If for some reason you didn’t realize that The Broadroom is a Candace Bushnell production, whether by noticing her name right there below the title on the series’ website, or by way of the gestational buzz, well then she’s right there onscreen. The famous author introduces each episode, looking ever the quintessential confident Manhattan socialite, if a far more successful one than any of the characters she’s created.
Bushnell’s Sex and The City mega-franchise, love it or hate it, leaves behind a lot of baggage – a ‘guilty pleasure’ that for many overstayed its welcome (I’ll never be able to bring myself to watch the movie, and I’d like to think I’m not alone). The Broadroom’s first episode, ‘Husband Highjinks,’ is a messy affair, maybe Bushnell inadvertently working out some residual anger towards men and their perpetual shortcomings that didn’t make it onto HBO.
It’s more kibitzing than plot, as each of the ladies converge at the conference room table with paper placards of their ‘types’ – the Juggler, the Opter, the Breadwinner – and a glass container of M&M’s. The women speak in platitudes about what men do vs. what women do. And there’s enough of formality to make it feel like an Off Broadway production, which doesn’t play well in internet form. Add to this the lipstick product placements (and a lipstick cursor for all onsite browsing; the series is quite thoroughly sponsored by Maybelline New York), and you may well give up and move on (though the shot that closes the episode with Mary McCann being pseudo-strip searched almost saves it). Episode 2 (below) is another story, certainly an improvement.
The Sweet Smell of Success offers some situational activity: Roan, the “Single Gen-Xer” (Samantha Who’s Jennifer Esposito) and Julie “The Juggler” (Talia Balsam from Mad Men) trip up big honcho Jack Coyne (Joel Brooks) by planting vanilla in his office for their meeting, for a little subliminal picker-upper. It’s silly and goofy, and seems supercilious, until they pull it off at the last moment.
The series is written and created by Bushnell, and presumably produced with the budget of a medium-sized independent film. Maybelline’s project hosting is a bit like a one-off version of Lexus’ L Studio (home of Puppy Love and Lisa Kudrow’s Web Therapy), meaning it’s there, but it’s not intrusive in the programming (if you don’t count the tacky lipstick cursor). The actors aren’t drawing big box office numbers, but are more than recognizable, each taking on Bushnell’s modern woman archetypes. Along with Esposito, Balsam, McCann, and Bushnell, you have Jennie Garth of old school (and new school) Beverly Hills 90210 as the Natasha “The Breadwinner” and youngster Lauren Devereux as “The Millenial,” Brittney, presumably so younger viewers don’t write the show off.
Overall, Bushnell manages her transition to the web quite well. These characters, while certainly contrived at times, are not Carrie et al. As much as would-be detractors will want to hate this series, it won’t be quite that easy a task: there are, alas, unavoidable glimmers of charm.