" (10 p.m. Sunday, WTAE).

Essentially "Sex & the City: The Corporate Years," the series follows four New York career women with high-power jobs and not enough opportunities to be with their families and spouses -- but they save plenty of time to be ladies who lunch.

In Sunday's pilot episode, Mia (Lucy Liu) is pitted against her fiance (Tom Everett Scott) for a top publishing job. Caitlin (Bonnie Somerville) finds herself attracted to a business associate. Zoe (Frances O'Connor) is torn between her children and her big-shot job when the kids interrupt a meeting. Chilly Juliet (Miranda Otto, the most intriguing cast member) calculates the best way to deal with her philandering husband.

"We make more money, we rise higher, we take up more space," Juliet says of powerful women who challenge a man's masculinity and sense of security. "We are as far from the idea of a wife he grew up with as it's possible to be and still wear his ring and go by his last name."

It's hard to see this series playing all that well outside the urban jungle. "Mafia" treats marital fidelity as an optional, tradable commodity. And forget expecting guys to watch. Men are portrayed worse in "Mafia" -- they're weak or jealous or cheating or lazy or mean -- than in any Lifetime series.

Ignoring all that, shallow "Mafia" entertains in key moments. Otto is particularly well cast and effective at playing the cold shrew with a vulnerable center. Liu sheds her "Ally McBeal" ice queen act, but she still tramples on her fiance with cruel intentions.

After Sunday's preview, "Mafia" slides into a regular 10 p.m. Wednesday time slot. An almost identical series, at least in concept, premieres on NBC next month. It's called "Lipstick Jungle" and is based on the Candace Bushnell novel.

Darren Star, who developed Bushnell's "Sex and the City" for HBO, sold ABC on "Mafia" after he failed to get the rights to "Jungle," according to The New York Times. Star and Bushnell have since had a falling out, which might be a juicier tale than any "Mafia" plot.

Last unaired episodes

With the writers' strike continuing, the last remaining unaired episodes of many hit series will unspool in the coming weeks. The final pre-strike "Desperate Housewives" airs Sunday, and the last "Brothers & Sisters" episodes are scheduled for Jan. 13 and Feb. 10 and 17.

The final "30 Rock," "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and "Grey's Anatomy" episodes are slated for next Thursday. The last episodes of ABC's "Ugly Betty" will air Jan. 10, 17 and 24.

Fox is holding onto two of the remaining three "Back to You" episodes for Feb. 26 and 27, following "American Idol." The last episode has not yet been scheduled, but the show is expected to air at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday behind "Idol" starting March 19, so perhaps the last new episode will air to kick off that run.

'Kill Point' on DVD

Thanks to Jean of Everett, Mass., who discovered a release date for "The Kill Point" on DVD, something the studio responsible for the Pittsburgh-filmed series had been unable to provide despite my requests over the past several months. Jean found "The Kill Point" listed for sale on Amazon.com, which says the boxed set will be out March 4.

Lionsgate, which made "Kill Point" for Spike TV, confirmed the release date and said the DVD will retail for $39.98 (expect discounts at stores and online, as usual). The only extras listed in a press release for the DVD are "actor interviews."

Another 'Survivor'

Chet Welch, a 48-year-old beauty pageant coach from Ford City, will compete on the next edition of CBS's "Survivor" that pits fans against returning favorite players when it premieres on Feb. 7.

Channel surfing

Fox will offer a sneak peek at "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" online for 24 hours only starting at 9 tonight at tv.yahoo.com. ... MTV's youth-skewing, bisexual dating show hit "A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila" has been renewed for a second season. Guess her first pick (a guy) didn't last. ... E! chat show "Chelsea Lately" begins its second season Monday at 11:30 p.m. ... The new PBS series "Biz Kid$" premieres at 7:30 p.m. Sunday on WQED. Created by the producers of "Bill Nye the Science Guy," the half-hour series is designed to teach children about money, investments and social responsibility. ... GSN's "National Vocabulary Championship" returns to Pittsburgh Jan. 14 for a citywide competition at Keystone Oaks High School. Huntingdon native Dylan Lane from GSN's "Chain Reaction" will host the competition. ... Last month WPXI began posting "advance video" from upcoming news reports to its Web site, WPXI.com.


This week's TV Q&A responds to questions about "The Biggest Loser," "The Sopranos" on A&E and C-SPAN 2 on Comcast. Read it online at post-gazette.com/tv.

TV editor Rob Owen can be reached at rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1112.


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