With a name like Mistresses, ABC's new drama has guilty pleasure written all over it.
Based on the British series of the same name, Mistresses stars Alyssa Milano, Rochelle Aytes, Yunjin Kim and Jes Maccallan as a group of women whose lives are full of illicit and complicated relationships — most of them involving being "the other woman," and one of them involving another woman. (Yes, we're talking about a lesbian relationship.)
Though being called a "guilty pleasure" tends to draw the ire of some showrunners, executive producer Rina Mimoun (Privileged, Gilmore Girls) doesn't seem to mind. "I embrace the term because it is soapy," she says. "Of course there are some melodramatic story points. This isn't Homeland. It's not The Wire. Is Parenthood a guilty pleasure? I don't think it is, but I hope we live in that world. Hopefully we're a grounded, relatable drama that has a lot of fun to it. Any time you take off your clothes a lot, you get a little guilty, so that's fine. We've got a lot of naked boys and girls running around, so it's a little guilty, but there's more to it than that."
In the series premiere alone (Monday, 10/9c, ABC), Savi (Milano) has an affair with a co-worker (Jason George), while Karen (Kim) deals with the loss of a patient with whom she was having an affair. Subsequently, she has an interesting and highly inappropriate relationship with his son. But it's not all as saucy as it sounds. At its core, the show is grounded in the realistic fallout of what an affair can do to all of those affected, not just the couple. "We really struggled to make sure that we don't think that adultery is no big deal," Mimoun says. "We don't think being a mistress or having been affected by your husband cheating on you is something that's frothy and adorable. It's serious and we try to deal with it in that way and handle it delicately."
It's this approach that Milano says will help Mistresses stand apart from other soapy dramas — particularly that other ABC show centered on four women. "Desperate Housewives is a farce," she says. "Mistresses is really grounded in reality and honesty. We're not glib about any of the situations that we're getting into. We explore them and handle them in a very real way. Everyone is very honest with each other. April [Aytes] disapproves of Savi's affair, so we're not trying to candy coat it."
Mimoun echoes that sentiment when noting the similar comparisons being made between Mistresses and Sex and the City. "I absolutely do miss Sex and the City and do miss having a show where I get to concentrate on four women, but Mistresses is not about making fun of them, but really getting involved and invested in four women again," she says.
Also helping to ground the series is the fact that, while some of the storylines are carried over from the British show, Mimoun says several plot points were inspired by the writers' personal lives. "We're not campy, we're not broad in the comedy," she says.
Although Mimoun is well aware of the conclusions viewers will draw from a name like Mistresses, she points to other shows, like Cougar Town, which have been able to overcome their titles. "That show then became a really fun comedy and it wasn't about a cougar town," she says. "We're not about mistresses in a way that people are ready to assume. The title is what it is, but it's a relationship soap."
"The show is so much more than the salaciousness of it," Milano adds. "So if people tune in for it to be something and it turns into guilty pleasure because they become addicted to the storylines and the characters, then I'm all for it."
Mistresses premieres Monday at 10/9c on ABC. Will you be watching?