“Mistresses” certainly is trashy — or an attempt at a kind of art that repurposes leftover trash. Imported from Britain and tweaked for an American market in a brain-dormant summertime run (scheduled to air after “The Bachelorette”), it’s the sort of trash that reminds us that a work should not be dismissed only for being trashy; plenty of people enjoy exactly the thing “Mistresses” offers. Adhering to the critics’ golden rule, you should judge a work by how well it’s doing the thing it’s trying to do, and not, say, against “Masterpiece Theatre.” Shonda Rhimes’s “Scandal” is the current best example of trash accomplishing exactly what it aims for and pleasing viewers in the process.
Yet so much comes down the chute now that looks and acts like “Mistresses” — a surfeit of glossy little passion plays about women in their late 30s or early 40s wearing designer heels and committing designer adultery. These shows add little to the genre, except to offer more unnecessary proof that no matter how sleek and clean your kitchen is, there must always be some unhappiness downstairs.
Milano’s Savi and her restaurateur husband (Brett Tucker) are busy with the sorry task of trying to conceive a little too close to their sell-by date. When a doctor tells them her ovaries are fine but his sperm lacks oomph, he sulks; it’s all but fated she’ll have an affair. And because “Mistresses” transacts entirely in plots that even your dog can guess, it won’t be long before savvy Savi is buying a home-pregnancy test.
That’s why you gotta have friends: Savi’s include a therapist named Karen (“Lost’s” Yunjin Kim, pathetically miscast here) who unwisely helped a terminally ill (but still hunky!) patient work through the acceptance stage by having an affair with him and supplying him with hastening meds; now she’s dallying around with his grieving son.
Another friend, April (Rochelle Aytes), is a widow who owns a fancy pillow boutique and is thinking about dating again when she discovers that her perfect husband secretly fathered a love child. And Savi’s younger sister, Josslyn (Jes Macallan) is a sexual libertine who sells high-end real estate. Frankly, I’ve already forgotten what Josslyn’s crises are, but I know she has some.