You’ll like it if you already like: Desperate Housewives, Good Girls, Devious Maids, Ugly Betty…
Likely timeslot: Sunday at 9, Wednesday at 10
“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity” says Sun Tzu in The Art of War. “The best revenge is massive success” said Frank Sinatra. It’s with those quotes that False Profits‘ script starts and they say a lot about what this show is really about. The intention of it all. Yes, the logline looks like yet another desperate attempt for a “new Desperate Housewives” with working women this time, but it’s much more than that. Not that it’s a better show than DH. It’s not. And not that ABC won’t try to market it as one if it’s picked-up. With an executive producer -Sabrina Wind- who was Marc Cherry’s “eyes and ears” (that’s what he said) during DH glory, it will be too tempting for them. But I feel like False Profits tries to dig deeper and looks like a great show for the #MeToo #TimesUp era. Also, it fits perfectly with ABC’s new ambition to tell stories that are “less dark, less edgy, more hopeful, more joyful” and that reflect the true realities of what life is like for everyday Americans, especially for american women, without losing what made them successful 15 years ago.
False Profits -this title isn’t appealing at all, it needs to change- is an update on the sacred American dream, on the female side this time; which is not that ordinary. It lightens the mood in these uncertain times but not without substance when Desperate Housewives was an exciting and incredibly entertaining show but pointless most of the time. Not trying to pit them against each others. But since they will be compared a lot, I want to make things clear. Yes, it’s often comical, and bitchy, and full of twists; it’s an unapologetic soap which aims to be entertaining and exciting as well. The added value here is its hopefulness, the positive message it sends to women, the inclusiveness. That’s where it deviates from NBC’s Good Girls, for instance. They both show women fighting together and not against each others, pursuing their dreams, the “girl power” in full force, but in False Profits they launch their business, they don’t rob a supermarket. And that’s way more powerful. Even though the world of comestics is very specific, which may make it harder for viewers to relate to -and for the show to find an audience that will look beyond that- it’s still something that’s part of every women’s lives, whether they like it or not. And False Profits doesn’t show it with naiveté. On the contrary, it’s quite cynical sometimes. At least, that’s how I read it.
It starts with a big joyous cold open set in Las Vegas during 2018’s Brava Natural (the fictive brand of the show) cosmetics national sales training with women from different ethnicities, ages and religions, like they’re all members of a cult, but a million-dollar extravaganza cult with cocktails, dancers, acrobats, and even two of the original Spice Girls (Mel B & Gerri Halliwell) on stage! It’s crazy. But things quickly go south when a woman in her pink stilettos emerge from the shadows and shoots Brava‘s CEO Kirsten Odelfet. And then we flashback to one year earlier. So the show is not all positive and fun, it’s also dark. Of course, we don’t know who the female shooter is, we don’t even see her face. It’s an efficient hook, in the “who shot X?” fashion that always works. The only problem is: as of now, we don’t care about this Kirsten. And we don’t see her again in the pilot by the way. But we want to. Definitely.
Let’s meet our three central characters now, who are all smartly introduced and already relatable and moving on the page. First, there’s Laura Hazelton, a single mother of two struggling to get by. it will be interesting to see Bellamy Young in a very different role than Scandal‘s Melly Grant. Tired of being ten steps behind, Laura signs up for a multi-level marketing scheme for selling cosmetics. it’s through her that it all starts. Then there’s her friend and colleague Hilary Jenkel (Shelley Hennig), a sharp-tongued, hot-tempered former beauty queen whose glory days were cut short by a nasty drug habit. Now in recovery and single mother of a 6 year-old, she hopes to reignite the flame between her and Clark, Lila’s father. But when he sues for full custody of their daughter, Hilary needs to whip her life and bank account into shape. She joins Laura in the business, using her pageant know-how as the underdog’s team secret sales weapon. The third Musketeer is indian-american Parvun Chattoraj, a soft-spoken, whip-smart young woman, who’s much more sophisticated about computers than most people. Her very traditional parents want her married but it’s not her priority.
Finally, on the other side of the spectrum is Suzanne (Vanessa Williams), chief of a highly successful “tribe” of Brava Natural saleswomen, who become Laura, Hilary and Parvun’s best enemy when they decide to become her direct competition. At a bridal convention, they get creative in selling products, outsmarting Suzanne and her extravagant booth. So the war is on! Bellamy Young vs Vanessa Williams is the most promising thing this show can provide, by far! What if Suzanne was the shooter? Unless it’s one of our girls? See. It works! We’re dying to know what happened. Let’s just hope we will be as much invested in the little details of their everyday lives than in the bigger picture. Also that the men characters will become more interesting and complex. I get that those women don’t need men to become who they want to be, but it doesn’t mean that the ones who are in their lives should be useless. They need to exist too.
False Profits is a fun soap, mostly comical, darker at times, that takes us back to ABC’s glory days when Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy, Brothers & Sisters & Ugly Betty were all on the air at the same time. Does it belong to the past or does it have a future on a network that changed a lot since then? Crossing my fingers so it can find a place in the schedule and in the audience’s heart. It’s not revolutionary but it sends the right message at the right time.