Anyone watching "The Starter Wife" miniseries? (I’ve got it TiVo’d.) Alessandra Stanley called it "a satire-lite soufflé that follows all the steps of the chick-lit recipe," but she also looks at it — along with the new Lifetime series "Army Wives" in the context of contemporary female friendships:

Betty Friedan made the suburbs safe for sisterhood. By the time "Sex and the City" rolled around, female bonding — especially over fancy cocktails — was as much a part of popular culture as fishing trips and fraternity hazing rites.

The fact that nowadays women are allowed to like one another, even at the expense of men, is at the core of ladies-night hits like "Grey’s Anatomy." So atavistic series like "The Bachelor" and "Desperate Housewives" that play down female camaraderie and instead showcase hissy fits and catfights have a naughty, contrarian tang.

"The Starter Wife" is driven by that same "retro allure," adds Stanley.

Meanwhile over at Slate, Seth Stevenson, who is not in the least bit impressed by "The Starter Wife," covers how Pond’s, the underwriter for the miniseries, shaped the storyline:

This arrangement is a good fit because the series’ plot — a fortysomething woman gets dumped by her husband — aligns nicely with Pond’s new marketing strategy: to make "age defying" skin-care
remedies, aimed at women 40 and older. As an exclusive sponsor, Pond’s has done all the usual leveraging. During commercial breaks, the company will run vignettes about real-life women who are "starting
over," and there’s also a Pond’s/The Starter Wife contest giving viewers the chance to win a diamond "right-hand ring." (Ah yes, that age-old symbol of female independence — which is in no way a fiendish invention of the diamond industry.)

Branded entertainment has been around forever and goes back to the days of the radio soap opera, when the cast of The Guiding Light (which got its start on the radio) shilled for various Procter & Gamble products. Fibber McGee and Molly even had a character who was an S.C. Johnson Wax salesman, and frequently found opportunities to interrupt a scene and extol the product’s virtues. What’s remarkable about The Starter Wife is how intertwined the marketing effort is with the creative effort. Pond’s involvement goes beyond mere sponsorships, ads, and contests. Pond’s identified the project as a good match early on in its development stage and became an underwriter. In exchange for financing, Pond’s was allowed to put its marketing agents in the room with The Starter Wife‘s writers during the scripting process.

Stevenson also discusses the product placement on NPR. Here are the real-life women, winners of "The Starter Wife 40s and Fabulous Contest presented by POND’S(R)."


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