ABC remake of BBC's 'Mistresses' makes adultery look dull

Teri Polo (left) and Sherri Saum are the two mothers in a biologically diverse and multiethnic family in "The Fosters."
Teri Polo (left) and Sherri Saum are the two mothers in a biologically diverse and multiethnic family in "The Fosters."
Posted: June 04, 2013

* THE FOSTERS. 9 tonight, ABC Family.

* MISTRESSES. 10 tonight, 6ABC.

"ADULTERY is in at ABC," declares the Parents Television Council, which is, as usual, a little hot under the collar, this time over a show called "Mistresses," which premieres on the network tonight.

ABC should probably blurb that, because it sounds a lot more exciting than my saying, "Adultery is dull at ABC."

Which it is.

Grindingly, soul-suckingly dull.

That's something I don't remember feeling about the British original, a guilty pleasure whose first couple of seasons, at least, were supremely watchable, with performances that rose above the occasionally improbable plots.

It didn't hurt that the cast of the BBC version mostly looked like real people, except, of course, a lot better.

In ABC's version, which stars Alyssa Milano, Yunjin Kim ("Lost"), Rochelle Aytes ("Madea's Family Reunion") and Jess Macallan, they look like, well, actresses: shiny and flawless and not unlike the recent denizens of Wisteria Lane.

The men they're cheating on (or with) are no less gorgeous (including Jason George as the lawyer who leads Milano's character into temptation).

Even if I hadn't seen the British version, I might have been tempted to reshuffle the cast, placing Kim, for instance, in the role of the slightly shy widow and casting Milano as the sexually adventurous real-estate agent, Macallan as the doctor romanced by a dying patient (John Schneider, adding to his list of dearly departed characters) and Aytes as the reluctant adulteress torn between hot lover and hot husband.

But this would just be noodling, because I don't care about these characters. And as a result, I'm not likely to get worked up about anything they do, either.

Maybe the watchdog group that presumes to speak for parents should take a look at ABC Family's new drama, "The Fosters."

Produced by Jennifer Lopez and created by Peter Paige (who co-starred in "Queer as Folk") and Bradley Bredeweg, it's a show that's all about family values but may not play so well with those who go nuclear over families that don't look like the ones they're used to seeing on TV.

"We're definitely not 'The Brady Bunch,' " says Teri Polo's character, a cop named Stef Foster, in tonight's premiere.

Stef, along with her wife, Lena Adams (Sherri Saum), is raising her biological son from a previous marriage (David Lambert) and adopted twins (Cierra Ramirez and Jake T. Austin) when Lena brings home a foster child named Callie (Maia Mitchell) who has trouble written all over her.

There's a lot in "The Fosters" that feels Hollywood-contrived. At least one aspect of Stef's relationship with her ex (Danny Nucci) seems unlikely, and Lena works at the most beautifully sited school in America, which all the kids happen to attend.

But there's heart here, and a message about not throwing away children that belongs on a network that puts "Family" in its title.

As for Stef and Lena, they're the kind of parents I've met more in real life than on television. I hope they'll be as welcome there as they seem to be welcoming.


Phone: 215-854-5950

On Twitter: @elgray

Blog: ph.ly/EllenGray

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